“You should absolutely never cry at work.”
We’ve probably all heard that warning too many times to count. And, to some extent, that advice holds true. You definitely want to maintain a stable and professional reputation while inside the four walls of your office.
But, we all know that sometimes things just happen that cause us to lose our cool. Perhaps you had a bad day and began uncontrollably sobbing in the middle of your performance review. Maybe you angrily chucked your frustratingly slow computer to the ground in a fleeting fit of rage. Or, perhaps a conversation with your co-worker got a bit more heated than was appropriate during a meeting.
Whatever the circumstances, all of us encounter situations where our emotions get the best of us. But, as with anything, it’s not necessarily about what happened—it’s about how you react to it.
No, you don’t need to resign yourself to being forever known as the employee who cried in the supply closet. In fact, there are a few things you can do to patch things up and move on from your outburst.
Here’s your step-by-step guide for bouncing back after you lose your composure at work.
1. Recognize That You’re Human
First things first, it’s important that you acknowledge your emotional blunder and simply accept the fact that it happened. Sure, it was definitely embarrassing and maybe even somewhat inappropriate in a work setting—but you’re only human.
It can be tempting to keep rehashing and reflecting on the incident. But, what purpose does that serve other than to make you feel bad?
So, stop beating yourself up over your outburst, and instead determine your best course of action for remedying the situation. After all, you can’t expect everyone else in the office to move on if you won’t.
2. Determine What Set You Off
Having one emotional eruption in the office is uncomfortable—but still manageable. Being the employee who loses it every time a co-worker borrows your stapler without asking? Well, then you’ve got problems.
Needless to say, it’s important that you determine what exactly inspires your flare-ups so that you’re self-aware enough to proactively avoid or suppress any situations that might lead to a future incident.
Many times, our emotional fits aren’t caused directly by the event that preceded them. Often, it’s more of a “straw that broke the camel’s back” scenario. Perhaps you didn’t burst into tears just because your boss asked you to re-do a project. In fact, you may have already been feeling stressed due to the long hours you pulled the night before and a terrible traffic jam on the way to work that morning. The request for revisions was just the event that finally pushed you over the edge.
Get to the root cause so that you’re aware of these triggers and can better manage your emotions in the future.
3. Set Future Strategies
Once you’ve identified exactly what sent you spinning, it’s time to implement some tactics to ensure you don’t have that same reaction again.
Were you already feeling frazzled and edgy when you got to work? Try waking up earlier to leave yourself some extra time to decompress in the morning. Did a co-worker say or do something that set you off? Facilitate a discussion with him or her to talk over ways you can better work together. Was your work overwhelming you? Try sneaking away for a relaxing stroll instead of eating lunch at your desk.
Brainstorm some solutions that will help you keep your emotional responses in check. These strategies will prevent you from flying off the handle when a situation or relationship gets tense or stressful down the road.
Now comes the part that you’re likely dreading the most: apologizing to anyone your incident affected. Whether your outburst just made your co-workers a little uncomfortable or you made the mistake of directly offending someone when a situation got heated, saying a genuine “I’m sorry” is a critically important part of the process—even if it makes your palms a little clammy.
Approach each person individually to deliver a personalized and sincere apology for your actions. Assure them that you know your response was inappropriate, and you’re taking steps to make sure that your emotions never get the better of you again. End your apology with a firm handshake and a “thanks” for their understanding.
This effort not only shows your peers that you regret and recognize your slip-ups, but also that you value their opinion of you.
Of course, you always want to do your best to uphold a polished and controlled reputation in your office. But, sometimes things can get under your skin and inspire an overly emotional reaction. However, that doesn’t mean you need to accept an eternal reputation as the office’s emotional rollercoaster. Follow these steps to successfully patch things up and move on with your life and career.
Photo of crying person of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author