I’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.
Just found your blog and want to thank you for expressing such keen observations about being an HSP. I am an HSP and have my highs and lows; perfectionism and “what will people think?” are my biggest hurdles.
I abhor the performance review (and being “managed”) and have been in a simpler work setting at a funeral home for 14 years. I excel on my own terms.
Your blog is a godsend. Please continue your beautiful Sharing.
Thanks so much Deborah; your comment means a lot. I am also discovering that working for home or in a lower-stress setting is much better for me as well. Have a great holiday 🙂
I always knew i was more sensitive than others, but finding this blog helps me know that i’m not the only one. i would never watch a sad movie in theaters cause i found it too embarrassing to tear up, and i understand what you mean about crying at performance reviews because ever since elementary i have always cried at parent teacher interviews for the same reason and have tried all of your tactics. I love your blog and will be visiting more often 🙂 keep writing!
Thank you, Lily! Finally, someone who understands my weird emotions during performance reviews! I’d love to know if you have any more tactics you use to keep your emotions in check.
I needed to hear this today! I could barely hold myself together during my evaluation. I felt like I was getting picked apart. I made it back to my desk, but continually lost it and finally left early. Does it ever get better?
Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. Wow, it sounds like you had a rough day–I’m sorry! Other than trying the things I listed at the end of the post, I’m not sure what you can do. I was going to suggest that if you have a really honest relationship with your boss, perhaps you could tell them how you feel….but maybe that isn’t a great idea since they might see it as a weakness. It sounds like your boss might have been “picking” at you more than is appropriate. Just know that you are doing the best you can and maybe they were being extra hard on you due to deficiencies in their own job/life. Don’t be too hard on yourself–I bet you are doing a great job!
Wow. You are in my head. I tear up almost every time I have to meet with my boss (the principal of the school where I teach). She sees it as a sign of weakness and has told me multiple times that I need to take better care of myself so that I won’t be so emotional. The truth is that I eat primarily healthful foods, exercise regularly (both cardio and strength training), and have a loving home life (with a husband who understands and supports me unconditionally and two amazing children who are my world). Her accusations that my emotions are somehow a sign that I don’t take care of myself are ridiculous. Thank you for validating my emotions and making me feel less alone. It’s good to know that I’m not a freak of nature for having big emotions. I actually love who I am, emotions and all. I am able to better connect to my students and see things from their perspective, which makes me a better teacher. If only I didn’t have to deal with the adults, the job would be perfect!
Susan, this is awesome to hear–about being a great teacher and loving your emotions. I have been thinking lately about what it would be like to be an HSP teacher. It seems like there might be both positives and negatives–the constant social interaction would be hard for me.
That would bug me if the principal saw your emotion as weakness, because you can’t stop how you feel. At the same time, I do understand her thinking it means “weakness” because that is just how people normally treat emotion in the workplace, you know? Do you think you could try to explain it to her–that it’s because you care *SO* much that you tear up? I wonder if that would help or not….
Wow! Glad to know I’m not alone in this. Used to think that maybe it was because I was emotionally weak and could not handle criticisms, whether they’re constructive or not. Guess it’s just due to the higher level of sensitivity that I have >.<
I always thought I was an alien. I over-think and over-analyse every single little detail. It’s only recently that I’ve been thinking that I might be a highly sensitive peson. Doing the self test, it’s touch and go but certain things on that list made me say: ‘that’s soooo me’. My biggest problem? Staring a new job. A lot of information all at once, getting to new co-workers. I start stressing out and thinking I’ll never get it and I start crying (usually day on day one even). Embarassing! My mind knows that it’s normal that you can’t function properly on your first day but the rest of me starts to panic. I can’t stop my tears and being a 30-something woman, it’s incredibly shameful. I’ve tried every tip I can find but being able to not cry when starting a new job remains a struggle…
Hi Tacha, just know that you aren’t alone! Starting a new job is very stressful and scary because so much is unknown. When I feel scared a bout a new job, I always tell myself, “Self, you always feel scared at the beginning but then what happens? After a while you feel fine and you always end up doing a great job.” I force myself to think about how I will feel in the future. Remember that you’ve been fine in other jobs, and you will eventually get there. Trust in yourself that you will kick butt!!
I actually gave a little laugh out loud when I read this, not because it was funny, but because I was so happy to see it! I only discovered I am an HSP 5 years ago at nearly 50 years of age. All my life, I have thought I was some weird emotional freak who just cried randomly at totally inappropriate times for no reason. In Scotland, we are generally a very stoical type of person, not prone to showing our emotions, so I really stood out as very different. In any situation where I felt I was being assessed or judged, from interactions with teachers or any figures of authority as a child, to doctors appointments, to attending my childrens’ parents’ evenings, to having performance reviews at work, I have always struggled and failed to control my emotions. Any situation in which I feel under scrutiny, caused (and still causes) me to feel instantly uncomfortable and overwhelmed. I cry, I hate myself for doing it, but I cry and I can’t control it. My “cover-up” over the years has been to suddenly develop a tickly cough that might possibly account for the tears in my eyes. I have “coughed” a lot in my life! I had twice-yearly performance reviews in my last job and hated them – I was invariably being told I was wonderful, highly competent and valued, but that just made it worse – I’d think, please please please just stop saying these nice things about me and let me out of here!! I’m so grateful to hear that this has been just another part of me being an HSP. Now it all makes sense, and I feel less ashamed. It’s all part of my journey of HSP self-discovery, accepting myself for who I am and have always been. Thank you!
Hi there! Thank you for sharing. It is so nice to know we aren’t alone, isn’t it?! 🙂
I am so happy to find this post and all the comments that go along with it! I just had my review two days ago and although it went well I left feeling underappreciated. I’ve been with my company since the day our particular division opened and I’ve worked hard, bonded with my co-workers like they’re family, and done anything that’s asked of me. My company secretly rewards a limited number of employees they feel are doing a great job with a bonus at their review and I’ve never been chosen. This time it completely destroyed me. I was even sick yesterday.
My husband works in management for the same company and told me not to worry about it because I am a lovely person just the way I am. And I know that’s true. But all I can think about is being overlooked. Like the little kid who always hoped for my parents approval I’m still doing the same at my job. Several other people I started with feel disappointed too, but it doesn’t eat them up like it does me.
This is so me, HSP. I try so hard not to tear up in conversations with my boss, if it is an evaluation. But, I don’t know what happens it just comes and it’s big tears. It’s embarrassing and I need to learn how to control it. Any help would be appreciated.
This is a lot of comfort today. I started a new job and walked out today in the middle of the day. My boss is a yeller, although she has good intentions, I just couldn’t cope. Other employees told me not to take it personally and just get on with it. I just can’t work in that environment. I wish I had a “thicker skin”. I hate being a HSP. I feel like I’m unemployable being an HSP. I know I’m not alone but today it feels like it.
I just got out of my first annual review at my job (I’ve been here exactly 1 year) and in the middle, I started tearing up…COULD NOT STOP IT…so at first it was like “I think he can’t really tell..”. and I did what I always try to do which is pinch myself as hard as I can and breathe…
I thought I was gonna make it through, but finally, toward the end (It was AN HOUR) the tears just rolled….and he was like “are you ok?” and the review was not terrible..(but not great) so I scrambled to find a “Reason” for the crying and maybe it was because I was just talking about feeling like if I leave earlier than others I will be judged and SO I sort of “pretended” I was crying because it’s been such a hard year for my kids with this schedule..
BUT The reality IS I was already tearing up just hearing little criticisms. and I’m 50 and a lawyer….
So thanks for posting this blog and letting me see that it’s not just me.
But, yeah, I felt like an idiot and was just BEGGING MYSELF to stop the tears that were welling up and “get it together” and just couldn’t.
I always dread performance reviews…. Something gets triggered, as you say…I care too much, I imagine my errors and mistakes are being “judged” and taking criticism is just painful…. I should be old enough and confident enough to handle it – but a button gets pushed that’s deeper than that…who knows where it stems from.
I nearly cry in all my parent teacher meetings too! SIGH. (But that’s not as embarrassing).
I have another review in 6 months…I CANNOT CRY IN THAT MEETING.. UGH.
Thanks for this forum!
Thank you for sharing, Erika!!
I know this article is a little old but O M G this just happened to me yesterday. I’m still so embarrassed and apologizing but I got seriously an A++ review, everyone loves me, my work is excellent, but just the feeling of being personally on the line and hearing feedback about myself and my work puts me so on edge that I was on the brink of tears before the meeting even started. I did have a few spill over and I could tell my bosses were (virtually) taken aback. I reeled it in and tried to blame just 2020/end of the year reflection, but I don’t want them to think I am like…cracking under my workload. I want to continue to grow in my career without them thinking I’m having some sort of breakdown….
I am grateful to discover this post. Thank you for sharing your stories here. It just happened to me yesterday when I was having a mid year review with my boss. I was getting emotional at the end of the meeting, I was trying to hold back, getting myself distracted. But I couldn’t control my emotions at the end and cried. I am 45! This might scare my boss off and and she apologized if she has made me upset. I am so embarrassed after that and started researched online to better understand where my emotions coming from!! The job review was’t bad, but it was not great either. I have been discussing with my manager my promotion plan since mid of last year and have aligned together a couple of things that I need to achieved before she can suggest me for a promotion. In the meeting yesterday, She recognized my effort and quality of work but at the same time, also listed out a couple of other new things that I need to deliver before she can norminate me. Even it wasn’t an intense discussion about promotion, I do normally feel uneasy to hear how people evaluate myself, even when they say good things. In this particular conversation, I might have just taken it personally and interpreted as my hard work is not good enough or didn’t get recognised. I found it hard as a HSP to push myself to ask for recognition and promotion, even though i think and people around me agreed i deserve it and should fight for it. The process of promotion negotiation is draining. I hope I could care less about my work and spend more time doing other stuff enjoying life. Not sure if HSP in general also face similar challenges in negotiating and fighting for progression? My partner always remind me to care less about work, which is a easier said than done. It is difficult to find a balance when I see other colleagues have progressed their career over years and I am still at the same position but working on tasks that is more than the scope of work that I need to deliver in my current role. I have been trying to care less about work for years, on the other hand, I am telling myself it is not fair you have to fight for it and then end up landing on this promotion negotiation long process.
Would love to hear if anyone has similar stories and any good tips how to deal with it. I tend to believe I need to find out why I want a promotion, deal with my inner desires instead of hoping the external environment would change for me. I enjoy very much reading the stories here. Thank you.