Almost every business leader has experienced it – an employee is crying in your office. It’s usually a very awkward moment for both people, and many leaders are at a loss about how to respond. Here are some pointers:

  • Stop talking for a few moments.
  • Silently offer the person a tissue. Smart business leaders always have some at hand.
  • Usually the person will start to apologize because he or she is humiliated to have lost control. Quietly reassure them it is ok.
  • Say something empathic, such as “This is tough.”
  • As soon as they have themselves under control, resume the conversation, talking quietly. Ask them if they are alright now.
  • Move the conversation forward.

These behaviors accomplish three goals: you are being kind, you are helping them to regain their self-control, and you are not allowing the conversation to become derailed. In addition, you are reducing your own discomfort with the situation. Tears are a normal human expression of a variety of feelings – sadness, fear, anger, and others. Having a script can help you respond in a helpful, business-like manner.

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