If you've ever had a coworker start crying at the office, you know how awkward it is.

So awkward that you probably get irritated at the person for making you uncomfortable. Here's a list of six slightly more appropriate reactions.

1. Be yourself. Put yourself out of work mode for a minute, and do what comes naturally. That is, whatever seems natural given how WELL you know the person.

So if you're friends, give them a hug. But if you don't even know their name, ask what you can do to help.

2. Find out what the REAL problem is. Sometimes an incident at work can trigger emotions that were caused by something else. You can't help if you think someone is crying over missing a sale, when it's a dead pet or something totally unrelated.

3. Keep it simple. Short, comforting responses work best. Whatever you do, don't make it about yourself. Don't start talking about the time you went through the same thing. If someone wants your advice, they'll ask for it.

4. Focus on work-related problems. If it's not a work problem, you probably don't know enough about it.

But you might still be able to help, if you can make the person's work day easier. Offer to pick up some slack for them if you're in a position to do it.

5. Don't try to be a psychiatrist. This goes back to keeping it simple. Because there might be problems that are too serious to handle on the spot. So refer it to HR or management if you think the person needs outside help.

6. Pay attention every day. That way you can stop problems before they start. Especially if you're a supervisor, you should give people opportunities to talk about what's bothering them.

Then maybe things will get solved before someone makes it awkward for everyone.