tissues.jpgI’ve never admitted this to anyone before, but every time I’ve had a performance review at work, my eyes fill with tears.

Hold up. You are probably thinking it’s due to nerves or fear. But I don’t think that’s it.

When you step into your boss’s office and close the door for a review, the conversation gets more personal than your normal discussions. Your boss might comment on your attitude, personality, how you fit into the team, what it’s like to work with you, and critical or positive things about your work. Even though they are reviewing your job performance, it can feel like they are making personal assessments.

Knowing that someone is about to comment on ME as a person makes me feel very emotional. I put a lot of energy and care into my job, and I respect authority, so my boss’s opinion of me means a lot.

I can’t stop my emotions. When I feel like the water is getting out of control and is about to spill over, I feel self-conscious: can s/he see it? Can they tell my eyes are tearing? I’m sure it looks unprofessional.

So, here are some tactics to try if you find yourself tearing up in an inappropriate situation:

  • Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Sip water.
  • Blame it on something else. “These allergies are making my eyes water.” “I think I’m starting to get a cold.”
  • Pretend you have something in your eyes and wipe discreetly.
  • Focus on something else in the room, like a picture on the wall behind your boss.
  • Create physical discomfort to focus on (such as pinching your leg or arm).
  • Stop listening. Think about something else and just keep an ear open for times when a response is expected. (Auditory “skimming”).

The most important thing is not to beat yourself up about it. You can’t stop emotions or physical reactions in your body. You’ll make it though, and even if your boss sees your tears, they’ll get over it.