I came across this post while browsing some blogs and news sites last week: What to Do When Your Boss Tells You to Smile, and I spent some time thinking about previous posts I’ve written about maintaining a professional image in the workplace. When I’m working and I frown or squint, am I giving an unprofessional impression? Am I leading people to believe that, because of what I like to call my “unintentional meanface,” that I’m miserable at my job? I had to read the article two or three times before I formed a coherent opinion about the this. First, I had to remind myself that I know I’m not miserable at my job and I treat my bosses and coworkers with friendliness and respect. Second, I do not have to make excuses for why I am making a certain expression (as long as I’m not being rude to someone). I actually don’t have experience with a boss or coworker telling me to smile; I do have experience with it outside of the office, though.
I’ve been approached by people (and by people, I mean men. Sorry, guys!) telling me to smile when I’m walking down the street. I think my reaction depends on the tone the person uses when he tells me to smile; if a man says, for example, “Hey, beautiful–why don’t you smile for me?” (this is a true encounter, by the way), then I’m going to be uncomfortable. If a person (man or woman) says, “You look sad and I want to see you smile!” (also a true encounter), I’m not offended. In fact, I think it’s nice that this person took a second out of their busy day and noticed that I looked stressed or upset. Maybe the person isn’t that nice and I’m giving him or her too much credit, but I’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt. (I’ve written about this idea of always being kind and respectful to others here and here–it’s a huge sticking point for me.) In short, it’s all about the delivery–are you hitting on me and you want attention? Then forget it. Are you trying to be nice and funny to make me laugh? Okay–your heart is probably in the right place.
The person who wrote in to Corporette said that coworkers tell her she looks angry when she’s working and she says, “I do furrow my eyebrows when I concentrate, and often am reading very tiny print, which makes me squint a bit.” I can relate to that–I work in publishing and more often than not, I’m editing a Word or PDF document and to keep my eyes from falling out my head from exhaustion, I have to squint. In a situation like this in a workplace, my first question to the writer is where is the person asking you to smile coming from? Do they sound snarky? Caring? Sarcastic? Maybe they’re concerned about you. Maybe what you think of as your b****face is what they think of as a frustrated expression. I know I’m a happy, friendly person and I typically smile and nod or say hi to people in the office. But I’d hate people to think that I’m not very happy with my job because I look angry while I’m working. I understand the frustration that people (especially women) feel when they are told to smile; it’s like we are being told to perform a certain way in order to be considered acceptable as women and as human beings. I also think it’s important to take a step back and to think about what the intention of the other person might have been–it could just be their way of expressing concern. In my opinion, if being told to smile bothers you, then tell your boss or coworker in a respectful way. Most people will appreciate your honesty and back off.
Alright, let’s hear it, readers: have any of you, men and women, been told to “Smile!” at work? What about somewhere else? I want to hear about it!
grumpy-cat-fitness
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Check out more about this topic:
1. The Professional Implications of a “Naturally Frowny Face”
2. The Chronic Bitchface Is Still Here
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