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'Cold and unfriendly' - help please!!!

(80 Posts)
Sallypuss Mon 02-Nov-09 14:26:00

For the third time in my life last week I was described as 'cold' and unapproachable. This was by my boss in the context of my performance review at work. I've known my boss for years and this is the first time he's mentioned it.

This hit a very raw nerve as I've been described like this before - once in a previous work context 10 years ago and once a couple of years ago by my FIL.

I genuinely don't know what to do about it - I'm naturally quite reserved by nature, takes me ages to get to know people but I'm always chatty and friendly at work and socially. At work, I do put my head down and get my work done.

This comment really hurt though (I went to the ladies and bawled afterwards) and its been on my mind all weekend. Can't bring myself to talk to DH about it (in case he also thinks it's true!) so I was hoping I might find some words of wisdom on here as clearly perception is reality so I need to do something about it. Anyone experienced this and got any pearls of wisdom or do I just say f*ck it, I'm 36 and that's just how I am?!

Iklboo Mon 02-Nov-09 14:28:51

I would have to have asked my boss to quantify that statement - just saying someone is 'cold' is not constructive - and what has it got to do with your performance at work?

womblemonster Mon 02-Nov-09 14:28:52

What did you say when he said that?

displayuntilbestbefore Mon 02-Nov-09 14:32:13

Unfortunately there will always be people who thin that just because you don't spend your day chatting and giggling and getting involved in all the discussions thatit therefore means you are "cold". To be honest, as a fellow 36yr old, I wouldn't give it a second thought although in terms of your boss I think it was rather out of order for him to make a personal attack when surely as long as the work gets done and you're not upsetting anyone, what difference does it make whether you're chatty or reserved? Anyway, you say in your post that you're chatty at work, so you could always ask him to clarify what he meant when he told you he thought you were cold as this isn't helpful to a member of staff (I did performance reviews and would never have brought personality traits into it too much unless it had a direct impact on the performance). I'd have been upset about that too if I was in your shoes.
Ask your DH - he's your husband and he loves you and, esp if his father thought you were cold once, he might be able to give you some insight but you'll probably just find that it's because you don't throw yourself into everyone else's business and in this day and age of reality shows etc anyone who doesn't give every bit of info about themselves is immediately seen as being unfriendly or aloof. HTH

Sallypuss Mon 02-Nov-09 14:35:52

He told me of the 3 offices of his direct reports mine was the one he was least likely to come into as I was least approachable.... pretty unequivocal feedback really, he likes me the least of the people who work for him!

Couldn't really say anything to that (as felt I'd been slapped and was doing my best not to get upset). Told him that perception was obviously reality (hence my statement above).

Feeling very beaten up at the moment....

AnyFucker Mon 02-Nov-09 14:37:10

well, if this is the 3rd time its been mentioned then you have to take it on the chin

I can empathise, however. Not so much at work, but throughout my life I have been described as "snobby" or "stuck-up".

It is very unfair, because in reality I am rather shy and struggle in social situations where meaningless chit-chat is required. I just can't do it. Even with family.

Once people get to know me, they realise, but because I guess I am quite hard work, many don't bother.

There was a very long thread on here a few months ago where someone said "they couldn't be bothered with shy people and why didn't they just pull themselves together...or somesuch"

I found that very upsetting and it made me feel worse about myself. Every situation where I am tongue-tied just reinforces it even more.

I think I also have a way of making people uncomfortable, because they sense I just want to get away (I do, but just so I can escape IYKWIM)

I guess you can't change your basic personality. Funnily enough, I am OK at work (except in the staffroom at lunchtime..). My job involves a lot of dealing with the public/children/families and for that I can easily put on an act.

When I have to be myself though, it disappears.

Is your approach actually causing problems in your job? Or was it just an "observation" by your supervisor? Did you ask that ? If it isn't an issue, just a case of personaility traits, then really it was a bit cruel to bring it up and is going to make you very self-conscious. Were any constructive suggestions made ?

displayuntilbestbefore Mon 02-Nov-09 14:40:39

I don't think your boss should have said that - it's up to him to be able to deal with different people and just because one of his staff isn't quite the way he is or how his friends are doesn't give him the right to make that sort of comment.
On that basis, I would scrub this experience as being an occasion you have been called cold and unapproachable - better to have him think that than have him there all the time feeling familiar enough to flirt or make risque jokes with his easily accesible colleague!!
I really wouldn't worry about it - IMO the world would be a nicer place with a few more reserved people - but if it's really bothering you then just ask a few friends if they think there's anything you do that would make people think that of you.....I would put money on the fact there isn't anything and it's just that people are funny with people if they don't understand them and your boss clearly doesn't know how to be around you!

Sallypuss Mon 02-Nov-09 14:49:15

AnyFucker I know what you mean about meaningless chit chat. I can't do it either nor do I like people at work knowing my business I'm quite private.

The comment was because my (already big) job is evolving into a bigger job where I have to heavily influence teams and people who don't directly report to me (none of whom work in the same location as me). My boss clearly thought this was what was holding me back. Feeling a bit p*ssed off because I'm not being paid any more to do the bigger role just getting more grief for it hmm

Restrainedrabbit Mon 02-Nov-09 14:55:29

Hmmm a tricky one, if it is affecting your work and making you unapproachable then I guess he has a right to bring it up. If it is just an observation and a personal attack then definitely not on. Can you ask him to clarify exactly what he meant by that statement? It is not constructive to make a comment like that without explaining further.

Restrainedrabbit Mon 02-Nov-09 14:56:33

If he feels you have a communication skills issue then he should be providing you with some sort of advice/training about how to improve this.

womblemonster Mon 02-Nov-09 15:14:20

OP I think your statement about perception is reality is dangerous and damaging to you. It was HIS perception, it doesn't mean it's shared by everyone. One person's unapproachable might mean someone else's self-contained and independent.
So, 3 people in your life have told you that you're cold and unfriendly. I bet other people have said a lot of nice things about you.

yes I'd take it on the chin and then react. Your boss's own communication skills are obviously less than optimal otherwise, like the other posters have suggested, he would've given you constructive suggestions rather than just throwing that remark in there.

If it's an appraisal there should be some form of written follow-up or something to sign, no? In which case you can turn the tables by putting forward your own suggestions for improving interpersonal team relations or whatever the current corporate jargon is. If you don't have anything written to sign, you need to raise it with him again "in the interests of team building"

good luck

allok Mon 02-Nov-09 16:12:36

Oh sally, I can be very chatty and open when when confronted with situations that require challenge etc. I'm quite closed.

I remember at work - it was a 14 hour day job reporting directly to a group ceo of a large company that has recently been in the news for bullying and fraud (!) that I didn't really engage with anyone - couldn't, my work colleague did and she was sacked (odd and bullying and fraudulent company) so I just withdrew for the sake of my job and put my head down and worked worked worked. I was never hauled up about it as that's what they wanted - for me to be on the side of management and forget the rest - but it did mean that people didn't find me approachable and at my leaving do there was almost NOONE THERE.

My small team were fine - they could see my angle and I was a very good and protective boss, but my same level colleagues were really of me - I'm the softest person on the planet and really caring. But at work - I was approachable but I was always doing something else when people talked to me. Also I was percieved as a bit dangerous (I wasn't) and possibly some secret spy of exec management so I never got a change to really go out loads and socialise.

I was misrepresented - but it hurt - but I needed the job at the time!!!!!

I'd take the courage to ask what exactly he meant and how it affected your job (bet it doesn't - sure he doesn't want to give you a glowing report if, for example, you;re on performance related pay).

Quite honestly I'd rather a person who just gets on with the job rather than a gossipy troublemaker.

Yep, call his bluff, if it's a work related issue, get him to pay for some work related training.

Ensure it's a fair comment work wise and if it is, learn and move on.

I HATE work reports. I've challenged one - whcih was a very unfair one and I won.

Aussieng Mon 02-Nov-09 16:16:43

OP, I'm sorry for you, I think this is horrible and it hits a nerve with me too.

I would find this very hard to deal with as it would upset me and the last thing I would want to do is cry in front of my boss and I suspect that raising this with him again would possibly cause you to do that.

The fact that you are not opening up about this to your DH tells me that you probably do internalise a lot of things especially things, I suspect, which you feel are critical of you and it is possible that it is this aspect of your character does make you appear "cold" or reserved/aloof.

Already since this occurred you have hidden part of yourself and your feelings from your DH which (if this has been bothering you) may have made you appear distant to him. This cannot be a good thing and I would urge you to speak to him.

I'd also encourage you to speak to your boss again and request clarification. As WombleMonster says - should your session not be followed up in writing? If so then that gives you the option to respond (at least initially) in writing also, which will help you clarify your thoughts and not become upset. It is not really acceptable for your boss to raise this issue with you after 10 years of working with you and to be effecively discriminating against you in how he interacts with you compared to your peers as this may (even if only sub-consciously) have created an atmosphere of reserve between you.

However wrong or mis-interpreting of the real you this feedback was, closing yourself off to dealing with it will not help.

frostyfingers Mon 02-Nov-09 17:32:43

Do talk to your DH, just ask his opinion of what your boss said, rather than whether he (DH) thinks you are "cold and unapproachable". Say it's bothering you and you're wondering how you could change that in a work environment. I sometimes think that bosses just don't realise how much impact a fairly throwaway statement can have. Hopefully he didn't mean it to be hurtful, and thought he was being constructive - sometimes it can be hard for someone to put the right words to the right meaning iyswim? Perhaps you could ask HR department for advice (if there is one?)

BigMomma3 Mon 02-Nov-09 18:05:22

I have been told this as well - not at work though. My nickname used to the 'icemaiden' when I was younger. As with anyfucker, it is all down to shyness and not knowing what to say to people unless I have something specific to say iykwim. At the DCs school, no one really talks to me because I always keep my head down. Anyone know of any good tips to beat this?

AnyFucker Mon 02-Nov-09 18:10:28

dunno, bigmomma, I am in the same boat

I can initiate convo's. I just find it incredibly hard and wearing and feel unable to keep it up.

Tbh, I prefer to stand on my own. Easier that way. I joined the PTA to force myself and it went ok for a while. Helped out at discos, coffee mornings etc.

But I dread it, think wtf am I putting myself through this, life is too short, just be yourself etc and it fizzles out. And no-one misses me < sad case emoticon > smile

Ho-hum. Too late now for me to be the life and soul. Someone has to be a good listener, eh ?

allok Mon 02-Nov-09 18:34:16

But I think that we are different things to different people. Possibly the OP is warm at home at cold at work? Asking dh may not be a true representation of her professional self?

Nothing wrong with being reserved imo. quite honestly I've always preferred the professional do my job and get out approach than the cuddly drinks every night after work and gossip approach.

But sallypuss needs to tackle this if it IS true. I wouldn't listen to everything the boss says mind you.

dittany Mon 02-Nov-09 18:42:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Conundrumish Mon 02-Nov-09 18:46:36

How very unprofessional of him to mention it without being more specific and constructive. I bet your liking of privacy and lack of back chat means that you are highly reliable and respected at work. I would try and focus on your positives and maybe find out exactly what he meant by that, if you can face askign him.

dittany Mon 02-Nov-09 18:52:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

domesticslattern Mon 02-Nov-09 18:53:29

As everyone says, it seems like a bit of an odd comment, if he isn't specific and constructive. It is him who has the problem by managing you badly with these sorts of elliptical statements; not out of the book of how-to-manage-people-sensitively, I can tell you.
You have two options:
a) go back to your boss and say, I have been pondering about this statement you made. Can you tell me exactly how it impacts on my work and what you want me to do about it in order to improve my performance.
b) try and forget it.
Note I don't offer an option of mulling over it and feeling unhappy for days on end!

Restrainedrabbit Mon 02-Nov-09 18:58:06

I wonder if a man was perceived to be cold he would be seen as highly professional and a good leader...hmmm...

mathanxiety Mon 02-Nov-09 18:59:12

Cold and unapproachable -- is that something your boss would have said to a male employee? I think what you have here are gender-based expectations of your professional demeanour. He probably finds you intimidating because you're not a flirt.

allok Mon 02-Nov-09 19:02:46


well i didn't see anything wrong in that question on youtube - simply - Obama more likeable what did she have to say - they are competing for a job (thank lordy she didn't get it) - the interviewer was doing his job and Obama was pleasant enough.

OP isn't going head to head for a job - she has one - I'm sure she's very competent at it. I very much think the boss had to find fault with something so he came up with a very vague criticism. It happens. OP needs to tackle this as she doesn't want it on her work record.

ChunkyKitKat Mon 02-Nov-09 19:03:32

This is very unhelpful of your boss, Sally. It's a personality type to be an introvert with a preference to keep details of yourself private. You are "always chatty and friendly and work and socially" so can make the effort when the occasion demands it, so how does this affect your job?

I've always admired my more introvert friends to be measured and thoughtful in what they say. I am more extrovert, and chat to most people but quite I can speak without thinking things through first.

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