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March 18, 2008

True Stories of Crying at Work

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Sirmara Campbell, 28, human-resources manager, Chicago

The moment: I joined the company when I was 19 and had been there for seven years. I felt like I was bumping my head against the ceiling and didn't think there was another spot for me. I hesitated to talk with my boss — the president and CEO — because I was afraid I was being pushed out by not being promoted. I have a lot of passion for this company, and I cried almost every day, at home and in front of colleagues, about possibly leaving. Finally, I scheduled a meeting with my boss, where I started sobbing.

The aftermath: My boss gave me a hug and told me, "You've always cared so much about this company and given so much." Once I let him know what I needed from my career, he offered me the position I had always wanted as the human-resources manager.

The takeaway: In retrospect, I see that all I really needed to do was talk to my boss about my goals. I didn't need to get so upset. But I have no regrets about crying, in this situation or in others. Our CEO is a big believer in this pro basketball coach who said that if you cry, laugh, and think, you've had a full day. But even if I worked elsewhere, I know I couldn't always hold in my tears, and I wouldn't want to. When you cry about something at work, it means you have emotion attached to it.

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