How to avoid crying during meetings?

Dropbox wanna😭
Feb 27 29 Comments

Female engineer here. I am having some miscommunications (I think) with my team lead at work. He’s being ambiguous with expectations/requirements with a project he assigned me but it’s basically making me feel incompetent (like damn I can’t even get requirements correctly) and I’m afraid come performance review time I’m going to get bad feedback.

I want to discuss it with my manager just to get a second opinion on how to avoid miscommunications in the future and also get his take on project expectations but this whole situation is stressing me out. I’m afraid I’ll get too emotional and cry during my 1:1 with my manager (can’t help it). I don’t want to cry in front of my manager because I assume it’s probably awkward and unprofessional.

Female engineers, have you ever had to deal with wanting to cry or have cried at work? How did it go in the end? Were your male coworkers understanding or did they end up seeing you as incompetent/weak (as reflected on some form of written feedback) because you’re too emotional?

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TOP 29 Comments
  • Microsoft mghsre
    First things first - start getting expectations/requirements in written (email/docs). Ask written questions/clarifications if you’ve any.
    RE crying in your 1:1 - we all have been there. It’s fine as long as it’s not a regular occurrence. Discuss your emotional response with your manager later saying you acknowledge that it wasn’t an appropriate thing to do and you’re sorry if you made him/her uncomfortable.
    Feb 271
    • Apple ierE46
      ^This is the best advice.

      If he isn’t willing to put it in writing, take your own notes and send to him AND your manager at the end of every meeting. Label which are your action items. If there is any confusion there will be an opportunity for any party involved to respond. If you get shit later, you pull up these shared notes as reference.
      Feb 27
  • Amazon babymakes5
    In a guy, and a more emotional one. In my 15 year career, I have cried at work once, and have helped 4 friends who had it happen to them too. It happens. Some of us just have emotions that bubble up to the surface.

    Some advice:
    1. Don’t take things personally. Make sure to separate the behavior from the person. If you make a mistake you aren’t a mistake. If you break the build, that happens sometimes. Spend your effort on getting better and not worrying.
    2. Learn to forgive yourself. I’ve struggled with this one, as have some of the women I work with. Letting go of the past but not repeating it is a delicate balance.
    3. Find a mentor. You need someone who is always in your corner, so you turn to them and not your manager (who has to judge your performance). I have had a few mentors and it’s a very intimate relationship; they know your secrets, your ups and downs, see your performance reviews, and your raw thoughts/feelings. I didn’t truly start growing as an engineer found a mentor I completely trusted at work. The surprising thing was that at each stage in my career when I had one, my mentor told me “I’ve been exactly where you are and I can help you out of it.” It felt so good to not just experience the empathy, have someone to talk it out with—but who also knew the bumps, surprises, and experiences I would discover along the way.

    If you want to talk more, PM me.
    Feb 270
  • Amazon babymakes5
    Don’t envy us guys. We get penalized heavily for being vulnerable or letting our softer side show.
    Mar 33
    • New / Media
      psychx

      NewMedia

      BIO
      Former customer service/management turned stay at home mom turned newspaper employee.
      psychxmore
      Good point. I hate gender stereotypes and expectations.
      Mar 3
    • Dropbox dorpbox
      But working with men in tech, I think women get penalized too for showing emotions or get called crazy.
      Mar 3
    • Amazon babymakes5
      And I’ve had mentees cry at work. It was awful but they received no judgment from me, just support. That’s how it should be.

      If you have to cry, don’t do it in front of your manager, the one who judges you on your performance pick a safer place to do that, like with a trusted friend or mentor
      Mar 4
  • New / Media
    psychx

    NewMedia

    BIO
    Former customer service/management turned stay at home mom turned newspaper employee.
    psychxmore
    I’m a woman, not in tech though. But I cry when I get really angry. At my current job I have cried four or five times in the last month. I hate it so much.

    It’s the one situation where I envy men. When (most) men get angry, they act angry. Raised voices, firm facial expression, etc. When (many) women get angry, we cry? Wtf is that.

    Acting angry when you’re angry gets you more respect, whereas crying just makes people think you’re a hysterical woman (we really do need to get rid of the whole if women does it and men don’t it’s a bad thing, hormones make the sexes different, that’s not a bad thing).

    I really like what the people said above about getting everything in writing. And as far as crying, maybe have a conversation afterward explaining that you tend to cry when you get angry or frustrated or whatever emotion is causing the crying. I did that with my HR manager last week and it definitely made me feel less crazy.
    Mar 31
    • Dropbox dorpbox
      Aww yeah I feel you. I cry when I get angry and frustrated, too, and yeah I wish I can just be angry and scary instead of just cry.
      Mar 3
  • LinkedIn chrupios
    I’ve cried in meeting with my manager.. and my skip level too now that I think about it. Also I manage a team and my direct reports have cried in meetings with me, too. It’s all just part of life, grab a tissue and get your feelings out.
    Mar 10
  • New / Engabuhr3i
    Female engineer here. I cried once. Manager brought me tissue haha, no big deal. The fact that you think you might cry is because you're passionate about your work which is a good thing. Embrace it. Make communications more clear as you go.
    Feb 270
  • Indeed / OtherCDwY37
    If an interaction makes you this upset, there might be something wrong. The team lead could be a bully, and you are his easy target. Take a step back and get some perspectives from your friends outside of work before talking to your manager, this helps get the emotions out of the way before hand. Overall, I’d be at alert and carefully assess the situation instead of worrying what others might think of you. Trust your instincts.
    Feb 277
    • Dropbox wanna😭
      OP
      I don’t think he’s a bully but yeah I’m not happy with his “leading” style. He acts like he has no time and doesn’t introduce me to key contacts or link me documentation unless I pull teeth to ask him. He could just legitimately not have time. I’m new at Dropbox that’s why I’m so upset because I’m eager to contribute but it’s already not going well and my team lead is the bottleneck because he has all the context with the project but no time to explain it to me. I feel like this is somehow all my fault like I need too much hand holding but I don’t think that’s it. Like what else is a new person supposed to do?
      Feb 27
    • New / Engabuhr3i
      Don't expect people to hand you useful info or docs or links. You should search and find them. My manager was like that too. Pretty brutal swim or sink style
      Feb 27
    • Amazon / EngAlfj4
      @wanna from what you say, your manager is able to help when you ask. It sounds like your problem is that you find it difficult to ask. If you can overcome this, you will be fine. Teasing out requirements and narrowing down the actual action items are part of dealing with the ambiguity in our work. Asking for clarifications shouldn't be something you need to "pull teeth" about. Ask and ask and ask. Just dont ask the same question which people have answered twice. Hope this helps
      Feb 27
    • Dropbox wanna😭
      OP
      I’ll try asking more, thanks. And I do find useful stuff, and reported back and the TL told me I was researching the wrong stuff and he would just do it X way. That was not his original write up for the project. It said, I could do it X way, or Y, or Z way. And initially I said well X way I can do it probably in 4 weeks but if I have to research Y or Z, too, it might take longer especially if I have to implement Z and he told me it was okay. Now he’s like just do X because he’s afraid the research on Y and Z will take too long and it’s too complicated. I’m frustrated because if he just wanted me to do X (his way and the fastest way) why didn’t he just say so from the beginning instead of writing up options from his doc?
      Feb 27
    • Dropbox wanna😭
      OP
      And my problem is also I’m asking questions to understand more details and he tells me the questions I ask are sometimes irrelevant and he’s afraid I’m going down a rabbit hole so just do X instead. What I thought was a lot of freedom a week ago completely changed and it’s so frustrating. It’s been difficult to gauge expectations and yes I’m afraid I won’t meet expectations since I don’t even know what they are. I want to explain this whole situation to my manager but I’m afraid I’ll get frustrated and cry.
      Feb 27
    • Amazon / EngSorj30
      Part of learning to work with our co-workers is understanding how they think. So from the replies you are getting, try to understand how your manager reasons. The next time you pick up a task, put on your manager's cap and work out how he or her would advice you.
      Feb 27
    • Dropbox wanna😭
      OP
      My TL and manager are two different people, BTW.
      Feb 28
  • First Data cm1810
    I'm a guy who has been in this situation before and while I wasn't bawling, my eyes were definitely teared up by the time I was done speaking my mind.

    Stress = Emotions = Reactions

    Just talk to your manager and bring a box of tissues. You can either cry to your manager and possibly get some positive results.... or eventually end up in an office meltdown compilation video on YouTube
    Feb 280
  • Adobe / StrategyMNzL60
    Just don't
    There is no upside
    Think about the emotion that causes the tears
    For me, at least it is anger
    Understanding that and trying not to take things personally is how to stay on top of this
    Feb 270
  • Salesforce tensorchic
    It's happened to me, but not at work, in graduate school. My advisor was pretty inconsiderate and said some (pretty) hurtful and if I look back abusive things, so I remember bursting out tears and excusing myself to the restroom.

    It might help to finish off crying in front of a friend the day before. Once you've cried already, and rehearsed what you might want to talk, unlikely you'll cry again.

    And, here's a tight virtual hug. That will help too :)
    Mar 72
    • LinkedIn jumendi
      Oh man I cried in my grad school advisors office about a thousand times.
      Mar 7
    • Salesforce tensorchic
      I can't count the number of times I've cried in grad school. Let's not go there. After coming to industry I'm thankful as to how respectful people are!
      Mar 7
  • Oracle Hun7?K
    You cry, your manager will treat you like a metoo going to happen.
    Feb 271
    • New / Media
      psychx

      NewMedia

      BIO
      Former customer service/management turned stay at home mom turned newspaper employee.
      psychxmore
      Clearly YOU are a me too waiting to happen.

      Women are different than men, and that’s ok. When (most) men get angry they yell, when (most) women get angry they cry. Why is yelling acceptable but crying isn’t?

      Also, if people (because women can be abusers too) would stop being sexually inappropriate with their employees/coworkers, metoo wouldn’t happen.

      Like seriously, just don’t touch or hit on people at work, how hard is that? Work is not a dating pool.

      If you just can’t keep your genitals in your pants at work, you probably shouldn’t be out in society.
      Mar 3
  • Amazon / Engno you
    Just taking a guess here that your emotional response stems from fear of not living up to expectations. Ask some of your peers and manager what the expectations are for someone new to your team as far as ramp up and getting that context. Maybe you're expected to be asking lots of questions at this point.
    Feb 271
    • Dropbox wanna😭
      OP
      I have asked and my team lead keeps on changing it on me which is why I’m upset.

      Yeah I guess I can just keep it simple and ask my manager what the expectations are regarding ramp up and not mention that the TL is confusing me.
      Feb 27
  • New Kula
    You got into Dropbox, you must be good. Be strong, prepare well for discussions and tasks proactively. Better planning will lead to more confidence
    Feb 270

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