Share this story


How can I stop crying in front of my boss?

Q. Whenever my boss criticizes me, no matter how well worded his comments, I start to cry. I have tried everything I can think of to stop this embarrassing behavior, but I can’t seem to control the tears. I feel as if this makes me appear childish – how can I stop?

A. Your tears are the result of your emotions unexpectedly overwhelming you; therefore, the key to controlling your tears is to ensure you are not caught off guard. In this workplace situation, the way to overcome your tearful reaction is to understand what is expected so you can self-monitor your performance and reduce the discomfort of these conversations. Let’s begin by being proactive and clarifying the rules and objectives of your work and, consequently, your boss’ expectations. If you don’t already have them, ask for a copy of your job description, your departmental goals, your annual performance appraisal criteria and any other specific performance objectives important to your boss. Some or all of this information may be readily available. If not, do your best to submit a draft of what you believe your job description to be, what you believe is important to the department’s performance and even a list of performance factors that you believe are important in your work and to your customers. You need to understand these expectations in some detail in order to improve your performance and to anticipate your boss’ potential feedback.

Then inquire if your boss will briefly meet with you each week to discuss your accomplishments and opportunities for improvement until both you and he/she are more comfortable with discussing your overall performance. Having routine feedback sessions is likely to be a performance-enhancing and an emotion-controlling step.

If this approach does not help, you may be dealing with deeper emotional issues or stress that may benefit from a therapeutic professional approach. Hiding tears or any facial expression of emotion, especially anger or embarrassment, when confronted with a challenging situation is a skill only actors do well. Take solace in that crying is the appropriate human reaction to overwhelming situations.

Remember, “Jesus wept” is reported to be the shortest phrase in the Bible. (John 11:35) He cared enough to be openly emotional. Thank God for people, like you, who demonstrate they very much care about the work they do.