Here’s What I Learned from Crying During a Performance Review

Amy K Stanton
5 min readDec 6, 2018

Almost 20 years ago, I was sitting at a restaurant having lunch with my boss, about to hear the results of my annual performance review.

This woman, who was the President at the ad agency where I worked, was a high achiever with very high standards — really inspiring, but also a bit intimidating. I had enormous respect for her, and I always looked forward to my performance reviews. For one thing, I felt like I was kicking ass — but for another, I just enjoyed that time with her.

So it was surprising to me when this review lunch didn’t go as expected.

While she gave me a glowing review, the raise she was offering me didn’t reflect that. I was upset, because I’d spent the past year working my butt off and giving my job my 100 percent.

And so — I burst into tears.

Right there in the restaurant, at the table with my boss.

As you can imagine, that didn’t help the situation. I was so horrified by the fact that I was crying that I didn’t manage to tell her why I was so upset. I couldn’t articulate that I felt my work was being undervalued — because I became so focused on the crying. I was so embarrassed. I just wanted the crying to be done.

My boss, understandably, left that meeting thinking I was going to resent her, and that she now had a disgruntled employee. I came away feeling like I was totally underappreciated. And both of us walked away feeling awful.

Needless to say, it didn’t help the relationship at all — in fact, it created a problem where there wasn’t one.

I’ve thought about that meeting off and on for years, and for a long time I simply thought, “Well, my crying made her uncomfortable. That was the problem.”

We’ve all been told that emotional displays have no place in the workplace — right?


As I’ve spent the past several years exploring femininity and feminine qualities for the book I co-authored with Catherine Connors, The Feminine Revolution, I’ve rethought what happened during that performance review. Sure — it would…

Amy K Stanton

Founder & CEO, Stanton & Company. Co-author of The Feminine Revolution.