How to bounce back from tears
If you feel the waterworks start to flow, here's what you can do to minimize the damage:
Take a moment: If you feel tears coming on, excuse yourself and head to a private space until you can collect yourself. There may be nothing you can do to stop crying, but the goal is to avoid disrupting others' work, Elsbach says.
Prepare: Think about your upcoming review or meeting and rehearse what you will say ahead of time, Pachter advises. Come up with a brief explanation in case you end up in tears. You can say: "I know I'm crying — it means I'm really vested in this topic. Let's continue; I'll have it under control in a minute" and then move on, she says.
Bring it up ahead of time: If you know you're likely to cry during your performance evaluation, prepare your boss before things get emotional, Elsbach advises. You can say: "I just want to let you know that I tend to have emotional reactions and I cry easily. I don't want you to think that has anything to do with you, but if it does happen, just know that I do want to hear the feedback. You may have to give me a few minutes."
Get plenty of rest: People who don't get enough sleep react with more emotion to stressful situations, researchers have found. Learn to manage your stress to avoid having an emotional eruption at work, Pachter advises.
Realize when crying is perceived as OK: The most acceptable reasons for crying at work are personal issues, Elsbach found. That includes dealing with a death in the family, divorce, major illness or being passed over for a promotion. Colleagues were most sympathetic if it happened once and briefly. Crying during a negative review in a private office with your boss was also "allowable" if you kept listening and made attempts to stop the tears, she says. These scenarios fall into the category of: "It was a tough day, a tough circumstance and anyone would have behaved the same way."
Consider when it's seen as most inappropriate: Crying because of daily work stress, like having a tight deadline, was found mostly unacceptable by the observers in Elsbach's research. The worst-perceived scenario was weeping during a meeting. That was found never to be acceptable, she says. Crying under these circumstances was perceived as, "There's something wrong with you."
Decide if you want to apologize: Pachter didn't recommend it, but Elsbach was surprised at how often people who witnessed workplace tears expected an apology because they felt the crying was inconsiderate — "sort of like 'How dare you make me feel uncomfortable?'" she says. You can handle the situation by saying, "I'm really sorry I disrupted work or made you feel uncomfortable."
This article originally appeared on NBC News.