How to handle a sobbing employee

crying employeeIt’s bound to happen sooner or later. You lay some heavy criticism or punishment on an employee and he or she starts crying in your office.

A subordinate who sheds tears is probably releasing simple frustration or anger rather than trying to achieve anything specific. But a manager may misunderstand and feel manipulated.

Here’s how to handle the situation:

√ Maintain your professional relationship. Don’t act like a parent or a friend and become overly solicitous. Let him or her use their own resources to gain their composure.

√ Stand your ground. If the criticism is realistic, don’t backpedal. But, make it clear that you are criticizing the problem at hand and not the person.

√ Bring in a buffer. Often, crying takes a manager by surprise. But sometimes you know that the person is highly sensitive and is likely to cry during emotional situations. Antici­­pate the tears and arrange to have a respected staff member sit in on the conversation to ease the tension.

√ Know when to stop. If a worker is unable to gain composure or the session becomes unwieldy, the best action is to end the conversation and resume it when emotions have cooled down.

√ Don’t make rash judgments. A single incident of crying should not be taken to mean the employee is too emotional, unstable or cannot handle his or her job.