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March 27, 2024

Why It’s OK to Cry at Work

Post By:
Lisa Rigoli
In-House Contributor
Leadership Coach & HR Consultant
Element of Change
Guest Contributor:

I don't even know where I want to begin….

I cried during a facilitated workshop. This group of leaders saw me in my most vulnerable state- and I instantly regretted that I let them get to me.

  • When I’m really excited about something - I cry.
  • When I'm really sad about something - I cry.
  • When I'm really  angry about something - I cry.

Let’s say we’re working with a scale of 1-10 for emotions. At the lower end is 1 – I’m a rock. The higher end is 10 – I’m feeling ALL the emotions. I get instant goosebumps when I hit a level 5-7, and if the emotions are an 8 or higher, the tears come.

So – deep breaths – here’s what went down.

I was invited to facilitate a workshop for an organization where I was asked to map out their 3-to-5 year plan. Now this is something that I have done as an HR leader multiple times, but it's not my “thing” that I typically offer through my firm.

Still, I wanted to do it because at the time, I went with my HEART center of expression. I felt a natural connection with the leaders, and I wanted to help them. During my two-month preparation for this workshop, there were so many mixed emotions because my HEAD center of expression was starting to see that I might have said, “Yes,” to the wrong opportunity.

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Why? Because I felt like this opportunity wasn’t allowing me to add my Authentic Leadership style to the mix. My coaching style was getting stripped away slowly each and every week as we updated the presentation materials.

By the week of the workshop, I was no longer excited about the opportunity. I even contemplated several possible scenarios on how to bail, including mentioning that I had a pretty serious surgery scheduled the following week. I thought, “Would it be bad karma to tell a little white lie by communicating a different date to get out of facilitating this group of leaders?!”

But I knew that I would regret that even more – because one thing I value is my word. So I decided to see the workshop through.

The day before the workshop, I was provided with their updates to the presentation materials: 100+ slides and only a handful of them were my originals. At this moment, I did the opposite of what I coach, and I showed up the way I believed they needed for those two days. I checked my style at the front door.

Day 1 – I felt uneasy, but I made it through.

Day 2 – I cried myself to sleep. I felt like a robot all day. I wasn’t showing up as my Authentic Self, and it hit me so hard. As I cried, I kept repeating to myself, "This isn’t me and this doesn’t feel right.”

Before I cried myself to sleep, I ordered room service: a big juicy cheeseburger and cookies. I allowed myself to be upset for the night with a plan that I would regroup in the morning.

Talk about, “Everything happens for a reason.”.

When I woke up at 3 a.m. to prepare for the last day, I realized there were ZERO slides.

I had four hours to present and would finally get to bring my Authentic Self to the table. I listened to some brown noise and got to work using the Pomodoro Technique. I even told myself that if I could complete this, then I would reward myself with 25 minutes of “Selling Sunset.” 😂

I went into the room feeling a little uneasy, but also a little more like myself because I knew if it didn’t land – at least I was 100% me.

The meeting started and somehow within 10 minutes I was losing control. Leaders were speaking over each other and suggesting what they wanted to do and why they didn’t think my suggestion was right and I COULD FEEL the goosebumps and the tears rushing through my body.

I said, “Time Out!” - We need to regroup.

I couldn’t hold it any longer. The tears started coming and my voice started to shake. I had to raise my hand and apologize for getting emotional. I paused and then said…

“Here’s the deal. I’m getting emotional because I am passionate about what I do, yet I’m not able to do what you have paid me to deliver. Yesterday, I didn’t feel like I was able to show up 100% because I was following the direction that was handed to me. Today, I want to change things up and do something that I believe will feel different for each of you, yet support the object we are all striving for. If you trust me, I’m confident it will yield some POSITIVE RESULTS! Can you trust me?”

They all looked at me with strong facial expressions and one Leader said, “OK, coach. Let’s do this!” And just like that, I was FINALLY able to lean into my Authentic Self!

The meeting ended two and a half hours later.

I feel like there were two major wins here:

1. I took control, shared my position, and felt more confident in my own skin.

2. We were able to capture the items that were needed to create a plan.

Then I got in my car- and cried again. LOL

Why?? Because I felt guilty. In my eyes (at that moment), crying was a sign of weakness. I thought, “Why did I let that happen in front of these Leaders?”

But then I thought – that’s me. That’s who I am at the core. That is how I show up authentically. I’m a great leader because of my empathy and my passion –so technically, I showed up as ME!

It may have taken me a day and a half to get there, but I left that workshop being 100% Lisa Rigoli.

I share this because it was the lesson I needed (and it may be the lesson you need to read). Crying wasn’t a bad thing in this situation. I didn’t completely lose myself in front of that room of leaders. I expressed genuine emotion and I had a moment where I needed to be 100% me in order to take back control.

When have your emotions taken over in a difficult setting? What do you do to regain control? And how do you feel about your response(s)? Want to talk it out? That’s what I’m here for! I’d love to connect and learn about how you’re navigating difficult situations in or out of the office!