In “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan, loudly told one of his professional female baseball players, “There’s no crying in baseball.” That could hold true for most workplaces—at least on the surface. Many people think showing emotion can affect their reputation negatively, especially if they’re caught doing it on the job.
But the reality is real estate professionals deal with emotions on a daily basis. Whether it be juggling sensitive clients or managing stressed agents, shedding a few tears is more commonplace than you may think.
A recent survey by Accountemps shows that 45 percent of workers admit to crying on the job. About the same number of CFOs—44 percent—say shedding tears is acceptable as long as it’s not an everyday occasion. “Crying shouldn’t be a death sentence for anyone at work,” says Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “It’s natural. But many people don’t want the crying to impede their performance or be criticized for their emotions.”
Handling Emotions as a Manager
As the broker or manager of your company, you want to get the most out of your agents and staff, but you also need to be sensitive to the different personalities you’re dealing with, Steinitz says. For instance, you want to deliver criticism without making your team feel deflated, he says.
The most effective way to create an emotionally healthy workplace is to instill a culture that breeds trust and genuine interactions. “This will go a long way in dealing with the emotions that inevitably come up in real estate,” Steinitz says.
Ideally, when a problem arises in an agent’s business or personal life, he or she should feel comfortable sharing with you the reason they’re not at the top of their game or why they’re having trouble keeping their emotions in check. Steinitz also suggests having certain events outside of the office, such as lunches or work outings, to make agents feel more comfortable with one another.
If you do see someone crying at work, it’s alright to ask them what’s going on. “Ask them if they need time or if there is anything you or the company can provide for them,” Steinitz says.
When Crying Is Healthy—And When It’s Not
Barbara Wichman, national speaker and executive coach in Naperville, Ill., vividly remembers working in a human resources department a few years back, when about 20 people came into her office to tell her that a woman was crying at her desk. Wichman approached the woman and asked her if she’d like to go someplace and talk. She found out that the woman’s mother had just unexpectedly died.
Stereotypes persist when it comes to showing emotions. If a female is crying, people may surmise that she’s an emotional person. On the other end, when people see a man tear up, they may assume something must be terribly wrong with him. Put those assumptions aside, Wichman implores. Crying is a natural, healthy human reaction to many emotionally charged situations. “Having emotions is being a human,” she adds.
When an agent is having an emotional moment, Wichman suggests asking him or her out for a cup of coffee. Sit down and talk, even if it’s about a few light-hearted topics. Put forth a comfortable atmosphere to help them relax. Try to match their mood by expressing concern in a low-key tone, and validate their concerns. Wichman says that the worst thing you can ask is “What’s wrong with you?” It’s also important to respect the person’s need for space, she says.
However, if you have someone in your office who has longer-term issues, it’s best to recommend they get some assistance. If they are crying on a regular basis, and it’s disruptive to people around them, you have the right to say, “I think you need to get some help. We really care about you, but it is beyond what we can do to help you,” Wichman suggests.
Sometimes, the level of stress or the intensity of the situation is too great for a person. If one of your agents is leaving the office under heightened emotional conditions, make sure you tell them that you don’t want them to be so upset when they get in their car and drive, Wichman recommends. “That could lead to an even more serious situation.” Ask them to take a few moments to breathe outside before they go.
Calming Your Own Emotions
When Wichman coaches people who are facing stressful situations, she tells them to put their phone or computer down, stand up, go outside, and walk around the building two or three times. Breathe the air, look at the sky and trees, and get yourself into nature.
“Real estate is a hard profession to be in. You are always fighting for the deal, fighting to close the deal. You have so many things you are up against, and tears may fall,” she says.
If you don’t have the opportunity to walk, then it’s OK to get in your car, go to a park, and breathe. Observe what is around you; nature has an ability to calm the nerves, she says.
As a manager who’s changed with helping everyone else, you also need to make sure you have someone to talk to and confide in. Find a friend, mentor, or therapist who you can turn to during stressful moments. Self-care and talk therapy goes a long way when it comes to staying emotionally healthy for yourself, your agents, and your business.