A reader writes:
I had a boss many years ago who had a really fantastic managing trick, and I want to share it with you and your readers. I know from conversation with colleagues that she’s done the same thing with at least one other person; we talked about it because we were all so impressed. It has to do with addressing the reality that your supervisees are human beings and may sometimes get emotional even though everyone knows that You’re Not Supposed to Cry at Work.
I was under a lot of stress for reasons unrelated to my job at one point (applying to grad school & family issues, both of which she knew about). At one point during our biweekly check-in meeting, I got a tiny bit misty-eyed. What did she do? NOT ask about it — “Are you okay?” or “What’s going on?” are the surest ways to get someone who’s trying to maintain control to lose it. Instead, she blew her nose (insuring I’d know where the tissues were) and announced that she had to pee and would I mind waiting for her in her office. Her bathroom trick gave me the thirty seconds I needed to compose myself, acknowledged that people sometimes get emotional without making a big deal of it or making me look unprofessional, and made her look amazing. What more could you want?
I used to keep a box of tissues front and center in my office, because you would be surprised by how many people cry at work.
But I think everyone is mortified by it regardless, so I like your boss’s way of handling it.