Forcing a smile at work… she got a secret smile

forcing a smile at work


How much do forced smiles at work really benefit anybody? Maybe it’s all as frustrating as Cheer Up Love, Give Us A Smile.

A friend of mine the other day was talking about how employers will sometimes take a corporate approach to facial expressions.  The idea is, their workers smile while they serve the customer, the customer feels happier than when they came in, and good service has been achieved.

This got me thinking. I felt uncomfortable for all the workers, but especially the women, being forced to smile while doing their work.  It seemed an imposition beyond the ubiquitous one of selling your time for a wage.  And as a customer, and as a woman, do I really want to see a fake smile on the face of the woman serving me behind the counter?

A smile is fine, but way more important to me is a lack of fuss. To be honest, this could be a personal thing. I’d almost always prefer to get a chocolate bar from a vending machine than a person, in most moods. Although getting a chocolate bar from a person with 100% no fuss would be best of all.

A quick search online reveals so many contradictory messages and findings on forcing a smile at work and how much it benefits the customer, the worker, or anyone.

Fake smiling makes you miserable, says The Telegraph in its science section. Forcing a smile genuinely decreases stress, says a study highlighted in The Atlantic. Everyone is confusingly telling us why “you’ll be sorry if you force a smile at work”, but also that “faking a smile is a good thing”.

With such disparity in the messages and inspiration on offer, I can only approach this from personal experience and my own gut feeling.

As a customer I’m fine with a neutral or blank expression, as long as there is peaceful silence between us.  I’d go a long way to get more silence in my day.

Information, alerts, notifications, demands for attention are constant; the nicest thing about being in front of a human for a service is there is so little to say. It’s clear why I’m there, why she’s there, and my card in my hand means how I want to pay.

I love the relief of not having to pass information via a screen to a robot. I like the stress-free lack of competing alerts, broken wifi, the hopeless pedantry of how to input the info. I’d like to enjoy it without there being a need for exhausting fake enthusiasm that serves nobody.

Hiring staff on the basis of them being smiling, outgoing, having cheerful expressions to fit the corporate culture sits uneasily with me.  The pressure of society toward women goes beyond their bodies, into facial expressions – and I don’t like it.

“Cheer up love, give us a smile.”

Employers should take note. A smile doesn’t necessarily mean anyone’s any happier, including the customer.

Main image:

Woman worker feeds tortoise. Woman does not wish to smile. Does not smile. Tortoise does not require smile. Tortoise requires berries. Woman and tortoise complete successful transaction.