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March 18, 2008

True Stories of Crying at Work

Welling up in the office: Career suicide or the new way to get ahead? Real women weigh in

alicia rockmore

Alicia Rockmore

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When Hillary Clinton got misty on the campaign trail, then went on to win the New Hampshire primary the next day, it wasn't just a pivotal moment for her. With women out-graduating and out-earning men like never before, that moment may have signaled that the fairer sex has finally redefined the rules of power. After years of forcing ourselves to act like men at work and blink back every hint of humanizing emotion for fear of looking weak (or like we've got serious PMS), could it finally be okay — and maybe even a good idea — to reveal ourselves a little? We asked five powerful women to weigh in on their own "Hillary moment." Did it compromise them, or catapult them to success?

Alicia Rockmore, 42, CEO, Ann Arbor, MI

The moment: I made a major mistake when I was working at a multinational corporation that resulted in bad local press. It could have spiraled into a story in the national media. Some people at the company were very nasty with me. I cried most of the day that it happened. A lot of it was behind closed doors, in front of my boss.

The aftermath: My boss wasn't very comfortable with my tears. He kept saying, "Calm down. It's okay," because I think he didn't know what else to say. I always felt there were repercussions — it created the perception I didn't fit into the corporate mold.

The takeaway: I am a crier, and I finally realized that I couldn't be myself in corporate America. I started my own business, and now if I want to cry — or be happy — I don't have to feel inappropriate.

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