"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why not smile?

    It takes 37 muscles to frown.  And 22 muscles to smile.  Why not smile?

According to snopes.com this is undetermined.  There is quite a list on the website offering a variety of answers, all of which favor smiling.  The Urban Hotel mandated smiling.  Being trained to smile, captured on film smiling, posted on a wall smiling, is it so wrong to expect an employee to smile?  I worked in retail for years before I career switched.  Smiling was essential.  Sincerity was also essential, and somehow softening the purpose of a mirror by the basement door with a comic didn’t ring genuine with me.

In this week’s reading we learned that all group learning ultimately reflects someone’s original beliefs and values.  Someone in the hierarchy at Urban Hotel created their core values.  By posting the smiling shots on the wall was the Urban Hotel offering social validation to their employees?  Or if caught frowning would an employee be excommunicated?  I found it interesting to reflect back on the Urban Hotel after reading the three levels of culture.  In one statement from the culture chapter the U.S. organizations are described as “espousing teamwork while actually rewarding individual competitiveness” and Hewlett Packard is given as an example.  The Urban Hotel staff was the opposite; the employees gave away services when they agreed, not independently, as if they feared their choices weren’t going to be validated.  The ‘safety if groups theory’ seemed stronger, were they seeking stability and meaning?  This enforced my original belief that these employees were being molded. 

I feel like I’m all over the place in this post, but then my mind circled around to the video we watched of Chimamanda Adichie and her story.  Is the story of the American organization one that claims to be team oriented, but is actually competitive?  I admit I would have skipped the manicure to take a second chance on being quizzed at the company fair to get my name tossed in box twice toward that dinner out.  And I would have smiled while doing it.  Yet there is more to my story too…


  1. Hi Lisa - I was drawn to your post b/c of smiling :)
    The weird smile patrol/pics at Urban Hotel were disturbing; an insincere smile is an oxymoron. I was drawn to the push/pull idea on p. 230; how pushing something employees without taking into consideration their knowledge, background, and skills (smile mandates, static training documents, etc) is usually not going to yield the most desirable results. On the other hand, pulling ideas from employees about their needs, questions, and ideas is a better approach. It begs that question, how do we know what they know and need? Back to smiling, we know it is not a universal gesture. If employees from different cultures (housekeepers?) were being asked to look at customers and smile, this could be asking them to cross boundaries they may not feel comfortable crossing, not to mention the threat of smile-nazi on the look out for frowns!

  2. Thanks for your post, Lisa! Raising questions like "what's so bad aboutg smiling" is a great device for trying out a perspective and see where it goes. Both you and Susan provide good answers. I agree that while we all want to work in a positive workplace culture, there's a big difference between telling people which facial muscles to tense and which to relax (i.e., to smile) and asking them to act friendly. The latter approach seems to respect the workers' integrity and their capacity to judge how to convey interpersonal messages based on the situation and context. Remind me to share some interesting ideas from Holly's book "If Disney Ran Your Hospital" on Tuesday...

  3. I have to comment on this one. I watch how people smile because of the family dynamics. My son stopped giving genuine smiles when he was about ten; his smiles look like smirks now, because he doesn't have the feelings he once had. I smile a lot, in part becaue I find things pleasing, in part from nerves, and in part because I learned years ago that a smile covers a scar I have on my face from being hit by a golf club. My oldest daughter doesn't smile much, but my second daughter does. After doing the reading, I thought about the smiles I see when we travel, which we do quite a bit. I smile in class because it puts students at ease, but I consciously watch when and how much I smile. Isn't it interesting how much can be behind a smile? Joyce M.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.