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March 18, 2008

True Stories of Crying at Work

jamie pennington

Jamie Pennington

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Jamie Pennington, 32, former investment banker, now employment-agency founder, Atlanta

The moment: When I asked my boss if I could approach some of the firm's lapsed clients to see if I could bring them back, I expected him to appreciate my initiative. I was shocked when he said no — then added that he didn't want me to embarrass myself or the company. He thought I wasn't ready, and it was a hurtful way to say it.

I felt the tears coming, but I refused to cry. I bit my lip and didn't say another word. At the end of the meeting, my lip was bleeding. I was the only female stockbroker on the desk, and crying would have validated the stereotypes about women in a male-dominated field. When I accepted the job, I knew I would have to prove myself every single day, and that included showing them I could take it and move on.

The aftermath: My boss never came around, but I eventually won the backing of a senior director and went ahead with my plan — and became the top sales producer in the department. When I left to start my own business, my boss refused to shake my hand because he was watching millions of dollars in sales walk out the door.

The takeaway: I'm a big believer in "Never let them see you sweat," but even more than that, crying would have allowed my boss and colleagues to use it against me throughout my tenure at the firm.

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