On Friday morning, “Today” show co-anchor Hoda Kotb did something rare for network TV news anchors: She gave into pure emotion and broke down in tears.
Wrapping up an interview with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about the coronavirus pandemic’s staggering effect on the city and his $5 million donation, Kotb suddenly struggled to speak, then slumped her shoulders.
Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie comforted her, then took over the transition into the next segment.
Around the world, emotions are running high as people face the uncertainty of the virus’s trajectory.
“Everyone’s emotions are just so close to the surface right now,” Liane Davey, an organizational psychologist and author of “The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track,” said.
“When you’re talking about bad news at a distance — pictures of Italy, exponential numbers on a chart, you can be removed from your emotions,” Davey said. “New Orleans is a community she knows and loves, and sometimes the feelings just catch you off guard.”
Everyone seems a little more weepy these days, noted Davey.
“Now people aren’t sleeping, they’re cooped up and all of their routines and coping mechanisms are disrupted or just gone,” Davey said.
For those in media, it’s been an incredible onslaught of bad news that will likely get exponentially worse. Work means swimming into all of it, day after day, in a 24/7 news cycle.
“I kind of cry a little bit quite regularly at the moment — but then I work from home so no one would know,” Charlotte Jee, a London-based writer for the MIT Technology Review wrote in a message.
Davey encourages workplaces to embrace “emotion or vulnerability plus accountability,” and points to Friday’s “Today” show segment as an example. When Kotb didn’t rebound quickly, Guthrie was quick to pick up where she left off.
“Savannah was the perfect teammate. She gave her some space and waited a beat. She validated her emotions. She didn’t try to cover it up or move on to the next segment,” Davey said. “Then she saw Kotb struggle and said, ‘How about I do that?’”
That’s especially important in these times.
For Eater editor Monica Burton, 30, covering the closures and hardships that the restaurant industry now faces is taking its toll.
She has broken down in tears while writing and editing stories of shuttered businesses that may never come back: restaurateurs who had just opened up their establishment, only to have to shut it down, or a devastated winemaker.
“I’m lucky to work in a really supportive environment that cares about mental health,” Burton said. “For us, admitting you’re upset or admitting you cry is not a strike against you. I can see other environments where crying could be seen as a sign of weakness or an inability to handle your work.”
“I do wonder if everyone is crying more and working from home and no one can see you, so you can cry, and then later say you did it,” Burton said. “Maybe it will be more acceptable.”