Career experts on how you can gracefully accept defeat on the job
Tears often don’t work at work.
On Sunday, Croatian tennis player Marin Cilic got thrashed by Roger Federer at Wimbledon — and his reaction to losing got nearly as much attention as the game itself. Clinic said a blister was causing him problems (he got a medical timeout at the end of the second set) and was seen crying on the sidelines during the match.
“It was definitely one of the unfortunate days for me for this to happen. I had a really bad blister and fluid came down into the callus,” the 28-year-old, who is rated No. 6 in the world, said. “It was tough emotionally because I know how much went into the preparation in the past few months.
While some people expressed sympathy, others — most notably Piers Morgan — did not.
Nonsense. He had a little blister. Real champions ignore such trifling issues. https://t.co/B4lHh1d9f4
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 17, 2017
Clinic is far from the only celeb to cry because of a defeat at work. Basketball players LeBron James and Chris Bosch have both cried after a defeat, and tennis player Novak Djokovic famously broke down in tears when he lost to Juan Martin Del Potro at the Rio Olympics last year. Hillary Clinton fought back tears after her election defeat last year, and former Speaker of the House John Boehner has unleashed the waterworks on a number of occasions.
The rest of us aren’t immune to crying at work after a defeat either –and experts say you often need to do some damage control if it happens.
The first thing to remember is that crying at work isn’t always a bad thing. “It’s a human thing,” says career strategist Carlota Zimmerman. In many situations, your boss or coworkers may feel sympathy for you when this happens — most people know that defeat hurts — rather than look down on you or think less of you.
Even so, when you publicly cry at work it is often “important to not just ignore that it happened,” says Katie Bennett, a cofounder of career coaching firm Ama La Vida, “After the episode, make sure to go for a walk and take some deep breaths to bring yourself back to a calm and rational place.” Once you’re in a better place, Bennett suggests doing a little damage control. “Request to speak to your manager (or whoever was there) and apologize for letting your emotions get the better of you,” she says. “Explain why you felt the way you did and also highlight what you have learned and what strategies you are going to put in place for the future.”
If you were angrily crying and sullen and/or yelling along with that, you’ll need to prepare an even bigger apology: “If you’re seen as a sore loser, as unpleasant, your long term career options can be drastically downgraded,” Zimmerman points out. “Write a sincere note of apology, and by sincere I mean take responsibility,” she says. “You need to do damage control and get out in front of this, since if you shrug it off and act like it wasn’t a big deal, oh kid, you are just digging your own grave.”
Going forward, try to prevent teary reactions from happening, if you can. Bennett says it’s important to emotionally prepare yourself for possible defeats at work. She recommends visualizing the scenario “where somebody else wins and mentally play-out how you would like to handle the situation. If this scenario materializes, you will have already “rehearsed.”
You also should learn to recognize your signals like say a rapidly beating heart or lump in your throat, she says. “Once we are aware of our signals, we can be more proactive in taking ourselves away from a situation before we erupt,” she says. “When you feel those symptoms occurring, excuse yourself – go for a walk or go to the restroom to take some deep breaths and gain composure before continuing the conversation.”
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