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Obligation to smile?  RSS feed

 
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In my year review my manager said she said she thought I was not motivated because I did not smile at the office.

I disagree here. First if my work is okay, it should not matter whether I smile or not. Second the fact that I do not smile does not have to mean I am not motivated. Some people, myself included, are the most motivated when they internally curse and get angry because they want the problem fixed. I do not look happy, but I stay until late at night and solve the problem. Third not all people just have the same character. My girls friends e.g. many times are uncertain whether I am happy with them or not. I explain it is just my exterior. Last, I do not like the amateur psychology coming from the management. She can see whether I am motivated just because of my body language and because she is a manager? I actually got really angry. There are no complains at all about my programming skills though. A good thing is that I told this to a few colleagues of mine in the office, they just had a laugh and told me: 'That is just the way you are'.

What should I do with that manager?!
 
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Second the fact that I do not smile does not have to mean I am not motivated.


One would think it shouldn't make a difference, but IMO it's likely to be a subconscious preference for seemingly happy people. Have you tried to explain this to her? You could point out that she might seek corroboration from your colleagues, since they know about this.

Also, if this happens elsewhere in your life (like with friends or girl friends), you might consider working on this. Thinking that other people should adapt to non-obvious traits of yours, instead of you adapting to other people's apparently not uncommon problems in discerning your emotions, might not get you far.
 
Jan de Boer
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If I start trying to 'act happy' 24 by seven, I'd go crazy. I tried that once. I felt totally miserable. It's something I know I have but most people who know me accept it. Like I said, that other colleagues started laughing and told me 'that is just the way your are'.  Also when I try to 'act happy' the same people who complain will say: 'you are faking', and it still not enough.  

 
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Personally, I think that your manager may have messed up.  Yes, "happy" employees are likely better employees, in terms of motivation. However, he/she got the cause and effect backwards. Happy employees smile more. Agreed. On the other hand, employees that smile more (due to being told to) aren't going to be happy employees...

Henry
 
Jan de Boer
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Thanks Henry! Yes!! And if you are forced to smile, it makes you very unhappy. I now feel 'watched'. Every time I have a technical problem that frustrates me, I not only think of that problem, I also think 'Oh god, there she is, look happy'. Any idea how that gets on my nerves!?
 
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In a programming job, I agree that you shouldn't feel obligated to smile. For a customer service job (ex store/help desk), I could see being asked to smile because it makes one appear happier and sound better. But our computers can't tell our mood so it is silly here.
 
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I also feel that the real world is unfriendly for an
introvert.People have the tendency to have a negative impression of an introvert.I always think , so long as I finish my work efficiently and try my best not to bring any troubles to others, that's why I'm sitting here for working.I also rarely chat with others around me.However,It seems that people always easily misunderstand such a kind of person.
 
Jan de Boer
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It is a bit like this:

You want some silence because you want to solve a problem --> You're not communicative.
You want some documentation because you want to reread it in the train or at home to do extra studies. --> You're not lean, you're not agile.
You are thinking about a problem and mad at yourself that you cannot solve it. --> You do not smile, you're not motivated.

What the .... Managers of knowledge workers should understand that knowledge workers are a bit different from most other employees.
 
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . knowledge workers are a bit different from most other employees.

. . . and a plumber soldering an awkward joint smiles broadly? Or an electrician who can't quite get the lights to turn on?
 
Jan de Boer
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Even though in my present team they are very satisfied with me, she persists in bringing this up, and now I am even looking for another job because this narrative gets on my nerves. She is horrible, stubborn, and seems to want to prove her amateur psychology is right. Just had it..
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . she persists in bringing this up . . .

Does she do that sort of thing to anybody else?
 
Jan de Boer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:

Jan de Boer wrote:. . . she persists in bringing this up . . .

Does she do that sort of thing to anybody else?



Not the same exact thing, but yes. It is really depressing. Technically I like the job, but emotionally I just had it.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . Not the same exact thing, . . . emotionally I just had it.

Does anybody else have similar opinions?
[additional] I mean, would anybody else they say, “I have had it with XXX?”
[edit]What was I thinking when I wrote they?
 
Jan de Boer
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Should it matter what other people think? I have had it. It is my job, my decision, not anybody else's. I have been here 3++ years also, so it probably is not a bad mark on my CV if I leave now. Maybe even better, since at least my present team is very happy with me. Why wait until it escalates? I'd just go now.
 
Tim Moores
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Jan de Boer wrote:It is my job, my decision, not anybody else's.


The problem with that attitude (in general, not just in this particular situation) is that if you can't work things out with other people at your workplace (or are only willing to do so until a certain point), I suspect you won't have a lot of job satisfaction. A company, as well as the teams it's comprised of, will not be very accommodating unless employees are accomodating as well. I'm talking in generalities here, not specifically about this situation. Of course, everybody has their own point at which they've had enough. One should just be aware that it's a two-way street.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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As I said yesterday, or would have if I had spelt it correctly, has anybody else said they have had it with XXX?
 
Jan de Boer
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I know I don't have a happy face and an extrovert personality, but I do know I had other jobs where the environment accepted that. So that is why I go.
 
Jan de Boer
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Tim Moores wrote:accommodating....



This accommodating would mean I would have to 'act' all day. It just is not me. And because of that, I just feel miserable. In fact, I do not feel unhappy at all. That is, until managers keep on asking me why I am not unhappy. It gets on my nerves, I would really better leave.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Jan de Boer wrote:. . . That is, until managers keep on asking me why I am not unhappy. . . ..

Whom have you discussed that with? What did they say?
 
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In my year review my manager said she said she thought I was not motivated because I did not smile at the office.



I think its just her opinion. A comment. It doesn't change you (who you are) or the work you have done. If you think you are good with colleagues and work then you need not worry about it. In fact, what has happenned cannot be changed, its already over. The person who has made that comment doesn't really affect what you are.

The future is in your hands and one doesn't come to conclusions and make decsions based on such comments.

Look at the comment. Its not about motivation. If you are not smiling at her, may be just smile at her when you run into her. That could clear you. Smiling at people is in fact a very pleasant thing. Somebody quoted "Smile , the world looks better this way!". I have noticed when you smile at someone, generally they smile back (if its a genuine smile).

Finally, just to check on youself ask a family member (a sibling or parent with whom you share close relations) about what they think about your smiling or not-smiling and what has happenned with your manager.
 
Jan de Boer
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Prasad Saya wrote:"Smile , the world looks better this way!"



No, sorry. I am probably just different here. If I am forced to smile I feel totally miserable. I feel nervous, watched, observed. Now when something does not work, I am not only mad at myself I cannot get the software working, I am also feeling some eyes of a manager peering in my back.
 
Henry Wong
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Jan de Boer wrote:
No, sorry. I am probably just different here. If I am forced to smile I feel totally miserable. I feel nervous, watched, observed.  



Trying not to offend the OP, but something seems off here. I understand that it is uncomfortable. I am somewhat of an introvert myself, and constantly work at breaking out of that box... but... I have *never* felt the need to quit because of it. Not even close.

I have been miserable at a job. And I have felt a need to quit, and have actually done so in the past. However, it was generally because I hated what I was doing, long hours of useless activity, toxic environment, etc. And generally, a combination of many factors.

Not really adding much to this conversation, but something tells me that "smiling" is just the last straw, and perhaps, there are some other underlying factors.

Henry
 
Jan de Boer
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Now I am not insulted, just very angry. I know I am talking to the furniture here, or shouting in the desert, to use a few Dutch expressions. And what is the ‘last straw’? But to me it seems she is judging me to something that is exterior. She could just as well judge me negatively for being black, or a woman. I am neither, but for me it is the same. It is also something that has bothered me all my life, and I tried everything to mitigate it. When I just came from college, I was super motivated to get a job. I already had a daughter, so I really needed a job. Every time it was the same, ‘you did not make a motivated impression’. It was that bad I even took speech lessons (logopedist) to have a more active voice, I even literally thought about the option of using drugs, like sniffing a line of cocaine to somehow get that judgement out of the way. But no, I seem to have an unmotivated appearance what ever I do. If people judge me on this, they might just as well say, I don’t like you because I think you’re ugly. You don’t get the job because I do not like your face. I furiously hate this.
 
Prasad Saya
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I know I am talking to the furniture here, or shouting in the desert, to use a few Dutch expressions...



I appreciate the Dutch humour.


she could just as well judge me negatively for being black, or a woman.  I am neither, but for me it is the same. It is also something that has bothered me all my life, and I tried everything to mitigate it...

It was that bad I even took speech lessons (logopedist) to have a more active voice,...



I think you knew that you have to do something and those were steps you took, forward. Forward to become better and improve yourself. You know, becoming better and improving self are the best qualities one can have, because as human beings we are always looking to get better and excel at things (becoming better programmer, sounds familiar). Its inherent to normal humans (not so for animals). Thats how people are, who get those olympic gold medals, they are just trying to get better and those are their peak achievements.


Now I am not insulted, just very angry.



Though anger is seen as a "negative" emotion, there are things about it that lead to a positive effect. I have read in a book (I have a copy of the book) "Designing Destiny", on the topic of anger, the books author (a spiritual guide) writes - "Anger should only ever be projected on yourself. … That is the right utilization of anger – not projected outside, but projected towards oneself, to change.".

I'd like to add, to change for the better. The author of the book (Kamlesh D. Patel) quoted a story about anger (recently over the last weekend, and I was there attending a seminar conducted by him). Here it is:


The story of a king and the Sufi Master, Junayd

Junayd was one of the greatest Sufi Masters, and the king visited him, wanting to become his disciple. Junayd would not tell the king 'no' directly, although he felt that the king was not ready for spiritual initiation, so he kept postponing instead of inviting trouble: “Let’s do it next week.”

The king would follow him wherever he went, and it was difficult for Junayd to get away from him. Being a king, he forced his way into it. Eventually Junayd said, “Okay, after one week I will initiate you into my system.”

Junayd was a smart guy, and he created a scenario. He went across the river from his town to where his family was living. Sitting under a tree, he invited a woman to come there, they sat there with beautifully laid glasses and spent almost two to three hours enjoying each other’s company, pouring that liquid out of the jar into the glasses and feeding each other.

This king was watching from the other side. “What the hell is this man doing here? He is with a woman and he claims himself to be a Master! And not only is he sitting with her, now it is also late evening and God knows what else they are doing. They are drinking.”

So he went there and barged in: “What sort of a Master are you?” He started cursing him, as he was in such a rage! “Now I will throw you out of my kingdom, you’re refusing to initiate me.”
And so the drama went on …
Then Junayd says, “Forgive me, my Lord, you are the king. I told you, you are not ready for this.” Then the Sufi hands the king a glass, “Taste it, it is just juice.”
“And who is this woman?” asked the king.
The lady removed her veil and it was Junayd’s mother.
Then the Sufi said, “You’re really not ready to become my disciple, because you go on doubting. You have a prejudiced mind.”

It is a beautiful story about how the mind interprets things. Your eyes have seen correctly, but your prejudiced mind interprets things the way you want to see them. Until this emotional weight is clarified, it has nothing to do with your nature. Sometimes you misunderstand the whole thing, even though you don’t have a tendency to become angry.

So now what happens? This misunderstanding can cause irritation and anger, and it spoils the relationship. So people say, “Oh, I became angry.” Naturally, out of ignorance, out of misunderstanding! That’s why understanding the situation is very important. Why something thing was done, and by whom, at such-and-such a time, in such-and-such a place. Everything has to fit in.

[The story and the commentary on it end here]
 
Tim Moores
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Well, you do come across as rather negative, not just in this topic, but elsewhere (like whenever you talk about process) as well. If that's just what you do here to let off steam, that's fine. But if it's even remotely what you do at work, I'm not surprised you have problems with people at your places of work. Saying "that's because I'm Dutch", whether true or not, won't cut you any slack.
 
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Jan de Boer wrote:And what is the ‘last straw’? But to me it seems she is judging me to something that is exterior. She could just as well judge me negatively for being black, or a woman. I am neither, but for me it is the same. It is also something that has bothered me all my life, ...



I am actually not sure if you are asking "what is the meaning of last straw", or if you are disagreeing that this is a "last straw" situation. Anyway, if the former, here is the source / definition of that idiom... https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/the+straw+that+broke+the+donkey%27s+back

Henry
 
Jan de Boer
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Tim Moores wrote:I'm not surprised you have problems with people at your places of work.



No I most of the times do not have problems with people at the places I work, that is why I think I should move on. I know I have a natural way of having a sort of negative body language over me, but I cannot help that. And if I try to mitigate that, I must constantly watch and control myself, and that drives me nuts. Many other people accept the way I am, and appreciate my honesty and sense of humor. I have been 'in this situation' in one other company, where the manager said something similar. I left, and later thought I should have moved on much sooner.

By the way, yes I do criticize agile a lot, but, that is an other subject.
 
Jan de Boer
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Okay so that last straw is something like the last drop in the bucket in Dutch. But it is not. It is very important to me. It is more like I had a conversation about how I was functioning. I hear, you are doing very good. You contribute well to the team, you have good knowledge, you study a lot of new things, we are really happy. Then I get an email. Jan, we to resume out talk: You are doing very good. You contribute well to the team, you have good knowledge, you study a lot of new things, we are really happy. But you do need to smile more.

Now that sounds maybe like nothing to you, but it makes me furious. I am just not a person who smiles a lot, sorry. Have been since childhood even. It is partly my personality, partly just a way some people have an earnest face by nature. I remember a cantina lady here, she had the same thing. She told me, ‘people always tell me to look happier, while this is just my normal expression’. I could totally relate. That why to me that mail is something like:

You are doing very good. You contribute well to the team, you have good knowledge, you study a lot of new things, we are really happy. But you are black. But you are gay. But you are a woman. But you are …

I hope now please somebody understands why I really get mad, and it is not ‘the last straw’ of ‘the last drop in the bucket’, for me it is half a tree, or half the bucket content. I really do not like this!
 
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Jan de Boer wrote:But you do need to smile more.


Jan de Boer wrote:I am just not a person who smiles a lot


To smile a lot wasn't requested, just more. You think you could do that? You said you did some time ago, just not much.

Anyway, Jan, to be honest to me all that sounds from a Star Wars series... I'd think smile in a bigger portion of cases is a front-end of person's back-end. I'd be very doubted that during appraisals people comment about physical appearance - problems aren't here if you'd ask me, just an "opportunity" to discuss further.

Motivated for me is different from being proactive/reactive. You might are motivated, I don't know you well. But in the way your posts sometimes appear, you look to me very reactive person, who look negatively to many things and don't like to accept other opinion, don't like to assume for the time being "I might wrong, let me try first, I might change my mind".

Bear in mind: I don't see your body language, nor face, which you identified yourself as a main causes of this matter.

At least one more person in this thread identified similar thing. Do you think these are absolutely unrelated coincidences?

I wouldn't say I don't like you, I'd say more otherwise, in few cases from your posts I found your attitude similar to mine - and I know majority of people don't like sometimes too strict view to certain things.

Regardless how we look programmers at managers, they are managers for a reason, and we are not. Some managers were programmers themselves, some just have general dry understanding about programming (so managers in my opinion also are of two kind).

From the manager's point of view I do understand her. If I were a manager, and if I'd think that you give a noisy background in the team's atmosphere for which I'd be responsible for, and I'd find that in more cases I need to fight with you than in not - I wouldn't care about your knowledge. There are many people knowledgeable out there. Most of the companies (at least I'm aware of) they are looking equally knowledgeable and equally team souls. Knowledge can be grown/trained, but personality to change is much more difficult. That is a big job for company's HR department or whoever do recruitment - to spot these things upfront.

What I'd do? I'd come back home, would think it through once again. Would go on the next working day and speak with my manager (if you like this job as such) and would say: I'll try my best to put in place what we have discussed...

Either it will become easier for you, for her, this chat might would evolve even to very honest and friendly chat so the tension would relieve, or not. If not - then I'd suggest look for a new job, but this time you could be calmed, because seems you have tried all from your side.

Sometimes you need to step over your ambitious, put them away. She's just a manager after all, same as a job at the end of the day. Live your life, solve programming problems. Today she's a manager, tomorrow might she won't be. Somehow you manage to struck yourself about one person's behaviour or what she told you, and you seem to tend to lose control - get mad, think about it for few days. Stand strong! Getting mad about "one saying" I'd say isn't strong person's attribute.

Jan, next time you write post: [1] hold shift + click button next to the "L", [2] hold shift and press "0". That way life might really would get easier.

You aren't bad man





 
Jan de Boer
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That you don't understand what I am referring to, actually makes me more convinced I should just go, and try somewhere else. I tried to explain her half a dozen times already this is the way I appear to the rest of the world too. It has nothing to do with being not motivated to do my job. I can tell you too, it's not understood. Just leave it.

I'd be very doubted that during appraisals people comment about physical appearance



I disagree. They won't call it physical appearance. It is called 'body language', 'vibes', 'we had a click', 'enthusiasm'. Both during appraisals but even more so during job interviews. You just did not have that much trouble with it as I do. Believe me, discrimination on appearance is everywhere.
 
Liutauras Vilda
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See, again:
  • "you don't understand..."
  • "makes me convinced..."
  • "I tried to explain her half a dozen times already"
  • "I can tell you too"
  • "I disagree"
  • "They won't call it physical appearance"
  • "It is called 'body language"

  • All these things imply that other people don't understand anything and in particular things which surround them, while you understand everything.

    Jan, the sooner you understand that you are just a small tiny spot in the world's frame across all other individuals, the sooner you'll feel better. Start respecting other opinions, read them 100 of times and try to understand, what the hell they are trying to tell you.

    Jan de Boer wrote:Just leave it.


    I will when I want so.

    Jan de Boer wrote:You just did not have that much trouble with it as I do.


    What do you mean, where did you get that information from? Your sources might incorrect, or you just assumed all world against you and other people have no troubles in their lives?

    Jan de Boer wrote:Believe me


    I need some data so I could trust one or another thing, can't just believe blindly.

    Jan de Boer wrote:discrimination on appearance is everywhere


    Haven't noticed in my company. But since you said it is everywhere you seem to know better.

    Is this the communication and reasoning you like?




     
    Liutauras Vilda
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    Liutauras Vilda wrote:Is this the communication and reasoning you like?


    This wasn't really a question. Mentioning just in case. Previous post was just to visualize...


    When the dialogues of this kind takes place over and over, you realise that within the team you need to discuss such matters more often than you have time to do actual job. It sucks energy. And then the next logical step is to declare "enough is enough".

    Jan de Boer wrote:I tried to explain her half a dozen times already



    Can you see where the manager possibly coming from?
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Liutauras Vilda wrote:All these things imply that other people don't understand anything and in particular things which surround them, while you understand everything.



    No, just this thing. Let me explain.

    Jan de Boer wrote:You just did not have that much trouble with it as I do.


    Liutauras Vilda wrote:What do you mean, where did you get that information from?



    Going for two years to a hundred or so job interviews, preparing them, having good qualifications, and then time after time hearing the same thing. "You did not have an energetic radiance". Not sure how to translate that in English. Dutch: "Energieke Uitstraling." And it is true. I do not have. It has nothing to do with programming, or even having a job. I was mocked for it during adolescence for it, and then I was 14 and did not have a job yet. I appear "sloom". (translates to slow, sluggish, tardy,  languid in English) So as soon as people start with something like that, yes, I am totally triggered. It was a traumatic thing for me.

    Liutauras Vilda wrote:Your sources might incorrect, or you just assumed all world against you and other people have no troubles in their lives?



    I am not saying that.
     
    Liutauras Vilda
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    Jan de Boer wrote:It was a traumatic thing for me.


    I see.

    We have shifted slightly, but we can't just discuss about the smiles when the topic covers possibly broader area.

    Have you tried to speak with psychologists who are neutral in these scenarios, how they look to such experiences, what kind of advises they may give to you? If you catch yourself that it might becoming a problem over the time, maybe worth considering to seek some help?

    You hardly can change others, but maybe you could change something in yourself so would be easier?
     
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    Liutauras Vilda wrote:
    You hardly can change others, but maybe you could change something in yourself so would be easier?



    With two years of job interviews and rejections prior, and with a half a dozen attempts currently, it should be obvious that internal change is easier than changing others.

    Liutauras Vilda wrote:
    We have shifted slightly, but we can't just discuss about the smiles when the topic covers possibly broader area.



    Agreed. I also think that smiling is just a symptom. The OP is clearly not happy -- and may even have gotten more unhappy due to the smiling issue. It may be related to something broader. The question is what?

    Henry
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Henry Wong wrote:With two years of job interviews and rejections prior, and with a half a dozen attempts currently, it should be obvious that internal change is easier than changing others.



    Did you read I was so desperate to change I took linguistic lessons to make my voice appear more active, and hence happy, and ever considered using drugs before going to a job interview?


     
    Henry Wong
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    Jan de Boer wrote:
    Did you read I was so desperate to change I took linguistic lessons to make my voice appear more active, and hence happy, and ever considered using drugs before going to a job interview?



    Potentially illegal drugs and/or techniques of faking it, aren't the changes that is being referred to here....   ... and if you are, then, I don't even know what to say next.... except.... seriously?!?

    Henry
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Henry Wong wrote:Agreed. I also think that smiling is just a symptom. The OP is clearly not happy



    No! No! No!

    Could you at least try to listen to me? The problem is that I appear unhappy even when I am not. I appear demotivated, when I am actually thinking about a problem and am working hard trying to solve it. This 'there must be something behind', is exactly what scrapes my soul.

    Henry Wong wrote: -- and may even have gotten more unhappy due to the smiling issue.



    Well that is right! Just say to someone who is not demotivated and not unhappy, permanently, 'why are you not motivated, why are you not happy', and he will in the end be miserable, yes, and that is the whole point.!

    By the way, about that team player thing, they also told me I was an excellent team player, and even that I was 'agile'. Now I dislike agile, but if you ask your colleagues to help you, that nowadays is called pair programming, and if you discuss a plan before blindly accepting it, that is called lean. But it appears that is not the issue either. Although I then have been 'agile' since the early nineties, since I am not doing anything else than what I did during 'waterfall'. But that a total different subject.

     
    Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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