Thursday, 3 May 2012


Days have passed since I heard the most ridiculous remarks made about me. I must confess that I am still upset.

For the first time in more than 15 years of working, to my huge surprise, how my face looks has become a matter of concern to be discussed in a job review. I was told that I look stern, cold and intimidating. Someone finds me "scary" because I don't chat with that person as I do with other colleagues. There were also complaints about my agitation and assertiveness at times, which can be misinterpreted as being abrasive and even offensive.

Fine, point taken for the last one, although personally I'm not convinced that to compromise or submission without making my point across is in any sense constructive. The manner of articulation may be adjusted, but I stand firm to what I truly believe.

Back to the first point: I have come across very harsh, mean and unreasonable people at work in previous jobs, but none of them ever criticised my face. A few colleagues who end up being close friends of mine did tell me that I look a bit cool and serious at first glance, but over time they know what my true self is. Even though I may look grumpy, I'm not really angry with anyone but how things go. I never yell at people at work, even when they make mistakes. I try to understand why, show my empathy and sort out a solution with them, so that they can learn how to avoid repeating the wrong. I make mistakes too and this is how I want to be treated. I just think this is the best way to get things done properly. Pointing accusing fingers or venting one's emotions just doesn't do any good.

Everyone has his/her own logic and way of seeing and interpreting the world. Everyone is free to express what he/she thinks. But whether or not such comments should be taken seriously is another matter. I assume the fact that those remarks were relayed to me because the speaker somewhat agrees with the view, feels some sort of magnitude and wants to resolve the "problem" so that everyone would be happy. But sorry, no. I am not happy hearing this. How can I? How can I be happy when someone is unhappy seeing my face and telling me so?

I just do not understand at all why my face looks to one person or two should become a concern to be discussed, improvements expected as it was hinted, in a working context? What am I supposed to do? Laugh like a dog running after its tail? Pretend to be very interested in talking to someone who knows little other than work and does not share any common interest with me? Or perhaps even a facelift or plastic surgery - subsidies required, of course - to bring the downward-pointing corners of my mouth upside down like Joker in Batman? What if someone tells me two weeks later that, "Hey, why are you always laughing like that? Are you nuts?"

Isn't it obvious that whether this matter, little more than how one or two persons see me through their subjectivity, should ever be brought up in a job review is highly questionable? It is good to be honest, but honesty does not mean telling every single detail of what you think or believe, regardless of the context and whether it is appropriate to do so. Not to mention how the message is conveyed also matters. In this particular case, I do not agree that honesty helps. It may make someone feel more comfortable having the concerns voiced, but I must say I am very uncomfortable hearing all those comments about how I look. It prompts me to call into question the sense of judgement and management capabilities of the speaker. To me, the fact that it is a matter of discussion at work is utterly inconceivable. The grudge, if it ever exists, is not narrowed but widened, or relocated from one to another. Any hope to wipe out any uneasiness in the team is nothing more than wishful thinking.


  1. Igore those unfair comments. Be yourself and stay firm if you are right.

  2. Thanks Pat. I do, of course, but just can't help feeling upset a bit.

  3. Samson8:48 am

    In a perfect world a job review is supposed to be a review on performance not personality. However, it is not a perfect world especially in Hong Kong where people are often judged not for their performances but for their images and public relations. A popularity contest?

    If your supervisor is sensible and understanding you will be reviewed constructively to bring out the best ability of you and to point out your deficiencies. All these should be work related and not based on how you please everyone around you. Yet I still fail to see how your “coldness” personality has anything to do with your work in most working environments, unless you are dealing with the public at large and your “coldness” does not look good for the company.

    Do you have any recourse to address the issue through the channel of supervision or a union, if you feel you are unfairly treated? If the working environment is really toxic, perhaps the ultimate alternative is seeking another job. Financial benefits of a job are important but to keep one’s sanity is paramount.

    Best regards

    Ontario, Canada

  4. Thanks Samson. Of course this is not a perfect world and I fully understand that long before I left school. I was just so surprised and irritated to be criticised on trivial stuff like this.
    In Hong Kong nobody really cares about this kind of nuisance except venting it to friends over drinks and dinner. And I have no intention to escalate the matter, which is still within my tolerance zone. Compared with what I have come across over all these years, the environment here is far from toxic. But of course I have only been here for barely a year and there are plenty of unknown that remain to be explored. I quit from a firm where I had worked for seven years just because the environment has deteriorated beyond tolerance levels. I know what to do when the time comes.

  5. Question - If you think the comments are not ture, why you let them upset you? What is the benefit of punishing yourself for others' mistake.

    Consideration - Facial feature should not be part of a job/performance review/evalution; however, facial expression is and can be part of the review. In the field of communication (my study here in the U.S.) the meaning of the communication is determined by the listener not the sender. If we want to be effective in communication, we need to package our communication that is easy and acceptable to the intended listener, not ourselves. For example, if you are feeling upset reading this, then I have failed in this communication. And if I really care and want to connect with you, I will need to reframe the content of my communication NOT necessary the content itself.
    Reflection - I have a strong feeling that you are a very caring person. You may look stern and cold outside; but has fire and passion inside. You are clear about your value system and not afraid to assert them in your interactions. Truthfully, I personally have up the most respect for your type of characters. So I will agree with one of the earlier yourself.

  6. Ricky - Well, I'm not really punishing myself but it does take time to get over this kind of stupid and yet emotional stuff. It has nothing to do with whether the accusation is true, but the fact that you are being accused of something ridiculous is a bit hard to swallow.
    I can't agree more with you on what effective communication truly means. It is about knowing what you say but not saying all that you know. And this is precisely why I was so pissed. I have been trained and working as a communication consultant over all these years and yet now I'm working with a team leader who doesn't seem to know this communication 101!


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