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A few days ago I was called for a spontaneous one on one meeting with my highest tier boss. I had only spoken to him once during my time working there. I perceive him as a very friendly person.

As he had received a lot of praise about me from my manager, he presented me with a raise, for which I thanked him. He then asked me if I was satisfied with everything (the raise as well as my working conditions), which I confirmed. I then thanked him again, smiled, shook his hand and left his office.
I assumed this was the appropriate professional reaction.

A few days later I was talking to my manager, who told me that the boss had mentioned to him that during our talk I seemed 'indifferent'. He was not sure if I was happy about the raise, as it seems he had expected some reactions of joy.

I am unable to feel strong emotions such as joy or anger among others, but I do not feel well faking emotions, since I value honesty and believe most people would pick up the fakeness and react negatively.

I feel like I should apologize to the boss, but I am not sure if this is the right approach and which point I should apologize for.

  1. Should I apologize for being perceived as indifferent? E.g:
    'Hey Boss, I want to apologize if I seemed a bit indifferent the other day. I am very thankful for the raise.'

  2. Should I apologize for being indifferent / not having strong emotions? E.g:
    'Hey Boss, I want to apologize if I am reacting a bit too collected sometimes. I just wanted to show my gratitude again for the praise and the raise.'

  3. Should I just thank him again, without mentioning the indifference issue? E.g:
    'Hey Boss, I just wanted to thank you again for the raise.' - Would this seem weird and 'out of the blue'?

  4. Should I just let it slide and not mention it again?

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    How happy were you with the raise and feedback? The tone of your follow-up should depend on that as well as whether you want to open a discussion on your compensation or not. // I assume you rarely interact with this boss so he doesn't know that you're generally less emotive? – Lilienthal Dec 21 '18 at 10:15
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    @Lilienthal You are correct, I do not have much contact with the boss. I usually get my feedback from my manager. I do not think there needs to be a follow-up discussion, as the raise is to my satisfaction. Happy is not the word I would use to describe how I feel about it though, it is more akin to 'glad about the praise' and 'thankful for the raise'. I hope that makes sense! I am just hoping to make sure the 'thankful' part clearer to the boss. – anon Dec 21 '18 at 11:22
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    Poor choice of words on my part. What I wanted to get at is whether the raise you got was indeed satisfactory or if it's below what you expected / hoped. If it was this gives you an opening to say something like "I may have not been as enthusiastic because I was hoping for a raise closer to X given my work/performance this year on A, B and C." Only if the raise exceeded your expectations would you proceed with wording that explained you were indeed very "happy" with the news even if perhaps it didn't really show because you're more low-key than others. – Lilienthal Dec 21 '18 at 11:52
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    @IanKemp It might be asinine, but it works, this from personal experience. I used to say to people what I thought, and it did not go well... – Rui F Ribeiro Dec 22 '18 at 11:41
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    @Sirence, it might be useful to know roughly which culture/area this relates to, as some tend to be much more outgoing and demonstrative than others. – gidds Dec 22 '18 at 12:49
204

A simple follow-up email would be sufficient:

Hey boss, just wanted to thank you again for the pay rise before Christmas, definitely came as a very welcome surprise! Happy holidays, Sirence.

Even if you are indifferent, he's gone out of his way (ie 2nd time interacting with you) to give you a raise. It doesn't cost anything to thank him, and it'll keep him happy.

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    Thank you for the answer. I really appreciate the example snippet, it is short and on-point! – anon Dec 21 '18 at 9:05
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    Can confirm - spot on. Immediately dispels concerns without costing anything. Instinctual reaction on receipt will be "fair enough, must just be a bit shy then" which is fine. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 21 '18 at 13:00
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit also doesn't lay blame on anyone ("you read me wrong, I was happy") while sorting the problem, isn't office politics fun :) – Jay Gould Dec 21 '18 at 13:06
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    The boss didn't told you that you were "cold", your manager did. This is playing the telephone game and assuming it was his real thought might seems weird. This is a great response. – the_lotus Dec 21 '18 at 18:06
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    Don't do this. You'll make it worse. You had an opportunity to thank the big boss and you took it. The big boss will figure out that this extra message was in response to your manager talking to you, and you'll come across looking worse than before. Just let this slide. – Dawood ibn Kareem Dec 22 '18 at 2:12
27

Do nothing unless you feel you've caused offence.

Sounds like you're just a bit of a stoic, hard-to-read character. Sometimes this comes in handy. Sure, it could make people uncomfortable, but so can being a bubbly, fun-loving socialite like me.....

Any good manager or business owner will recognise the value of having different types (or levels) of personality around. Be the best indifferent robot you can be, and when the time comes that a rational, poker-faced Vulcan is exactly what they need, you'll be the one they call. Like a less seasonal Rudolph.

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    Thank you for the reply. I do not think I caused offence, but rather some uncomfortableness - at least I hope. I will however go with the suggested follow up email, as it costs nothing and an additional 'thank you' might ease his mind. Stoic might be a good description! – anon Dec 21 '18 at 14:15
16

As far as I'm concerned, you did nothing wrong. You acted professionally and responsibly in front of your boss. What did he want you to do? Get up and scream?

Should I apologize for being perceived as indifferent? E.g: 'Hey Boss, I want to apologize if I seemed a bit indifferent the other day. I am very thankful for the raise.'

I would recommend leaving this out as you shouldn't apologise for your reaction. Plus you don't really want to give it away that you and your manager were talking about it.

Should I aplogize for being indifferent / not having strong emotions? E.g: 'Hey Boss, I want to aplogize if I am reacting a bit too collected sometimes. I just wanted to show my gratitude again for the praise and the raise.'

No, you can't apologise for being yourself. Obviously everyone would be happy with a raise, everyone has different ways of showing it. Some people don't show it at all but it doesn't mean they're not happy.

Should I just thank him again, without mentioning the indifference issue? E.g: 'Hey Boss, I just wanted to thank you again for the raise.' - Would this seem weird and 'out of the blue'?

This would be good being done by a simple e-mail this will benefit you massively showing that you fully appreciate the raise.

Should I just let it slide and not mention it again?

I would mention it, but only make a small deal of it then once sorted don't bring it up again after the first time.

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    Thank you giving an explanation to each of my points. I am also not quite sure what reaction he would have prefered, but I have had people in the past tell me that I can seem 'cold' until they got to know me a bit better, which might be the case here as well. – anon Dec 21 '18 at 9:00
  • "being oneself" does not mean that one's behavior is acceptable at all times and is never cause for apologies. (I'm not saying the OP behaved in an unacceptable fashion. From what is described in the question, OP's behavior was professional, if less expressive than was expected). This kind of generalization does not help. – njzk2 Dec 24 '18 at 4:23
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If you and your manager are somewhat close, you can approach him at any time and say something like this:

I was thinking about the other day when you told me the boss perceived me as indifferent. Perhaps next time the two of you talk, if you feel it would be appropriate, you could mention I said in passing that I was really satisfied with the meeting. It's just that I'm a little [shy|quiet|introvert|serious|stoic] by nature, you know.

(Of course, feel free to pick a more suitable adjective.)

If you've been working with him for any relevant amount of time, which you apparently have, chances are he will know - in fact I believe he probably understands you fully and has already responded to your boss along these lines during their conversation.

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    I would recommend a more enthusiastic word than "satisfied"... "happy", "pleased", "grateful", etc are all good choices for someone who doesn't want to seem indifferent. – Tim B Dec 23 '18 at 23:37
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One of my main weaknesses is the same as you, I often come across as indifferent / uncaring.
So far I've learned it is not in my best interest to try and act emotional when I don't feel it.

As such, I would not suggest trying to give a new "spontaneous" grateful response.
It will just come across as hollow when you don't convey the same emotions spontaneously.

More often than not, I simply make sure that my gratitude is known, and to shortly explain my indifferent response, in a tone that is consistent with my work demeanor.

For example, I would send an email as such:

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for my recent raise. I realize I can often come across as indifferent, but this does not mean I am ungrateful. In fact, I greatly appreciate that my work is recognized and rewarded.

When everyone knows what to expect of each-other, I find working together is so much easier.
And this includes recognizing each-others tone.
Just don't start apologizing for who you are.

3

Indifference of itself isn't an issue - it's when it doesn't match the other person's expectations that there may be problems.

In your case it seems your response didn't meet your boss's expectations. Whether you would be best served by apologising depends on the reasons your boss expected something different.

Whatever employers tell you they don't give people raises out of the kindness of their hearts, and even the idea that you deserve a raise is double-edged to an employer. You would deserve a raise because the work you're contributing to the company is more valuable to them than they're currently compensating, and possibly also because they know your current pay is lower than the going market rate for the work you're doing. The idea that a specific meeting was set up (rather than the idea coming up at annual appraisal) makes this more likely.

It might just be a personal quirk, but from your description of your bosses response it's possible that he already thought you were underpaid for your work, and hoped the raise would make this less of an issue. By responding unemotionally, your boss might have inferred that you had been hoping for more.

I wouldn't suggest apologising, but if you're completely happy with the raise, you could convey this to your manager, who would pass that on to the boss.

Alternatively, if you had been hoping for more it sounds like your boss has been left with an accurate impression of your thoughts. This could be useful to you as well as to him.

0

I have made similar mistakes in the past. What is done is done. People often do not really want to hear what you truly feel, they just want to hear something nice.

What I have learnt is that often a white lie does not hurt anybody and works well.

Next time something similar happens, try to say something in the line of "I am very happy it happened, was wishing for that but it was unexpected and it surprised me in a nice way".

In the past I was honestly brutal with people, and it did not help me. Over time I learnt to fake or hide it, and some very minor things even started coming naturally after repeating them for a while.

IMO, I would not try to remember them of what happened. Call it a day, and consider yourself lucky getting feedback on that, it was a learned lesson. Try better next time.

PS I for the chosen answer, I might do it if I run in the boss by chance. But I would not go out of my way asking to speak with him just for that. It might be much more effective "coming out naturally" from your mouth, than via email.

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    Hmm. Good stuff in the first and later paragraphs, but in respect of "often a white lie does not hurt anybody and works well", what about the other times? And how do we know that this isn't one of those? Brutal honesty may be a bad thing, but the problem is the brutality, not the honesty. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Dec 22 '18 at 12:09
  • @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Some common sense helps...However when you do not care about most things the pack/herd cares, or they fake they care because it is convenient, it is quite difficult to be honest without offending or without them thinking you are an outlier. More difficult yet when you do not give a damn about they thinking it. – Rui F Ribeiro Dec 22 '18 at 12:25
-4

I think you deserve the rise and boss have to respect you as a good effective employee who is the base of his firm. What emotions need to expect from a man? Is it a girl or teenager who got a new computer game? I agree with thought that boss a bit selfish narcissist who did expect slavelike reaction. What to do is a political question. I would thank him one more time by e-mail. There are people including me, who can describe thoughts better in letter then verbally. Put many joyful emojis in the end of letter )

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    Welcome to the site. You raise some interesting points, but also I notice this answer has some downvotes. I cannot know for certain, but I would guess these are due to the assumptions about age and gender (I cannot see any indication that the question author is over 20 or male), and/or the stereotype that emotional response can be determined by age or gender. Since the answer works just as well without those sentences, it might be better received if they were edited out. – trichoplax Dec 25 '18 at 21:39

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