People who can't seem to 'fake it'

A few years ago, I had a rather quirky coworker. She was in her twenties, liked doodling her co workers as foxes for some reason in her sketchbook, and seemed to take umbrage that she couldn’t pin fake cat ears to her uniform hat. Whatever.

We have a program where veteran operators ‘mentor’ new operators and I was assigned to her. What surprised me was her repeated admission that she couldn’t ‘fake it’. I asked what she meant.

“You know, this whole stupid Fake Nice bullshit we’re supposed to have at work. Why do they care? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the passengers knew you were in a bad mood/pissed off at them? Most bus drivers seem cranky anyway”

This wasn’t the first time I heard this rant, but it was the first time I heard it outside of the internet. I tried to explain to her that we have a job where we don’t have a manager hovering our shoulder the whole time, you’re getting paid to sit in traffic, you get paid more than 99% of bus drivers in the United States. Will people get on your nerves? Sure! But a big part of your job is to try not to lose your cool. When people call in on us to Customer Service, they forward the complaint to our managers. Our managers then pull us into the office and calmly ask to hear our side of the story. If you were acting calmly, and the passenger was being unreasonable/crazy/wrong, the manager WILL take your side of the story. Attitude and ‘tone’ have a huge part in who ends up in the ‘right’ in these situations. People get called in by busybody passengers over the smallest of slights and its the ones that have an upbeat attitude that don’t get into trouble.

She didn’t get it. I tried not to be condescending by implying her age had something to do with it. She had told me she had worked other customer service jobs before and it was a reoccurring pet peeve she had. So she obviously knew she people have to put on a ‘game face’ at work. I tried to be as supportive and consctructive as possible, but she was always telling me, “nope, nope nope, its bullshit, I shouldn’t have to censor myself, you’re my mentor, tell the supervisors to lay off because I can’t handle being fake nice”.

Not shockingly she didn’t last through her probation period. She got called into the office multiple times for flipping out on passengers. I won’t lie and say every second of my job has been bliss. But I’ve learned ways to find a middle ground between being ‘right’, being ‘happy’, being ‘employed’, and being ‘sane’. The more annoying passengers get, the more patient I try to be. I am constantly aware that everything I do and say on the bus is being recorded, and when someone tries to antagonize me I think to myself, “Is the supervisor going to be sympathetic to my potential reaction? Will it be kind of embarassing to sit there with the supervisor while I see the CCTV recording of myself losing my shit on a passenger and telling them I’ll fucking kill them if they don’t get off the bus?”. The more they yell and scream, the quieter and calmer I make my voice. They want to speak to my supervisor, they want a refund, they want to call the cops? Sure, I get paid by the hour :smiley:

I know the ‘customer service’ aspects of jobs suck, but I guess I have a hard time getting into the ego of someone who can’t see the benefit to finding coping mechanisms if it means getting a job that pays as much as mine does. Like any job, if you define my job by the ‘worst’ aspect of course people would say, “Why the hell would anyone want to be a [job]?” Not surprisingly, there is a big difference between the surly disgruntled people and the drivers who retire after a satisfying 40 year accident-free career. And that difference is their attitude.

I was a bit like that as a youngster, though it came out as snarkiness or sarcasm. I lost the attitude as I grew up.

My husband is 62 but still has issues with this. He has a big mouth and is a compulsive talker and finds it almost impossible not to engage scornfully with irritating or misinformed people, even if it’s his boss. Like your co-worker, this has cost him jobs.

At some point, everyone’s got to learn that work is basically an acting job. You act like you’re a friendly and upbeat person, you act like the new bug-filled software isn’t appalling, you act like you’re not losing it when you’re pulled in five different directions simultaneously. What some folks don’t get is how to divorce your inner self from your outer performer so that it doesn’t eat you alive.

I think “fake nice” is a misnomer. Nice is a behavior. Kind is a character trait. If you act “nice” you’re being “nice.”

That aside, I think our own emotional states feed upon themselves, and being “nice” will actually lead to feeling more kind. A good attitude will lead to good feelings, for most people.

So, I agree with you completely.

One of the things I really love about my wife is she can wear many ‘hats’. She can adapt herself to many different situations, and tailor her behavior/tone/subjects toward the expected norm in that situation. I’ve learned some people dismiss this talent as being ‘fake’ and simply ‘telling people what they want to hear’. Consider the opposite:

Someone so emotionally lazy, so blind to empathy they can’t bother to filter their body language/tone/etc to be appropriate in a situation. Rather than learn, practice, put effort into adapting their personality to the appropriate surrounding, they dismiss everybody else. “They can’t handle me because I’m too real” “Why should I be fake?” “I’m happy who I am, why should I change?”. What’s funny is most of these folks are capable of trying, they just don’t want to, because it requires work. A lot of them have gotten as far as they did because the people around them were so passive or needy they weren’t willing to call their peer out on how insufferable they were.

I’m far from a perfect person, and my personality now was thirty-three years of developing, growing, admitting where I was wrong, getting over myself, learning, and changing. Maybe my mentee was just immature? I guess I just find the whole “Why should I change/be fake/alter my behavior” attitude really short-sighted and self centered. Maybe I see it so much on the internet because of the annonymous nature that lets people vent.

But I’m humble enough to admit to my wife when we’re having an argument that yes, I’m raising my voice and no, she doesn’t deserve to be shouted down just because I don’t like her opinion. In my own marraige, this has gotten me a lot of traction, and I find my wife is much more willing to admit she is wrong when I can make my point calmly. Getting through work is the same way.

What also helps me is accepting that I can choose to have a good day or a bad day. I can’t choose to have other drivers flip me off, screaming babies, drunk passengers that pee their pants and stink up the bus, I can’t choose those things. But I can choose how to react to stuff like that. And I can sing the ‘Thirty-three bucks an hour!thirty-three bucks an hour!Thirty-three bucks an hour!’ song to myself when people try to get under my skin. :smiley:

It seems to me that this ultimately stems from a certain lack of empathy, and a misunderstanding of what their job is.

It’s much easier to be civil and polite with people, even when they’re in a bad mood, if you can accept the fact that people get upset about things and that it’s not necessarily your fault.

The job of a bus driver is not to drive the bus. The job of a bus driver is to get people where they’re going happily, if at all possible. Part of that means relating to them pleasantly.

If you want a job where you don’t have to be “fake nice”, you better have some really in-demand skills and probably be way better than most people at the other parts. Dr. House can get away with being an ass. We mere mortals cannot.

Strange. Maybe you’re held to a higher standard, but I’ve never really expected, and seldom received, much in the way of gregariousness from bus drivers. It seems like a job that doesn’t demand a particularly high level of customer service; in contrast with retail sales or restaurants, it’s not like people are going to shop the competition if they aren’t getting the special snowflake treatment from you. I’d think that it would be enough simply not to be a total raging asshole/bitch . And if you can’t manage to fake that, well, you’ve got problems.

That said, I was fired from one of my first jobs (bagboy at a supermarket) for not being friendly enough to customers. Management wanted big smiles and warm greetings (by name if possible), jolly chit-chat, thank you for shopping with us and have a GREAT day— I really felt like “hello” was good enough, and what most customers actually preferred over a load of phony assblown sunshine. Needless to say, our differences were irreconcilable. But I was 16, not in my 20’s, and it was a shit minimum wage job.

This is a version of the “This Is My Truth” syndrome. People who believe that simply having an emotion is a license to spew it on all and sundry, and anything else is a betrayal of their genuineness. Most people outgrow it after they find that the world does not, in general, give a shit about their personal journey and only cares if the contract is honored. Forgivable in the pathetically young only.

I’m not the type who wears a big giant happy smile on her face all the time. I don’t exude warmth or cheeriness, though I’m only rarely in a bad mood. I just have a solemn/serious demeanor, especially when I’m sitting at my desk, thinking about work. It would be hard for me to hide this aspect of my personality. Which is why I have intentionally steered clear of customer service jobs. Looking pleasant all the time is not in my skill set.

I “fake” nice all the time though. The other day a coworker bored me to death for about an hour, but I sat there patiently and smiled and “uh-hunned” in all the right places. But I consider this small potatoes. I can do just about anything for an hour. If I had to do that all day, I’d go crazy.

I don’t think it’s a skill as much as a personality issue. The woman in the OP simply didn’t have the right personality to do the job. Which says nothing good or bad about her. Hopefully she’s found a career that is more up her alley.

I get that there’s some reasonable middle ground between showing that you give a shit and having more than fifteen pieces of flair. I do. And maybe its the stereotype about bus drivers that motivated me to be more ‘peppy’ than most of the bus drivers giving passengers the thousand yard stare. But whats interesting about my job is because people expect bus drivers to be ‘grumpy’ they are weirdly impressed when one is ‘happy’ or Og forbid ‘helpful’ ‘sympathetic’ ‘gives a shit’.

Thank you for this. This Is My Truth is a great way of describing a phenomenon I’ve encountered for years that unfortunately is not just restricted to the young and inexperienced.

Once a person accepts that nobody can ‘force’ them to react unprofessionally, the happier and calmer they become. Nobody can mind-control me into screaming at a passenger; only I can choose to do so. People can make me mad but how I react is my decision. Once I own that decision I have the power to choose not to flip out and scream at people.

Sounds like some kind of serious neurosis or psychosis to me.

If you’re one who just HAS to wear your grouchy, unhelpful demeanor on your sleeve, you might have a bright future working for the USPS.

You don’t NEED to fake it. I waited tables for years and didn’t once give a fake smile. I just learned not to be an asshole. I learned to try and have some degree of empathy for people.

Speaking of jobs that suck…my daughter (Who just HAD to move out of the house as soon as she turned 18) recently got a job as a nighttime hotel clerk. Ever see Parking Wars, and how apparently being a meter maid gives everyone else in the world license to act like you’re dog shit on their heel?

Imagine not being able to walk away from that. Imagine not having ‘automatic felony for attacking a city employee’ to protect you. (not that she was ever attacked) Imagine not even having an on-site manager there to protect her from screaming, cursing people. And imagine she was forced by management to lie and say “Oh, my manager just stepped out.” When there isn’t even a night-time manager.

It sounds as if this young woman:

A) Had parents who consistently told her that she was the center of not only their universe, but of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE - This would explain why she felt like she was entitled to act as she pleased at a job where she was being paid to perform in a certain manner. I see this quite often among the few younger maintenance people who are in my career field. They have an exceptional sense of self-entitlement and a rather thin skin.

How their parents thought that this combination would engender career success is puzzling. Perhaps they re the same and the apple fell right next to the tree. Perhaps they just got tired of parenting and just said “f*ck it” early on. Either way, their precious snowflake makes a terrible employee as their feelings and ideas take primacy over everything, including customer satisfaction

B) Has serious mental or emotional issues - This is rarer, but not uncommon. Some people simply cannot interact with other people in any manner that does not consist of them being “right” and their point of view being the most important. This becomes a mental or emotional illness when this belief transcends the reality of their situation or when it causes them to loss numerous jobs because of it.

I have supervised people in the past who I knew that I could not put with other people as they were completely unwilling to bother with teamwork or tact. When they “thought” something, they said it, no matter how immature or offensive it sounded to the other person or to other people. They often made good solo employees when they were given a task and then left alone to complete it. Other than that, they were usually more trouble than they were worth and they were “winnowed” from the herd.

IMHO, your supervisor should have determined early on if this young lady could interact well with customers or co-workers and quietly removed her when it quickly became apparent that she could not. Since she seemed to be (according to you) a talented artist perhaps she would be better suited to a job where she draws illustrations or creates artwork alone and then makes it available to others without having to interact with them too often.

Actually, funny that you say that, because my own wife worked at the very same job. Did she deal with wackos? Sure. Did she have a job that let her study while she was in undergrad? Yep! Not only did her job help her learn valueable ‘customer service’ skills, she was able to study for her Batchelor’s degree during downtime and got a convenient cover for her parents when she started dating me :smiley:

While I agree that the job is a stage, I will point out that the role you describe isn’t the only one that can work. I’m the comic on my stage: I say the uncomfortable things everyone is thinking, but I say them in ways that make people laugh, so I get away with it. It’s a service to the group, in that it relieves a little stress and gets the issues out in the open. Everyone I work with knows that they can count on me in the crunch, grumbles and all, so it works out.

Naturally, I put on different faces when interacting with customers from the ones I use with coworkers. Customers get the Sympathetic Ear, the Can-Do, or the Authority, usually. (One of the managers–not even my manager–used to call me into phone meetings that were dragging on pointlessly, just so the Authority could end them.)

I answer the phone at work. I deal with idiots and assholes and rude people at times, and rant about it to some of my coworkers, but when I answer the phone, I am sunshine, smiles and warmth every time. Not because I truly feel that way, because its my job to be that way. That’s what they pay me for. They don’t pay me to be my miserable, grumpy, anti-social, introverted true self, they pay me to be a welcoming voice to customers, so I do it, just like I do all the other things required of me by my job. Like showing up every day, practicing basic hygiene, wearing appropriate clothing, (not the sweats and dog hair covered fleece I wear at home), and doing what my supervisor and co-workers need me to do when they ask. Tough gig, but it’s what I get a paycheck for every couple of weeks.

I’m the world’s worst poker player. My face gives it all away.

I try to fake it…but my face won’t play along. If I don’t like what I’m hearing…it’s painted there on my phyz in plain sight. Damn embarrassing.

I can do customer service on the phone! My voice doesn’t give me away. But in person, you don’t need e.s.p. to read my mind.

(I’m also a really poor liar for this reason. I couldn’t fake out a cub scout.)

I have a hard time with faking emotions, too. But that’s not the same thing as being grouchy or mean to people. I may not be in a good mood, and you may be able to tell, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to treat you poorly.

I think the disconnect is the idea that you need to feel good to treat people with respect. Yes, I know that, sometimes, when you feel really bad, you screw up and treat people poorly without meaning to. But that doesn’t mean that you only treat people well because you are happy or in a good mood.

That said, I do also wonder if she might have borderline personality disorder. They not only don’t learn the above, but they learn no moderation of their feelings at all. Those people have emotions that are so intense that they really would be having to fake it to just be nice to people. But she’d also have to have the other symptoms.

But unless you have mental problems, I don’t see what you have to do out in public as “faking nice.” I don’t see being nice to people as being the same thing as not being able to fake your emotions.

For what it’s worth, I got fired from one of my earliest jobs at a movie theater, because while working the concession stand I refused to ask customers, “Would you like a soda with that?” – on purely moral grounds, mind you. (Well, in reality, I actually got fired because I complained about my boss to a cow-orker who ratted me out behind my back, but I’m certain the aforementioned moral dilemma didn’t help.)