Problem: You have an employee, colleague or friend who is very talented but when they are given feedback, even of the simplest kind, they start crying. This person is a TOP performer and has great potential. You are thinking that they either lack confidence, or their expectation of themselves is too high, but then maybe it’s fear of failure. As a leader, you want to help. You know that if they do not get their emotions under control and learn to communicate more effectively, they will sabotage their succession to the top. You interview their past manager/supervisor and determine that this has been an ongoing problem. The good news is it’s not you! Maybe you should get this pin?
Here are some ideas:
1. Listen to how you mentally react to the crying employee:
a. Crying does not automatically mean weakness.
b. Accept that their crying makes you uncomfortable.
c. Consider that their crying could be a ploy to manipulate you.
d. Keep an open mind and look past your conventional wisdom and embedded prejudices.
e. Polish your communications and stay calm. Don’t feel guilty.
f. Don’t allow their crying to push you into tabling the topic at hand.
2. Let the employee cry, offer a tissue, and try to empathize. Ask questions to determine what’s bothering them. Show your concern.
a. Let them vent and when they are done, ask, “Is there anything else?”
Quickly focus on solutions.
b. Ask, “Have I said something to personally upset you? If so, what?”
c. Ask, “As a leader, know that I want to help you succeed. What is your concern?”
d. Ask “If this is of a personal nature and you are not comfortable discussing the issue with me, would you please allow me to find someone to help you?”
e. “Please let me know when you are ready to continue our discussion.”
3. If you have to, reschedule the meeting and make sure you get back together within 24 hours to resolve the original reason for the meeting.
a. Don’t launch into the feedback initially.
b. Do discuss the perception of crying in the workplace. (Lack of professionalism, poor self-leadership, low self-confidence, negative self-esteem.) Make a list with them.
c. Set a goal to help this person change their mental thinking and emotional habits
4. Determine the outcomes this person wants in the workplace, their job and their career.
a. To address this issue at a “non emotional time” consider asking: “I have something of a sensitive nature I would like to discuss with you. Can we discuss this now?” You are asking permission to discuss crying on the job.
b. Be their mentor or help them find one.
c. Determine if there is a real behavioral or emotional problem. If so, contact the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) person, Human Resources department or someone else who can help.
d. Emotional outbursts of any kind are not appropriate in the workplace. Consider including such a statement in their job responsibilities and expected outcomes. This should be done for all employees.
Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA, CSP – Professional Speaker and Writer
Annoy People: Take Personal Responsibility
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