How To Manage The Employees Who Cry

BY Kathy Crosett
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Managers. Are you in the habit of keep a box of tissues on your desk? If not, put it on your to-​do list. While you’re at it, add another item — learn to effectively manage the emotional response by team members after you give them bad news.

No manager wants to emulate the character George Clooney famously portrayed in the movie, Up In The Air. But, you do need to be able to stay focused when a team member you’re managing starts crying. Karin Hurt and David Dye, at Let’s Grow Leaders, have some helpful advice.

Recognize the Problem

Few people are comfortable having tough conversations with a team members who's failing. Maybe this person has been consistently late coming to work. Or, perhaps this person refuses to double-​check their calculations and is making errors that routinely throw budget numbers into a loop. Some managers find it easier to ignore these problems than address them. In the long run, this approach will demoralize the rest of the team.

Address the Problem

As soon as you become aware of a problem, invite the team member to a private conversation. If previous experience has taught you that this person will likely cry, set that box of issues in a convenient spot. Tell yourself you won’t be swayed by the tears. Then, state the problem as you see it and ask the employee for their suggestions on how they plan to improve the situation.

Once the tears start, stay silent until they slow down. Remind the employee that they are valuable to you and the organization and you want to help them succeed. Part of their future success will involve their productive participation in meetings where feedback is less than stellar. So, they must learn to control their highly emotional response to feedback.

Help Team Members Control Their Emotions

Hurt and Dye recommend using a model they’ve labeled, I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Each letter represents a specific action a manager can take to train employees to maintain their composure. For example, S stands for support. During the conversation, you might say, “in our last one-​on-​one you cried, and now you’re getting upset again.” This kind of statement acknowledges you’ve noticed the problem. In the next steps, you can ask the employee to participate in thinking of ways to help them develop more professional responses in difficult meetings.

Taking the time to do this early in an employee’s career can help that person improve professionally in the long run. And, your solid management skills in these situations can also improve the company culture.