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My boss is uncomfortable with my stare. We had a meeting about it and he said during the meeting, "the way you're looking at me even now is inappropriate. You look like you're going to murder me or punch me in the face." All I do is make eye contact and wait for people to finish their sentences before responding, and I get the eye contact can be intimidating. I work in IT, sometimes investors stop by to say hello and talk with upper management, I have no contact with public otherwise. We are a small start up with <10 employees and our culture is to be as you as you can be.

My question is, do I have to fix this or does he have to deal with it?

Edit: No one else has ever vocalized an actual problem with it, just jokes about resting B face and the like.

Edit2: There is nothing about him that triggers me to look differently at him than the others, and it was very clearly stated that it is not a joke. To that note, I also risk consequence if I do not change this.

  • Mind telling us your location to consider any possible cultural differences? – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 15:11
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    Is it just your boss, or do you appear to intimidate everyone else in your office? – Snow May 18 '18 at 15:11
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    Just to be clear, are you sure this wasn't intended as a joke? Telling someone that they "look like you're going to murder me or punch me in the face" is a very strange thing to say. – Martin Tournoij May 18 '18 at 15:22
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    @sgroves, the boss is likely not crazy, some people do not know that their body language makes other people uncomfortable. This boss is trying to a fix a problem that is likely harming the OPs career. This is NOT a cause to look for another job. It is a cause to look at what you are doing and see if it is something that is limiting you. – HLGEM May 18 '18 at 17:43
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    It's one thing to point out such a thing @HLGEM; it's quite another to say "you look like you're going to murder me or punch me in the face". – Martin Tournoij May 18 '18 at 18:08
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My question is, do I have to fix this or does he have to deal with it?

In a way, if this makes your boss uncomfortable and he specifically asked you to change that, you should consider granting his request.

Perhaps what we can get out of this incident is that maybe your stare is a bit stronger than some people may like. The easy solution would be for you to adjust your eye contact when interacting with people.

In some cultures, and generally speaking, making eye contact all the time can be intimidating or uncomfortable. It is a healthy thing to break that eye contact every now and then, pay attention to their hand signals and body language, look around for other people there, etc. These things may help you have a more comfortable "stare" when interacting.

Edit: Seems that even though your boss is the only one that has showed signs of being uncomfortable with it, the "jokes" about such stare other people do are more signs that you could adjust your stare. No need to radically change it, but at least try to break eye contact from now then, or perhaps a brief smile.

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    I would ask some good friends or family if they've noticed it too and haven't said anything. If you aren't aware that you do it at work, then you probably do it elsewhere too. Your friends are more likely to be honest with you about helping you change your behavior, if that's what you've decided to do. – David K May 18 '18 at 15:51
  • @DavidK good suggestion, although it is also more likely that family and friends are already used to this and don't mind it happening. – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 18:19
  • It's less about whether it bothers your friends and family, and more about that they'll be honest with you. If you ask another coworker, they might be too polite to tell you about it. A friend would say "Yeah, you do kind of do that, but it doesn't bother me anymore." – David K May 18 '18 at 18:24
  • @DavidK yup, they will surely be frank about it – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 18:27
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    I think your second to last paragraph indirectly gives a good hint: when you mention looking around the room at other people. Besides being a technique to break your own stare, doing so can let you observe the behavior of others - then, you can mirror their actions. Pay attention to where they're looking and what they're doing, and then gently try to model that. – dwizum May 18 '18 at 18:47
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Yikes. Resting serial killer face.

Do you have to fix it? No.

But if you don't, it will affect your career. Look up body language ques. If you are having a hard time figuring it out, start by mimicking your boss.

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Yes, I had a individual interviewed once and he had that look in his eye like he was going to murder someone whenever he was listening to what I had to say or others in the room did. I don't think it was his fault though and didn't hold it against him.

How are you making eye contact with your boss? Are you staring at him constantly during meetings even when others are talking?

Do you have to change your behavior? Depends. If your boss is the only person uncomfortable - and the only time in your life you ever heard of it, and no one else seems to mind - even higher up people - then I wouldn't change. I would just take it off as your boss has a weird vibe. Honestly unless he is able to tell you specifically what, I would report it to HR for harassment as saying to someone they have a "serial killer look" doesn't sound professional at all especially when it has nothing to do with the job or if you are trying to be serious.

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