Q: I'm young and new to the business and have found the creative department to be full of pressure, and passion. When these come to a head, I've seen men react in ridiculous ways. A grown man once wiped everything off his desk with one swoop of his forearm - PowerBook, One Show pencils, pictures of the family, all ended up in a tragic pile against the baseboard. I've seen younger hotheads put their fists through drywall.
My body, however, has a very different reaction to stress, anger, frustration, and passion. When I get angry, I can't stop the hot tears from rolling down my cheeks. Always silently (these aren't uncontrollable, sniffling sobs), but none-the-less tears that are looked upon by my coworkers as weak. I know this is most likely an immature problem, but have you ever faced it? Do you have any tricks for getting over it? Should I just start learning to put my fists through drywall?
Fret not. Having a strong reaction to what’s going on around you is not immature at all (and certainly not more immature than destroying a perfectly good Powerbook). It shows that you care passionately about what you do. If you never got upset, chances are you’re either a robot or someone who doesn’t give a crap about your job -- and it doesn’t sound like you’re either.
Your tears are your body’s physical response to stress. And, as you said yourself, you can’t control them. So we need to look at the things you can control – what made you stressed in the first place, and how you will deal with the tears when they well up again.
Once those hot tears start a-rollin’ (or your voice starts a-crackin’, or your hands start a-shakin’ – we all have our own unique stressin’ style) you need to address them. Pretending that those tears are not there, or trying to hold them in will make it worse. Instead, state the obvious to whoever you are talking to – that yes, you are upset, but it’s because it’s because you care about the work, and you’ll be fine in a minute. Just saying it out loud can actually help release the stress – and make it much easier to compose yourself. Plus, as a bonus, it will stop your co-workers from wondering what the heck is wrong with you (because what their fertile minds imagine is always far more dramatic than the truth).
All that being said, if this is happening to you frequently, you may want to cast a (non teary) eye at your present agency. What is fostering such a tense work environment? Can it be reduced, or is stress part of the furniture where you work? I know a guy who used to go and cry in the toilet just about every day due to an incredibly arrogant, soul-crushing boss -- but he put up with it because he thought that’s the way ALL creative directors were. Is this the case with you? If so, perhaps there’s a new shop in you future, where you can channel all that passion into a more positive place.
- Jane Murray