Thursday, May 04, 2017

smile! You're in a meeting

The last couple of months have been a little..... taxing. When pressure mounts on both sides of "inside work" and "outside work", it's not an ideal situation. The outside of work pressure, well it's something I'll have to deal with in my spare time and shouldn't affect work,. I don't share that with my coworkers, it's for my friends. However, work has been increasingly about emotions, managing not only expectations, managing up but also being the emotional support for a couple of peers, well - it's good to relearn one's limitations, right? Joke aside, it's not.

However, I can't but help think that part of what really has annoyed me is a little nagging feeling inside that a certain situation is in play because of the fact that I'm a woman. You see, I've been told repeatedly over the last couple of months that I need to manage my face in meetings. My regular face is not what one would say a "smiling complacent woman face eager to please". My regular face is neutral. Nothing wrong with that, and if it stayed as such, there wouldn't be a as much of a problem. However, I have a tendency to have a different face when trying to follow a thought process when someone is talking, or when I'm working out a problem, or when I'm mentally writing out a time line and making notes of all the potential issues that will come up when planning new projects.

This different face, let's call it "my thinking face", is the issue (like "resting bitch face"). It looks angry. Or maybe not exactly angry, "it's rather like you are malcontent or just scrunching up your eyes and it's a little unsettling". Or, as one person said "well, your face is not looking happy right now". [you bet it doesn't, your proposal has a lot of issues and I'm going to have to fix them all dude] In short terms, I have forgotten, due to trying to fix all these new tasks and extra stuff at work while navigating my outside life so it doesn't affect my job, that the most important part of my job is to smile and be a happy woman in every meeting I attend.

Well, to be clear - I'm pretty good at the smiling face in project meetings with "the non-special people". The crux is that these comments are coming from the closer people at work. The ones I've worked with a long time and know me. My close work groups. The ones who have been talking about "we should all be close and so good friends" groups. The irony isn't lost on me. This whole time when we have "gotten to know each other" and it's been about "you need to learn how to trust close coworkers, drop your guard" I've been a smiling woman. Now when I'm relaxing in my interactions with them, the critique and disappointment has reared its head since my face isn't as nice [fake] as before and that bothers them.

I wish I could tell them this, but I won't. It's not going to be what they want to hear. It might be what they THINK they want to hear "let's be honest, everyone likes honesty". No, actually most people don't want 'honesty' and 'real' - they want 'convenient & affirmative'. And most of all the want "non threatening". And a non smiling woman [me] in a meeting not giving them constant affirmation is quite clearly not what they want. And especially not when part of the deal is that I'm there to help them figure out all the snags and issues that will come along in their projects.

So, back to neutral face with a slight smaller smile I go. Of course, it's interesting that I don't see this need of having a smile or being affirmative reflected in my male peers and their interactions with people. Nor have I heard any male peer being critiqued in a large group "you really need to smile more" as I've been admonished. It's quite alright for the male peers to sit with scowling faces in meeting after meeting, interrupting and throwing in "helpful critique" whenever suits their fancy.

Alas, I'll label this under "things I knew before, got persuaded for a while I was wrong and paranoid as a feminist, but it turned out I had the right idea all along so it would've saved a lot of energy just listening to my own perception". And then I'll move on.

Welcome to the world "Ms neutral face with a small smile". Adios real face where I actually use my time thinking about what you're saying instead of rearranging my face so you feel comfortable. I wonder if they ever realise how disappointed in them this made me? Most likely not. C'est la vie d'une femme, souriante tout le temps.


Alyssa said...

This makes me all kinds of angry and sad. I try to remember that just because someone doesn't like something about me doesn't mean I have to change it. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

Keep that neutral face throughout. Bitch.

chall said...

thank you for giving me a validation on that it's ok not to have "shiny happy smiley face" all the time at work.