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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

What to do to fix damage of office tears

BY ERICH SCHWARTZEL
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Even if your team plays like the Pittsburgh Pirates and sets a franchise record with a 20-0 loss, the movie A League of Their Own still maintains there's no crying in baseball.

Can the same be said for business?

Yes, said Lois Frankel, a Pasadena, Calif., career coach and author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office.

"We're in the same place that we've been in forever," she said. Tears are not well received in the corporate world, she said, and can be a complete "career buster" for men.

Ms. Frankel said society accepts angry men more readily than it accepts angry women, leading frustrated women to replace shouting with tears. Women are "wired to cry," she said. "Asking a woman not to cry is like teaching a pig to sing."

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned when she misted up on the 2008 presidential campaign trail, professional women who cry often have to do some "spin control" on the issue.

So what should a woman do if she finds herself crying in front of colleagues?

Here are Ms. Frankel's damage-control guidelines.

First, excuse yourself from the room so your colleagues don't grow more uncomfortable. Take a break and ask yourself what you're really upset about.

"A woman's tears are a replacement for her anger, and she cries because women aren't allowed to be angry in our society," Ms. Frankel said. "I call it the thin pink line."

Ms. Frankel also attributed tears to psychology, saying that women in the workplace may project old feelings toward male family members onto male colleagues.

"We have difficulty expressing what we really think to men because all men represent our father, our brother, uncle, a priest," she said. "Make sure you differentiate whoever you're speaking with from your parents."

After you've identified your frustrations and calmed down, return to your colleagues and regain control of the situation.

It's important to suggest an "action item" that shows you've moved on and want to focus on solutions, she said. For example, if you were frustrated that no one was listening to you, ask for a few minutes to lay out your ideas.

If you're on the other side of the table watching a colleague cry, Ms. Frankel said, "Often the best thing to do is to be silent" and listen to the person's problem.

Seek counseling if you find yourself crying at work often, Ms. Frankel advised, to make sure the emotional baggage you bring to work is "an itty-bitty suitcase."

Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Erich Schwartzel is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at 412-263-1455



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