job postings that list “happy” and “high self-esteem” as requirements

A reader writes:

I’m curious to hear your opinion on something I’ve seen recently in job postings. Twice this week I’ve come across job descriptions indicating that the companies in question only hire happy people. These were job postings at two separate companies. The first one stated they were looking for someone happy (happy was bolded) and the second one stated they “only hire happy people with high self-esteem” (the entire phrase was in bold). Those were the only parts of the job posting that were in bold. Of course that made it stand out, but not in a good way!

These were finance-related office positions and not customer-facing; if they were customer service positions I would better understand this…seeming demand for happiness.

I’ve read your site long enough that I see “we only hire happy people with high self-esteem” and interpret it as “we’re going to wear you down so you’d need to have a strong sense of self to work here.” It’s possible I’m just jaded and wary, but this seems problematic to me, and it’s something I’ve not seen (or maybe not noticed) before now. What do you think?

It’s really problematic!

For one thing, it’s not a stretch to argue it could violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. If they wouldn’t hire someone struggling with depression, for example, that’s a violation of the law.

Even aside from that, though, it’s just bad hiring, because “happy” doesn’t convey what they’re really looking for. They’d be far better off describing what they want with more specifics — like a warm manner that instantly makes visitors feel welcome, cheerfulness in the face of challenging clients, a sense of possibility and a drive to figure out how to make new ideas work rather than assuming they won’t, or whatever is it that they’re really trying to get at.

Plus, people’s private emotions aren’t their employer’s business. What is their business is people’s conduct — so again, they need to talk in specifics about what behaviors they’re seeking.

The “high self esteem” thing is even weirder. That one reeks of “we recently had an employee who didn’t work out and who took everything too personally so now we’re going to put this odd requirement in our ad without realizing how strangely it will come across.” Or, yes, you’re right that it could mean “you’re going to be working with someone who will tear you down so you better have a really thick skin.”

Both of these are red flags.

{ 341 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    First thing I thought was that the manager was difficult and the hire would need a thick skin to work with them.

    And like … you can’t mandate happiness. “Be happy!” What?

    1. ACDC*

      I had the same thought. My psycho ex-bosses wrote similar things in their job postings because for some reason the high turnover was the fault of the employees who weren’t happy and had low self-esteem.

    2. Mel_05*

      Yup. A coworker and I were both offered the chance to work in a desirable department, but with a difficult manager. We declined, citing the disorganization rampant in her projects.

      When the job was posted internally part the description was “Must be able to enjoy happy chaos”.

      Well. It wasn’t *happy* chaos and the person who took that job wasn’t either.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Thanks for the mental image of my daughter’s ecstatic face after getting into the paint (thank God it was the washable kind). So adorable. So destructive.

            1. Happy Lurker*

              My toddler once cracked a dozen eggs over their head. That was happy chaos…for them. I really wish I had taken a picture or video. I would absolutely have won the $10,000. Anyway, happy chaos. Yikes

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I mean, I could see that being an apt description for my time as a camp counselor, or my friend’s job at a kennel/dog-training facility. (Although I suppose ‘chaos’ is subjective here, since both those workplaces were more organized than they would appear to someone just popping in.)

      1. Filosofickle*

        I used to work for someone who totally enjoyed chaos and probably would have described it that way — to her, the headless chicken scrambling was exciting and positive. To her employees, it was decidedly unhappy. (Notably, she wasn’t the one doing the work. She was the one sowing the chaos.)

        1. dumplin'*

          Yeah. That’s similar to what was happening at our company. This manager did have some work for the projects, but most of it was really just promising clients the moon and then doing everything possible to make sure the moon could not be reached.

        2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          I worked at a place that had a high-level woman like that. Her staff complained that she created a tornado of chaos whenever a project was cooking and the deadline was looming, because she got energized that way. Meanwhile the poor worker bees wanted to organize the work and get it done efficiently and with minimum drama.

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      I read a job posting that, I kid you not, said something specific about “smiling.” I was like, um… excuse me? It was also a unicorn posting, asking for a candidate who could do everything under the sun and also be responsible for marketing, mass mailing, financial reporting, etc. etc. etc. And apparently you were supposed to do all of that with a smile on your face.

      It’s problematic enough when someone tells me I need to smile. Putting it in a job posting was just a great way for them to let me know immediately not to waste my time applying. “We’re going to ask you to do basically everything, and we want you to smile while you do it.” No thank you.

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Happiness is mandatory, citizen. Friend Computer wants you to be happy. Failure to be happy is treason.

    5. TardyTardis*

      Plus, if I were really happy and had high self-esteem, there are a *lot* of places I never would have worked at!

  2. Observer*


    This is a perfect example of what a commenter on Tarot cards post said about toxic positivity.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes. I feel like whoever wrote these postings needs to be clonked over the head with a copy of Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided.”

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      +1 I think Alison nailed it with “we recently had an employee who didn’t work out and who took everything too personally so now we’re going to put this odd requirement in our ad without realizing how strangely it will come across.”

      It reads like a dating site profile where the person just got out of a bad relationship and is all, “Must be able to TELL THE TRUTH. Liars and cheaters need not contact me. If you can’t be honest and faithful, just keep swiping!!!!!!!!!!!!” Like, ok, I’m sorry you were hurt but this is not going to actually get you a date with an honest person.

      1. Devil Fish*

        I mean, I wish everyone who was too unstable and resentful to be in a functional, healthy relationship would be that obvious about it. Save me some time, you know?

      2. AuroraLight37*

        Well, at least you know upfront to keep on swiping- not because you’re a liar, but because this person is not ready to date anyone ever.

    2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Better yet, apply for it just so you could MEET the ones who actually put out an ad like that!

      1. I'm that person*

        I call my mom the anti-Pollyanna because she always sees the worst possible outcomes. “Don’t look at people in other cars because they might shoot you.”

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          OMG this just reminded me of something my mother would do.

          At highway speed, she’d suddenly realize her car door was unlocked, and lock it.

          Of course this is back in the Days of the Chevette, so locking the door would make a noise.

          My father once told her – as we were hurtling down the highway and he heard her lock her door – that if someone on foot could catch up to us, they could have the damn car.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      The woman handing out the birthday cake in Office Space: “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays!”

        1. DrRat*

          Some of the “cakes” I’ve seen at office birthdays make me cringe instead of smile. Ingredients: Ten thousand chemicals, sawdust, artificial flavor, artificial color, sugar, flour, egg like substance, and Soylent Green.

  3. Jamie*

    I would almost want to apply just to go existential and ask them to define happy in this context.

    (I have a feeling the second ad is “needy pains in the ass need not apply.”

    1. Schopenhaer is bae*

      Right? Considering how many definitions of “happy” exist, and also how many philosophers and religions outright state that happiness is an asymptote that can never truly be reached… I wonder how they plan on verifying that in an interview context, too.

    2. J.B.*

      I have high self esteem, and I will be happy to work somewhere other than this place. Good day, sir, I said good day!

  4. Okay*

    At OldJob, I once received feedback during a performance review that I wasn’t happy enough in meetings.

    Aside from everything else, I don’t know who WOULD be happy with a two-hour meeting at 8am every week…

      1. WellRed*

        It’s not in the handbook, it’s a giant white board on the wall and you have a whole roll of feelings emojis to stick on it each day.

        1. EPLawyer*

          before or after the 2 hour 8 am. meeting. Oh well, doesn’t matter I would use the same one* for both.

          *provided they had a middle finger emoji

          1. Quill*

            If they have all the emojis I’d just switch between the most inscruitable ones.

            “Why quill, I see that your emotions for the week are… caterpillar, standing tiger, fried shrimp, basketball, and Switzerland’s flag.”

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              I have eggplant and taco up because, uh, I, uh, really want a vegetarian taco right now?

              1. Close Bracket*

                Considering the usual use of the eggplant emoji, that could convey many, many things, including, possibly, that you are in an emasculatory mood. ;)

              1. Pearl Jammer*

                Nice pun!

                I’d be Swiss Flagging it all over the place. I’n neutral, because MYOB, boss lady/boss man!

    1. Close Bracket*

      Yeah, I got told to be more enthusiastic. In my head, I enthusiastically proposed anatomically improbably things.

    2. Lana Kane*

      I am really curious to know – was everyone else in the meeting visibly happy? I mean, you cant have been the only one.

      1. Okay*

        Except for a couple people who were in fact of the “always happy/smiling” type, not that I could tell.

    3. DrRat*

      At the last company I worked, my reply would have been “You want me to be happy in meetings? Fine. No meetings before 10 am. No meetings lasting over 30 minutes. No meetings where we do 15 minutes of actual work and spend an hour and 45 minutes listening to Mr Authority Figure drone on and on about unrelated b.s. Otherwise, the only way you’re going to see me happy in these meetings is if we spike the coffeepot with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Prozac. Does that work for you, Bob?”

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Did you at least get refreshments? Bagels and cream cheese? Oatmeal packet? Cold leftover pizza?

  5. Lance*

    I’m also curious why they’d need happy specifically. Why not calm? Composed? Amiable? Unless there are people working there like we’ve seen here in letters, that seem to demand everyone be happy and smiling at all times (while being oh so terribly exhausting), I’d be genuinely concerned why this is so important to them as to bold it in the job posting.

    And as a person who rarely shows much of any emotion, take it as a very clear flag that it’s not going to be a good fit.

    1. Jellyfish*

      A former grandboss once complained that I wasn’t bubbly. I told him I’ve never been bubbly, will never be bubbly, and certainly didn’t make any attempt to convey that attribute during the interview process. He left it alone after that, but I’m still slightly irritated all these years later.

      He made very little effort to be friendly, cheerful, or any much lower-energy version of “bubbly.” I wasn’t his personal cheerleader, and I didn’t like him demanding that I suddenly perform in a way that had nothing to do with my job tasks.

      I’d also see this as an indication I should not apply to either of these companies. I can put on a great customer service face, but no one gets to demand the right to regulate my whole emotional state or how I convey it.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          THIS. I have rarely seen performative-positivity descriptors like cheery, happy, outgoing, enthusiastic, etc., directed towards men. It’s always women that seem to bear that burden. Hmmmm I wonder why.

          1. Justin*

            It has happened to me, but it’s still mostly women.

            Of course, I’m also not white, so it’s still always part of marginalization.

          2. snuggly doob*

            So infuriating! earlier in my career my boss, who was also a woman, told me I didn’t have enough of a “cheerleader personality” for HR. Granted, HR was not the right fit for me but that’s some serious cr*p to say to someone.

            1. Tuppence*

              Ha! I work in HR and I would not put “cheerleader personality” in the top ten desirable traits for an HR role. I don’t know that it would even make the top 50. Employee advocate, yes absolutely, but no-one is well-served by an HR function that focuses on “cheerleading”. That’s absurd.

              1. Jadelyn*

                This. Empathy, yes, sensitivity and tact in dealing with people, yes, but cheerleader?

                Like, imagine sitting down with HR to have a serious conversation about someone who’s harassing you, and they’re bubbly-perky-cheerleader throughout the conversation. How is that a good thing?

                Besides, as I pointed out to my SIL when she was considering going into HR, there are so many functions and subfunctions within HR. You can be Not A People Person and still do just fine as an analyst or benefits administrator or something. HR is more than just employee relations.

          3. Devil Fish*

            When it’s directed at men, it will mostly be in customer service roles, especially call centers, or at companies that have a weirdly chipper culture that they’re resistant to allow deviation from—but it will always be directed at women more often.

            Even in a job that actually requires a lot of interpersonal skills, performative empathy and high emotional intelligence, men will still get a pass on “enthusiasm” and “positivity” if they can instead convey “knowledgeable” and “trustworthy.” Women will be expected to do all that and remember to smile. O_o

          4. Lepidoptera*

            Had a random guy tell me that I “was the only person he had seen all day that was smiling”
            Given that he said this to me from a bench that was facing the clearly marked public washroom I had just exited, I had to greatly restrain myself from gesturing towards the room behind me and making a remark about how the circumstances might give him a clue as to why I was smiling.
            (To be clear, that’s not why I *was* smiling, I’m a cheerful person, but I hate those remarks.)

      1. Malter Witty*

        Fun trick.

        Don’t be smiling when you enter a room. Enter the room and then smile. This way the people in the room think you are happy to see them, rather than you are a just a happy person.

        Same for when you are walking in a hallway and pass a coworker — smile when you make the eye contact.

        I smile 40% less now, but get credit for being 60% happier.

  6. Not All*

    OMG. Did my previous manager get permission to write job descriptions?! He’s not in finance though so apparently they are everywhere. That office was awful…anyone who made even the gentlest inquiry into the practical/legality/implementation sides of The Latest Shiny Idea was a horrible, negative person who “needed to improve their attitude” and was “clearly not a good culture fit for this organization”.

    Run. Run far, run fast.

    1. Grey Coder*

      I have been that “negative” person for trying to stop the company wasting tons of time/money. I ultimately failed. Shortly before I left, the BigBoss who had been pushing the dumb idea for years admitted it didn’t work. That was not as satisfying as I would have thought it would be.

  7. Lena Clare*

    It’s good of them to let you know to avoid applying for their positions though! Saves you wasting your time ;)

  8. Amethystmoon*

    What if someone in the family dies while the employee is employed at that company? Are they supposed to fake happiness when feeling grief? I think asking for specific emotions is going way too far.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I wouldn’t be surprised. Requests for people to act happy are usually a way to say “don’t make me uncomfortable, keep your stuff to yourself”

    2. EnfysNest*

      There’s a fairly recent Doctor Who episode about exactly this, where the “helpful” robots require everyone to perform happiness at all times. Obviously, it does not go well. (“Smile”, from Season 10)

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Similar to Terry Pratchett quotes and Donald Trump tweets, there’s a Doctor Who episode for almost any situation.

    3. StellaBella*

      Well… I work in a place that has a practice I have seen discussed in many blogs, including here, where on Fridays in meetings the team must share “How They Are Feeling” today and boy …. ugh. If you are in the least bit negative it is A Bad Thing. And… when a very close friend (she was also my mentor for 11 years) died this summer, my boss DID ACTUALLY SAY TO ME: “Well, you knew she was going to die, so….” after I told her my friend had passed away and why I was a bit emotional in said Friday meeting. WTF.

  9. 1234*

    I wonder what kind of interview questions these companies would ask.

    “If you were an emoji, which one would you be?”
    “The smiling, grinning one. All the time.”

    1. Classic Rando*

      “Well my go-to on slack is to start with :joy: and then immediately follow it with :sob:, and alternate as necessary after that. So, like 50% happy tears, that’s good, right?”

    2. Close Bracket*

      Nobody has answered “poop” yet? Commentors, you disappoint. :)

      ps, the poop emoji has a shit-eating grin; it’s a happy poop

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The smiling devil face. But not the frowning one, I’m pure happiness with my evil ways.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’m generally the angry red face. The cussing one. Go ahead tell me to smile. See what happens…

    4. Quoth the Raven*

      The one that’s blowing a kiss with a heart, though I’m not sure you want that at work.

      Also, a friend of mine once showed me how creepy the smiling emoji can be by using a knife emoji right next to it.

  10. I Got Out*

    My former employer used this language in job postings and internal conversations about hiring decisions. What she really meant was that she wanted someone who would kiss her butt at every opportunity, always have designer clothes and perfect makeup, and never complain about anything… EVER. Have a bad day and need to close your office door for an hour to get a handle on your stressful work? Count on being put on a PIP before the end of the week.

    1. 1234*

      I wonder if the salary for that role would compensate for the need to have “designer clothes.” My guess is, probably not.

      “Why yes, I wear designer clothes. A designer from The Gap made this blazer.” *eye roll*

      1. ClinicallyDistracted*

        Man, I’ve had so many jobs that required this. My first full-time gig wanted me to look professional, polished, and high-end because I was public-facing, but only paid me 10.50/hour.

      1. I Got Out*

        My biggest criticism during my annual reviews was always that I wasn’t happy enough. In my last review, my boss specifically said that I should aim to be like Reese Witherspoon and that I would never get a promotion without being that kind of happy.
        I was in a new job six weeks later.

        1. Mockingjay*

          How in the hell can you have a metric on Happiness? What’s the SMART goal – “I aim for 10 smiles per day?”

          (Also, I presume she meant Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and not Cheryl Strayed in Wild…)

          1. Amethystmoon*

            It’s like the amount of flair. One must have so much flair, but just meeting the minimum standard isn’t enough.

        2. juliebulie*

          I bet Reese Witherspoon herself would want to kick that boss’s ass for invoking her name in such a manner.

    2. CM*

      Yeah, my initial reading of the happiness thing was, “I want someone who is happy to be treated badly.”

  11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’d bet a box of donuts that the previous person in the job was bitter, jaded, and curmudgeonly; only grudgingly collaborated with their colleagues; etc. – and they want the opposite.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I think a lot of this is just crap management leading to crap job descriptions. Fergus was a pissy old crank but his managers didn’t think they were allowed to coach him on soft skills, so everyone just walked around on eggshells until he left, at which point they all breathed a sigh of relief and sat down to brainstorm a new job ad. “We’ll just say the ideal candidate must be happy! Perfect!”

    2. Lana Kane*

      I was going to say something similar. This reeks of something that happened with one person and now they are wildly overcorrecting.

  12. Kate*

    My manager is the happiest, most upbeat person I know. He also makes the lives of the people around him a disaster on a regular basis. “Happy” does not equal competent, organized, effective, or pleasant to work with.

    1. hbc*

      This is basically where my mind goes to with “happy” and “high self-esteem”–a person who is impervious to negative feedback, trips blissfully into preventable issues, and wonders why everyone else can’t just be happy with life.

        1. JustaTech*

          Or “utterly oblivious”. I have a coworker who is smart, engaged, cares about this job, generally cheerful, and just sort of sweet who is also completely oblivious to social cues and will talk at you for literal hours if you don’t stop him. He’s exhausting, but with careful and thoughtful management he’s very productive.

          But the year that he missed something major, something that was only caught because a one-off project happened to look at something, that year he still gave himself the highest possible rating in our annual review (which he shared with me, oy).

          But yes, in general, arrogant is the most likely explanation.

    2. Anonya*

      Oh my, I know this type well. And while I miss his energy (sometimes), I do not miss the chaos that radiated off that man and made my job 1000 times harder than it needed to be.

    3. Chinook*

      Yup. I struggle with depression and anxiety but, when it comes to my job, you will never find someine so organized, flexible or pleasant work with. I hid my lack of happiness at work because it is irrelevant to ccomplishing my job. But, if I saw that ad, I would see it as saying I don’t qualify purely from a medical standpoint and would be even tempted to ask the provincial labour board if the wording was discriminatory.

  13. Joie De Vivre*

    Sometimes yes, it’s a bad sign. Sometimes it’s just that they want a certain type of people and advertise wrong. The people before me at my current job were people that talked the talk but couldn’t do the work to back it up. The ad was definitely written with these specific people in mind of what the company didn’t want or did want that this previous person couldn’t deliver.

    I work at a start up. It was not advertised as one, but the post included phrases like “people who exude a Joie de vivre” and “ultimate rockstar”. I am introverted and no nonsense by nature so I was really hesitant coming in. But so far, it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. This is by far the best and most respectful place I’ve worked, even if they are a bit cheesy.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Ultimate rock star.
      Funny. Most actual rock stars are drug doing, sensitive masses of anxiety with fantastic energetic highs and near death mean reds.

      1. Joie de Vivre*

        that’s what I think of every time haha I know they mean high performer, but all I can think of is Motley Crue in their prime…

  14. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I’d want to score an interview just to ask, “What, exactly, does that mean within this company?”, and see what they say. Then maybe, if I scored another interview with peers, I could ask them what their take on that was. That could lead to some serious fun to watch.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      TW: “What does that mean?”
      Interviewer sputters: “We just want to have a happy office! We’re fun people. I’m afraid I find the question abrasive.”
      TW: “But asking it makes me happy.”

  15. Sara without an H*

    I vote that we add “happy” and “high self-esteem” to “we’re like family here” to the AAM collection of Red Flags of Office Toxicity.

    1. 1234*


      Don’t forget “rock star employees” as well. And my personal favorite is “work hard, play hard.”

      1. I'm the OP*

        What’s funny is there was a third job posting I found (again, in finance/accounting) that mentioned rock-star employees. I passed on that one, too. It frustrates me that these jobs otherwise sound pretty good until I get to the thing that gives me pause. In my experience so far, if something seems like a red flag, it usually is. It’s nice to know I’m not off base here!

        1. juliebulie*

          I think it’s unprofessional and cringeworthy to put “personality” type of nonsense in a job ad. You are not off base. Not at all.

          And speaking of freebase… there have definitely been a few letters on AAM that sparked conversations about what an employer should expect if they ask for a rock star.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I stick by my theory that applying for a job posting asking for a rock star is like applying to be the new lead singer of Van Halen.

              1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

                No, he’s the old old singer. As opposed to Sammy Haggar, who’s the new old singer. Or that other guy after Sammy left.

          2. I'm the OP*

            Was it like: Expect an actual rock star to show up? I’m imagining lead singers from 80s hair bands. This makes me happy.

            1. Devil Fish*

              Candidate: “Hi! I have an interview at 2 for the rock star finance role?”
              Receptionist: “I’ll let the hiring manager know you’re here. Can I get you anything while you’re waiting? Coffee? Water?”
              Candidate: “Yeah, you got any blow?”

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Advertising for rockstars always reminds me of Craigslist job ads with subject lines in sticky caps wanting ThE BeSt BaRrisTas OnLy.

        1. 1234*

          Chalk it up to a learning experience. I ended up taking a job where they used that phrase in the interview. I enjoyed the work that we did.

          It meant exactly “we are all drunks.” Company had a “St. Patty’s day” party on a weekday afternoon complete with booze. “Beer run Fridays” were a thing. Someone in the C-Suite participated in a wine club. The wine got delivered to the office rather than his home.

  16. #1 The Larch*

    Reminds me of job ads on Craigslist; purposefully vague and no measurable skill sets. First off, no one regulates my emotions but me. You cannot force me to be happy. Do you want me to be amiable? I can do that. Do you want me to have a professional and polite phone demeanor? I can do that too. However, my self esteem varies daily and my emotions run a gamut every day. Although I have told someone in the most polite and professional way to go f themselves and it was done so sweetly, that they didn’t even recognize it as such. HA!

  17. Librarian of SHIELD*

    Happy is a problematic descriptor because it’s a transitory emotion. I’m generally a pretty optimistic and cheerful person, but I have cranky/angry/sad days just like everybody else. Using emotion words in a job description won’t be nearly as useful as using words to describe the behaviors you expect from your staff. Instead of “happy,” you want things like “works cooperatively as part of a team.”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      YES. And by “high self-esteem” they mean “the confidence to keep making a dozen customer contacts a day until they lock in their sales quota” ?

      1. juliebulie*

        I thought it might mean “the confidence to bear eight hours of verbal abuse [from customers and/or coworkers and/or bosses] without crying.”

  18. hbc*

    Southwest Airlines has a somewhat similar approach, but they’re far more specific: “warrior spirit, servant’s heart, and fun-loving attitude.” Whether or not this turns your stomach, at least you can see what kind of culture you’re getting into.

    “Happy” and “high self-esteem”? I’m not sure how that plays out in the workplace. Are you trying to make sure it rolls off my back when colleagues hurl abuse at me, or are you expecting me to participate in vaguely mean-spirited pranks? But it’s probably like Alison says–they’re writing the job posting that they think would have screened out the Eeyore they hired last time. Bonus points if Eeyore is still in the office and you’re supposed to counter him by being Mary Sunshine.

    1. Urdnot Bakara*

      I’ve actually met the former CHRO at Southwest who is probably responsible for that line. She seems really focused on an employment brand strategy, which is probably where it comes from, but she also seems really knowledgeable and down-to-earth. Also, to be fair, Southwest is consistently rated one of the best companies to work for, and one of the reasons why I enjoy flying Southwest is that nobody seems to hate their jobs. Take from that what you will!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same here. (Also, they don’t charge me for checked luggage, they have a useful frequent flyer program, and their flight attendants sing funny songs when we land.)

      2. Dahlia*

        I’ve heard they’ve gotten a lot better about how they treat fat passengers in the last 10 years since all the negative press they got.

        1. Urdnot Bakara*

          I’m a fat person and I’ve never had any issue with them on that front, so hopefully that means they have improved! (Airline seats are of course barely big enough for me, but that’s not a Southwest exclusive thing.)

      3. Dagny*

        Southwest is also hiring people in customer-facing roles, in a company that prides itself on having amusing, cheerful flight attendants and a slightly offbeat way of doing things.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

        “You said ‘warrior spirit’. I’m proficient in simple and martial weapons. I brought my own two-handed axe. I also like being a sword and board, for the AC boost.”

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Warrior spirit? Does that mean I can come to work naked, painted in woad, and high on hallucinogens?

    2. only acting normal*

      “Warrior spirit” because nothing says “fun-loving attitude” like a berserker triggered at 30000ft.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        LOL, exactly. People who ask these things never seem to take them to the logical conclusion.

  19. Maude*

    I hate requirements like this. My husband is currently looking for a position in finance/accounting. He is a happy person. However, his demeanor conveys seriousness and no non-sense when someone first meets him. If he has to be bubbly as well as competent, I worry for our future.

      1. Shad*

        I’m picturing Chris Traeger here. There’s a reason Ben was involved. (Parks & Rec reference y’all).

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      “We’re going to lose another $50m in revenue this year! And our expenses are higher than revenue! But don’t worry because we’re still awesome even as our financials implode!”

    2. Senor Montoya*

      I don’t care if my accountant is happy. I want my accountant to be competent and take their job seriously.

      1. I Like Math*

        This. I’m an accountant. I’m surrounded by accountants. We’re not unhappy at all, but our fun consists of nerdy fun, mostly. I don’t think an outside observer would describe us as ‘happy’. Definitely not ‘bubbly’. The first think I thought was “happy”? For an accountant? RED FLAG.

        I used to work at a very small company, owned and ran by sales people. They were constantly on me for being negative. I feel I was just giving them realistic feedback on their financial position. This ad sounds like something they’d think of…

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I would be like “I’m sorry, let me put a bigger smile on my face when I tell you that you’re cash flow is negative. Want! Some! Exclamation! Points! Too!”

            1. Amy Sly*

              Sheriff of Rottingham: Sire, I have news!
              Prince John: And what sort of news do you have? It’s not bad news, is it? You know I can’t take bad news. The day started out so good. I had a good night’s sleep, I had a good B.M. I don’t want to hear any bad news. Now, what kind of news is it?
              Sheriff of Rottingham: Well, to be perfectly frank, it’s bad.
              Prince John: I knew it! I knew it would be bad news. Wait, I have an idea. Maybe if you tell me the bad news in a good way, it wouldn’t sound so bad.
              Sheriff of Rottingham: The bad news in a good way. Yes, yes, I can do that. The bad news in a good way. Well, here it goes. [hysterically] Ha! Ha! Ha! W-wait till you hear this! I just saw Robin of Locksley, he’s back from the crusades. [laughs] You know, he just beat the crap out of me and my men. [laughs] He hates you and he loves your brother, Richard! [laughs] And… [laughs] … he wants to see you hanged! [laughs and snorts loudly] We, we’re in an awful lot of trouble! [laughs]
              Prince John: What, are you crazy?! Why are you laughing?! This is terrible news!

        2. CMart*

          I’m a bubbly accountant (career change after doing radio promotions and flair bartending) and it honestly kind of breaks my colleagues’ brains when they meet me. I have “resting friendly face”, lol. I do think it helps me in my role at my Large Corp when I have to be Accounting Bad Guy/Annoying No Fun Bean Counter to my non-F&A department contacts. They like and trust me more than other people on my team, or so it seems.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m nuttier than a shithouse rat but even I come across as reserved in all new situations.

      I’m not going to sing and dance to soften the blow when I tell someone they are better off folding a business.

  20. Koala dreams*

    I see the “happy” language most often when it comes to retail job postings, and I always suspect that it’s not meant for job applicants, but for the customers shopping there. Come buy our products, our employees are happy! Something like that?
    Although of course in jobs like retail, the emotional labour (or acting, whatever you prefer to call it), is arguably an important part of the job. It would be more worrying if it’s for an accountant or a safety inspector.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, “bubbly” is fine if you’re hiring cocktail waitresses. For an office job, I’m seeing red flags.

  21. Alina*

    Hmmm someone was recently asking about what type of people we were looking to hire and I said we wanted someone proactive and confident – would you consider that wrong?

    1. Jamie*

      Proactive is a legitimate trait to want in an employee. What do you mean by confident? The ability to project confidence? Because people are complex and can be quite confident in one area and not another.

    2. Jadelyn*

      As folks have said, proactive is fine. Confident is…not as solid, since it’s a pretty nebulous term? But I feel like, when paired with “proactive” like this, it definitely gives a strong sense of the kinds of behaviors you’re looking for (the willingness to speak up when you see problems, propose your own solutions, defend your ideas, make independent decisions where appropriate).

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yep, I agree with this. I always want verb-object constructions (proposes solutions, defends ideas, makes decisions, speaks up) rather than adjectives, but “proactive and confident” is pretty different from “happy and has high self-esteem”!

      2. I'm the OP*

        I don’t see a problem with proactive–that’s a trait I possess and appreciate. I once worked with a guy who was training me to do his old job after he was promoted, and he very confidently gave me the wrong answer on multiple occasions when I asked questions that (turned out) he didn’t know the answers to. Based on that, I’d say no to confidence by itself. You need to be able to back it up with ability, knowledge, etc.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Ugh, I’m reminded of the letter to AAM about the boss who valued confidence over actual truth.

    3. MD*

      I think you also need to define proactive. Proactive in doing what exactly? Finding new customers, finding room in the budget, thinking of new business ideas, cleaning the break room? Admittedly, I’m biased in that I have a strong dislike for the word. I quite without another job because no one would give me work to do and all my previous manager could tell me was that I had to be more proactive. What she thought she was conveying was that I was too timid and I waited for work to come to me without speaking up. What she really meant was, “I, manger, suck at managing and delegating work between my employees (even though I know you are struggling to fill your days with things to do). So, I want you, MD, to spend your time every day begging and pleading with other employees to get a scrap of something to do that may or may not have anything to do with you job duties just so that we can justify hiring you, even though everyone around you is drowning in work and does not want to lighten their loads because no one has given them permission to pass on aspects of their work to you that you, MD, were hired specifically to do.”

      So, be specific…

    4. knead me seymour*

      As with resume language, I think it’s probably most helpful to describe actions and abilities rather than qualities and provide some context about how they would play out in the position. “Proactive” isn’t necessarily a bad thing to look for, but the candidate might not know exactly what you mean by it. If you can provide some examples of what being proactive would look like in the role, that would be more descriptive. “Confident” is much harder to parse on its own, so it would probably help to think about what that means to you in this context. Neither is as creepy as “happy” though.

  22. KoiFeeder*

    It’s not just depression, either. I’m autistic, and I can either perform whatever emotion I’m feeling to other people’s preferred standards, or I can engage in conversation/do my work/enter task that requires focus here. I’m pretty sure the ADA frowns on not hiring people because they don’t physically fulfill the hiring manager’s preferred emoting quotient.

    1. Lynca*

      As someone with ADHD one of the hardest things is managing my emotions. I tend to do okay with emoting in a socially acceptable manner when everything is going okay. If the wheels are coming off, I don’t do as great.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yes to both of these. Also ADHD. I get twitchy when other people monitor and try to “regulate” my emotions. Just tell me what you need done, don’t tell me how to feel about it.

          1. JustaTech*

            No one told me about the emotional regulation thing.
            (Or maybe they didn’t think it was a helpful thing for a 13-year-old who’s already all over the place because, well, 13.)

    2. Zephy*

      Same here. I can either focus on my facial muscles and what they’re doing to make sure I look acceptably human, or I can do the job I was hired to do. My neutral face reads as upset/annoyed to some people, I guess. Sorry about it, that’s just what it looks like. I got Spoken To in a previous job after someone walked by my office and said hi in passing (being one of dozens of people constantly walking past my office and making noises that didn’t require my attention), then took it personally when I (1) didn’t hear them so I (2) ignored them and (3) looked annoyed, I guess?

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        I got Spoken To in a previous job after someone walked by my office and said hi in passing (being one of dozens of people constantly walking past my office and making noises that didn’t require my attention), then took it personally when I (1) didn’t hear them so I (2) ignored them and (3) looked annoyed, I guess?</blockquote)

        I have Asperger's Syndrome. Someone who would Speak To Me for committing that "offense" has no idea just how difficult it can be for someone with Asperger's to return, let alone initiate, a normal social greeting.

        Someone once said hi to me as we passed through the halls. I didn't know the person and I thought she was saying hi to someone who was walking behind me, so I didn't respond. I don't have eyes in the back of my head so I had no way of knowing this person, who I didn't know, was directing her greeting towards me. She took the perceived snub so personally, over time she would be so mean and rude and say such hurtful things to me, that – well, she wasn't exactly making a good case for herself as someone I'd want to say hello to, even if I was normal* and didn’t have Asperger’s.

        * Please don’t patronize me by saying “nobody’s really normal.” You know what I mean, you know the context in which I’m saying that.

        1. Close Bracket*

          I’m mildly face blind, and I have a variety of embarrassing false positive and false negative stories. Doh. At this point, I cheerfully return the greetings of people who I don’t recognize and talk to them as though I know them.

          re: normal
          I do know what you mean. I am also on the spectrum, and I consider myself completely normal. “Allistic” has risen in popularity to describe people who are not on the spectrum.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I love the word allistic. Normal isn’t really a descriptive word anyways- it’s literally just what someone is used to. Certainly my family line is full of autism, and it’s perfectly normal to us, and the allistic people are the abnormal ones (although informing a teacher of that was a one-way trip to the supplies closet until after recess, lol). But allistic has a pretty specific meaning, so people know exactly what’s meant by it.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                Allistic has a very specific meaning, I say, as I forget to define it to anyone I’m talking to. My bad!

            1. Oranges*

              Someone who is not autistic.

              I think that all/most mental disorders are on a spectrum from “disordered/divergent” -> “normal” -> “disordered/divergent” again.

              An easy one is depression -> normal -> manic. They’re all just states of being that have a bell curve and the outliers are “abnormal”. I don’t know if this holds true among all of the labels we have for neurodivergence. But I’d say most.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Also on the spectrum and mildly face blind, and I’ve often failed to recognize people or mistaken one person for another!

        2. Quill*

          I’ve gotten that too!

          I have an anxiety disorder, my concentrating face is naturally either a flat “this is fine” dog meme, or AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          OMG, are you me? I had that exact same experience. The person who thought I’d snubbed her was in HR. One day she called me into her office and showed me a letter she’d received, saying that it was from the IRS about wage garnishment. She looked absolutely delighted.

          Seeing her face fall when I informed her the letter was actually about a different employee named Gazebo Slapper, not Gazebo Slayer, was priceless.

    3. Close Bracket*

      Oh, companies can totally write job descriptions and competencies to make emoting properly a core function. The ADA will not protect you.

      1. Quill*

        “Must be able to lift 50 pounds and stand for 8 hr shifts”

        Would it kill you to give the qc technician a lab stool and not make them lift anything larger than their 1 lb samples?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I know a ton of sysadmins with back backs because of working in jobs where “Must be able to lift 50 pounds” was a job requirement, and the employer was too cheap to get lift carts to help rack thousands of dollars of heavy server gear.

    4. A Non E. Mouse*

      preferred emoting quotient.

      What a wonderful turn of phrase to explain what’s wrong with this job posting. Well done!

  23. Anonny*

    I mean, I could show up at the job interview with the hooks of a bungee cord in my mouth, giving me a horrifying Joker-esque grin?

  24. London Calling*

    *These were finance-related office positions*

    Happy people in finance. Snorts with derisive laughter ( but then we do have two audits in the next three months, I might be reacting instinctively to the thought of being happy under those circumstances).

  25. Decima Dewey*

    I have a serious face, and I have chronic minor depression. But I’m the staffer who will sigh and roll up her sleeves to cope with the crisis du jour, even if I’m not the bubbliest person around.

    1. Kat in VA*

      I have a near-deadly case of Resting Bitch Face®, coupled with cheekbones you can cut a bagel on and a square jaw. Apparently, when I’m not looking directly at someone and concentrating, I “give off the demeanor of an assassin” according to a work buddy.

      Not much I can do about my bone structure and if I had a permanently happy look on my face, I would likely look utterly deranged.

      Am I a cheerful person? Reasonably, yes. Despite the aforementioned Sicario Mien, people apparently like me enough to tell me…well, just about everything. Maybe “severe” translates as “trustworthy”. But I don’t think anyone would describe my particular demeanor as “happy”.

      On the opposite side of the spectrum, Bossman is almost terminally cheerful. He also is like a giant St. Bernard puppy in a china shop, gaily churning out chaos, confusion, and destruction wherever he goes. We’re well matched in that respect, yin to yang and all of that, but I think folks might prefer serious and dependable over happy but unpredictable most days.

  26. Jadelyn*

    Toxic Positivity Culture ahoy!

    I hate stuff like that. I have depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I struggle with self-esteem due to what at least one therapist thinks may be c-PTSD. Even without those factors, even at my best, I’ve just never been a perky or bubbly person. I keep a skull-shaped candy bowl on my desk, dress in dark colors, still have a bit of the 16-year-old mall goth about me when I’m not reining it in for professionalism’s sake.

    But I’m still well-liked and respected by my colleagues because I’ve made the effort to develop strong professional relationships. I don’t have to be perky or upbeat to be pleasant, kind, and helpful. And I feel pretty strongly like the latter traits are a lot more useful in an office than the former would be.

    Any job ad that demanded “happiness” and “high self-esteem” would get a hard pass from me.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Also I am going to add, two of the most “happy and upbeat” people I used to work with were also the biggest bullies I’ve ever met. They caused untold amounts of damage and misery, because you can trash-talk and undermine people in a happy and upbeat manner! And then when the victim gets upset, they’re the one being negative and not upbeat and happy! So they get punished!!

  27. 4Sina*

    This is the same problem I have with job postings that say “outgoing” or “extroverted”. It’s nonsense, it’s subjective, and it eliminates good, strong candidates from applying because the hiring manager seems to think a person who isn’t always charismatic can’t do the duties of the job.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I agree. If you want someone who is good in a customer-facing position, then you need to say “must work well with customers”. There are plenty of non-extroverts who excel at that very role. Why cut them out of the loop?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I’m very much an introvert, but I’m definitely capable of customer-facing work. Often, I’m even quite cheerful doing it! (I’m told I have an excellent professional phone voice.) I wouldn’t want to do that all the time, but I actually like doing it a little.

    2. knead me seymour*

      This is particularly annoying when it has nothing to do with the job itself, or may be counterproductive in the job. If you need someone to sit alone doing data entry for hours every day, you probably don’t want to hire someone who lives for social interaction. I think sometimes what they really mean is “someone with basic interpersonal skills” but they overcorrect.

  28. Dust Bunny*

    I read this as “willing to soak up whatever mistreatment our organization dishes out, without protest or pushback”.

    Treat and pay me well and I will be happy.

    1. CastIrony*

      That is all I’ve ever wanted: Treat me and pay me well, and I will be the happiest person who will do my best!

  29. Close Bracket*

    What is their business is people’s conduct — so again, they need to talk in specifics about what behaviors they’re seeking.

    OK, so they lose the “happy” and “high self esteem” language and instead describe performative behaviors like smiling and whatever else people think demonstrate enthusiasm. It’s a still a Job of Evil Bees.

    Btw, depressed people can still be happy.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Well, ideally, I think they lose “happy” and high self-esteem” and replace them with “collaborates effectively with coworkers, is willing to speak up and voice an opinion, and maintains professional, cordial relationship with dealing with both colleagues and clients.”

  30. ReluctantManager*

    A co-manager recently tried to insert ‘positive’ into a person spec for my team. Whenever we have ‘values setting’ sessions, someone *always* mentions positivity. I try to ask ‘what exactly do we mean by that?’ and switch it for things like ‘constructive criticism’, ‘determination to meet challenges/fight injustices’, ‘polite and professional’ or ‘raises concerns in an appropriate environment’… but I worry that this pushback can give me a reputation for being a bit ‘negative’!

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I had two separate terrible bosses rip into me for being “negative” because I kept “telling me things we can’t do.”

      In reality, I was telling them that we a) risked violating the law if we did what they said and b) were seriously lacking in resources that were going to end in disaster.

      I cannot, say, offer llama riding lessons when my boss refuses to sign off on the purchase of llamas, the hiring of llama trainers, and a fence to keep the llamas off the highway. But of course, that is being “negative.”

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I recently had someone get snitty with me because my as-requested write up on suggestions for an SOP was too “regulatory based” and not “commercial” enough. Well, I’m the regulatory compliance person. You asked me what the regulatory ramifications of doing X would be. *shrug emoji*

        I definitely feel that I get a lot of pushback for being the Person Who Says No, when it’s really just “the EPA is not going to approve that”.

        1. 1234*

          Would it help it if you worded it as “The EPA will not approve this” rather than “I am saying this won’t work?”

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            One of the aforementioned bad bosses above, is the one who threw a safety regulations manual at me.

            He accused me of making up the safety regulations, so I showed him the manual. He didn’t like what the manual said, so he threw it at me.

              1. Choux*

                LOL, I used to work at a company where the owner would regularly scream at employees and once held a guy up against the wall by his throat. How did he get that job? He started the company.

              2. SusanIvanova*

                Sucking up to the people above them and saying any complaints are because the people below them are lazy and resentful that they finally have someone trying to bring order to the place.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              “Hello, HR? $Boss just threw the safety manual at me physically. Can he get talked to?”

              Seriously, WTF?

      2. Anonymato*

        Tangent: I wish you could have gotten the all the necessary sign offs, because I would totally take a llama riding lesson! :-)

      3. Elenna*

        Employee: “No, boss, we cannot actually violate the laws of physics. Or the laws of this country, for that matter.”
        Evil Boss: “STOP BEING NEGATIVE”

        1. JustaTech*

          Trying To Be Diplomatic Boss: You can’t keep saying no.
          Me: But what they want violated laws of physics and federal regulations!
          TTBDB: I know! But you have to say “let me check up on that” or “We’ll need to look at the data”, not just “no”. It’s too negative.

          (Frustratingly, this actually works. I guess waiting half a day to say “no” makes people feel heard/ like you actually have to look stuff up rather than already knowing it’s not possible.)

    2. ainnnymouse*

      The “fight injustices” came up during an interview for a clothing store I went to recently. I didn’t understand what that meant. They kept using buzzwords and stuff. Did they want to stop shoplifters?

      1. ReluctantManager*

        Fairtrade clothing maybe?!
        (I work in a health charity so sometimes it’s very applicable. If someone felt totally positive all the time I’d suspect they weren’t paying attention!)

  31. knead me seymour*

    My first assumption is that this is one of those places where they have mood emoji boards and pre-meeting therapy sessions. I am not a bubbly person so I would run from this posting.

  32. animaniactoo*

    LW, I would wonder whether their benefits plan includes the GOOD DRUGS, or if they’re planning on pumping mood enhancers into the On! Site! Cafeteria! food.

    Seriously – my first thought was to wonder if the listing itself violated the ADA as Alison quickly noted it might. My second was that I don’t want to work anywhere that is indicating so upfront that it’s a problem atmosphere. Such that the emotional state of the applicants needs to be defined up front.

    There are just no good reasons for that. Ability to handle a fast paced environment without your co-workers hating you? Yes. Must be a built in mood enhancer for the office? No.

    1. JustaTech*

      Or what about that super violent show on SyFy called Happy about a down and out PI who ends up with a super happy flying blue unicorn as an imaginary friend?
      I’m fairly certain that’s not the kind of happy they’re looking for.

  33. MarchwasMay*

    It’s like someone completely missed the point of the Doctor Who episode “Smile” (with Capaldi , S10 New Series, ep 2). Emojibots consider non-happy a disease, and kill the humans who are insufficiently smiley.

    (Sorry if this is a dupe)

  34. NotSettledOnANameHere*

    Prescribed emotions are gross. It’s like the company (or companies) are the manifestation of every person on the street that has ever told someone to smile. You don’t own my face, stranger.

  35. Cruciatus*

    “My self-esteem is so high I don’t give a shit what you think of me.” (is what I would want to say)

  36. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    If you are looking for people who can ride the chaos waves or be good at navigating difficult personalities, which is how I read when a job ad includes this kind of BS language, the hiring managers are failing yet again and will stay trapped in their high turnover hell.

    I thrive in cruddy environments at times. My happiness and self esteem aren’t why. And I laugh and avoid listings that sound so desperate to weed out “unhappiness” and “negativity” by advertising for certain emotions.

    They may as well be shooting red flags out of a canon from their roof.

  37. Nanani*

    “We’re only going to hire people who perform happiness so the management can feel good about terrible work conditions”

    “We fired the last X people in this position because they weren’t happy about being underpaid and yelled at”

    “The boss likes to have employees smile up at them at all times”

    I can’t think of a happy interpretation.

  38. I heart Paul Buchman*

    I saw something similar in an old job. I worked in one of those jobs that people say – ‘I could never do that’. A regularly on the news, clients have severe issues, violence in the workplace is a constant threat kind of jobs. The staff who worked out long term were incredibly jaded and cynical people with tough skins. It wasn’t that you weren’t empathetic it just needed a level of being able to shut out things you didn’t want to focus on and do your job.

    Management thought there was an attitude problem (funnily enough jaded cynics make for problematic employees – go figure) and the interview process was deliberately set up to find a ‘people person’. I watched many a lovely Pollyanna type (male and female) leave the job a quivering mess without passing probation. This has led me to believe that if they have to specify HAPPY in a job ad that is because normally ‘Happy’ people wouldn’t be drawn to apply. Run fast, run far.

  39. Jennifer*

    Yeah, it sounds like they just got rid of someone who had a bad attitude and they are overcorrecting. You can’t manage emotions, only behavior, as Alison said. Many of us have to slap a pleasant expression on our faces before dealing with coworkers, superiors, or clients when we’re not in the mood.

  40. LLG612*

    Super inappropriate and gross but today I can totally relate to WANTING to put that in an ad. I’m dealing with a horrifically curmudgeonly and often downright hostile employee (yes, I am handling the behaviors themselves and why they significantly negatively impact our organization and morale and there’s a PIP in place) but my god do I wish I could just write “must be happy” in an ad. Most of my staff, including myself, struggle with mental health issues but manage to leave it at the door or be open about their struggles and find work-appropriate work-arounds. Our ads do use some of the language Alison uses because we are working with vulnerable populations and demeanor/attitude toward those folks matters a LOT. But yeah, we can’t just write “be happy.”

    1. MissDisplaced*

      But it sounds like this is customer facing work, which is more understandable and appropriate to ask for a more upbeat, happy and positive attitude.
      But it’s weird to see that for all positions. Like, how often do you see “happy” attorneys?

  41. Policy Wonk*

    Perhaps I am too jaded, but I see this as giving themselves license to discriminate. They can reject any candidate with this – in a protected class? Sorry, but that didn’t have anything to do with our not hiring you – you aren’t happy!

  42. Joielle*

    I’m quite happy in general, but I’m an office goth with a serious RBF – so I sort of doubt my outward appearance would match whatever these employers had in mind. That’s the problem with “happy,” you can’t really tell from the outside.

    And, like… emotions change, so… are they looking for a monthly average mood? Annual? Some sort of rolling average? Mood never to dip below a certain level, or only if it’s offset by extreme happiness later on? Lots of (mostly but not entirely rhetorical) questions here!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My outward appearance is hella intimidating. Everyone is always seemingly caught off guard when they interview me because I waltz in with a big presence and then my personality is not even close to what they were thinking.

      It’s part of why I have to make an effort to soften the energy around me over the years. I’m not here to knock heads and drag out the bodies of my enemies despite my linebacker structure and RBF.

      People have made the error of hiring me thinking I had henchman qualities when the last thing I’ll do is someone’s questionable dirty work!

    2. 1234*

      Seconded. I also have major RBF. There can be absolutely nothing wrong and people will still ask me “Are you ok? What’s the matter?”

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Both my wife and I have RBF, especially when concentrating. That’s why I try to face away from people when working, even in an open plan dog pit. My focus face is often seen as downright hostile, but it’s just me focusing on my work.

    3. Oranges*

      I have the antithisis of RBF. I’m the one who gets asked by strangers where the buses are or how to get to [destination], or people’s life story. Is there a name for that?

      1. JustaTech*

        My heavily pierced and tattoo’d, multi-color hair, tough as nails coworker had that “stranger, tell me everything” face. At least once a week she had a story about some deeply weird person on the bus telling her their life story. (And by “deeply weird” I mean “had a living pigeon in their hair” weird.)

        She did not get why people talked to her.
        Me, I’ve got excellent “don’t talk to me” public transit face.

      2. AuroraLight37*

        Resting sweet face? I tend towards this expression as well, which is why I wear enormous sunglasses whenever I’m out.

  43. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    From the Happy Teapot Company employee manual: “Employees are required to present themselves in a cheerful, happy and hilarious demeanor at all times. Those failing to demonstrate the aforementioned characteristics, as determined in the sole opinion of their immediate supervisor, shall be remanded to the Modification Center where they shall be repeatedly struck with objects and pointed sticks of varying degrees of intensity and such for an indefinite length of time, until, in the sole opinion of the Modification Counsellor to whom they have been assigned for the purpose of the aforementioned administration of said objects upon their person, said cheerful, happy and hilarious traits emanate from them, at which time they shall be immediately returned to their immediate supervisor who will ensure that the performance of their assigned duties is to resume immediately and at once.”

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        Well, yeah… but, y’know… jargon and buzzwords and others of a similar linguistic ilk…


  44. Art3mis*

    At OldJob “Optimism” was a criteria on everyone’s yearly performance plan and something they measured merit raises against.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Only logical way is a sticker chart to track your daily moods………………………………….

    1. Sacred Ground*

      So in a performance review, be sure to tell them how much you’re looking forward to your raise.

  45. Gaia*

    My first thought is they’ve struggled with “negative” employees and don’t know a good way to weed these folks out so they went with this method.

    I get wanting to avoid people who seem to thrive on constant negativity, but there are better ways to address that than this.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Better screening in general helps. Usually overwhelmingly negative people give off the vibes during the actual interview process. I’ve never known a naturally negative person to not be that way from the get-go.

      Like are they just interviewing anyone and giving them an offer right there? I cannot understand how you trust people to self screen themselves for happiness and positivity…if you’re really going to get that surprise Negative Nancy, then you’re going to get them regardless of your poorly written job ads!

    2. ArtK*

      If an employer is constantly getting negative people, it may be their hiring process, but they should really take a deeper look at their entire culture. If one person is grumpy, that’s likely on them; if multiple people are grumpy, it’s probably on you (the employer.)

  46. Fiddlesticks*

    I’m happy and have high self-esteem, but as an introvert I wouldn’t want to work in a place that actually put that down as a job requirement. It makes that workplace sound like the kind of environment where you’re expected to walk around grinning like an idiot and high-fiving everyone you meet in the hallway, and coming up with Ten Positive Things That Happened This Week in staff meetings…no thank you!!

  47. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Makes me remember of a company that rebranded HR as “Happiness Department”. Imagine my reaction when I received an email from heir “Happiness Lead”, telling me about their “exciting job opportunities”. I skimmed over the first sentence before hitting the delete button.

    1. I'm the OP*

      This is horrifying and so wrong! I would find a new job if my position was rebranded as the Happiness Lead.

  48. ArtK*

    Makes me think of the managers who say “we don’t have problems, we have opportunities!!1!!!!!” Sorry, bub, but if it means my working an 18 hour day, it’s a problem.

    I’ve been known to say, with a totally flat affect: “Oh joy, another learning experience.”

  49. MissDisplaced*

    We only want happy people = We will likely treat you crappy and pay you little so you’d best be someone who keeps their mouth shut and doesn’t complain about it.

  50. Wren*

    I’ve seen a lot of these phrases in Australian job ads, although usually for customer facing roles only. It’s really exclusionary of neurodiverse people. It’s bad enough that rates of employment for those with autism or a mental illness are extremely low in comparison to the national average.

  51. His Grace*

    If those are the job requirements, then I’d run like the devil himself was chasing me. Because that is a red flag.

  52. Jay*

    My fantasy interview for this position:
    “Hello, my name is Jay and this is my Emotional Support Clown, Chuckles.
    Put down the knife and say hello to the nice man, Chuckles!”

    Two weeks later I find out that I lost the job.
    To Chuckles.
    Turns out that he was the better cultural fit……

  53. chickaletta*

    Probably also a sign of a mediocre HR department, if one even exists, that something like that would make its way into the job posting.

  54. Anon Here*

    I’ve seen a lot of variations on this. Sometimes, they’re looking for people with relatively easy lives – supportive families, good health, etc. They don’t want to hear about the ups and downs that come with more challenging life stuff. They just want to hear about happy holidays with happy families. I mean that’s what it’s always turned out to be when I got to see what people actually meant by it. I’m sure it can go other ways too.

    I like the phrase, “toxic positivity.” In my limited experience, this kind of thing does tend to be discriminatory and can be intentional coded language for a number of things that we shouldn’t do.

  55. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    These are literally the last jobs I would ever apply for. I would happily delete/trash those listings and keep right on looking for other jobs grounded in actual reality.

  56. ouchie*

    Had this during a phone interview once. “The pay is $15 per hour, are you going to be happy with that? Because don’t think you’re going to get a raise. We like to have HAPPY people here who are happy with their jobs.”

    Ugh. They invited me in for an in-person interview and I declined.

  57. J.B.*

    One thing I will say about engineering firms. They may work you to death, but I cannot EVER see one of the big firms (civil, etc) going for this happy face nonsense.

  58. Dragonfly*

    Say, you get an opportunity to be interviewed by those employers. How do you cite a past achievement in the area of happiness or self-esteem, should you be asked to cite one? And, anyway, a person possessed of inner resources is by definition not necessarily happy under just any circumstances. Hamlet is an example.

  59. anone*

    My friend JUST shared this infuriating job posting with me, for a $14/hr (that’s Canadian dollars, not USD) barista job, which asks for the following:

    “We are interested in individuals who are/have:
    – Aligned and passionate about the vision of [bakery café] and able to articulate and exemplify that in their service, handling and knowledge of food and drink products.
    – A life-purpose to have a career within a bakery café or see it as a stepping stone into a related field.
    – An upbeat and positive demeanour with vocabulary to articulate and express yourselves well.
    – A sincere interest in others. Curious about what matters to people.
    – Into the vision of creating a space where people feel belonged and is memorable for them.
    – Personable and works well with colleagues as a group or collective mindset to create unique customer experiences and comfortable workplace.
    – Level-headed and calm with the ability to multitask effectively in the midst of a fast-paced environment.
    – Love all-things coffee, fresh baked pastries and bread, and enjoying food and learning more about it.”

    It’s the “life purpose” part that really kills me.

    And if experience is anything to go by, most folks around here who own & manage coffee shops who *expect* this from the people they hire will also do everything they can to make the work environment as oppressive, ridiculous, and dysfunctional as possible and would never pay a comfortable wage (in this city just a living wage for basic needs is $19.50/hr) to support their employees in actually bringing all the best, most well-rested, self-realized, least stressed-out and burned-out parts of themselves to the job.

    For jobs like this, hire for competence, pay decently and manage well to engender employee loyalty and high morale, and keep people around by giving flexibility so they can pursue other work (around here, that includes music, arts, seasonal sports) or schooling over the long-term. Don’t look for magical unicorns who just wanna be underpaid baristas soaking up coffee spills and customer complaints for the rest of their lives because it seems more convenient to YOU. ARRGHH.

    1. Jay*

      That’s a lot of requirements for, basically, “Froth Slave”.
      Unless they promote very, very heavily (and very, very regularly) from within, or mentor and train them like crazy (so they can get a better job elsewhere).
      Or it’s just some crap someone in senior management who has never stepped inside one of their shops in their lives came up with and now it has to be copied onto all job postings.

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      The thing about “life purpose” is that it can change with time and circumstances. It’s the misuse of language that gets me. Pur gobbledygook.

  60. AnonymousinWI*

    I recently came across a job posting that had “must not be a danger to themselves or others” as one of the job requirements in the posting. Never seen that one before.

  61. Brazilian Hobbit*

    Is Joker a hiring manager now?

    Sorry, sorry. But really, it is really odd, especially when it’s not a customer facing position, though I’d still frown at seeing it in a customer-facing position ad.

    I may be jaded, but I feel what they really mean is “able to work at a toxic environment and act like everything is just fine”. It may be that they want specific behaviors and don’t know how to express it, but it looks like a red flag that things are not… happiness-inducing in the companies.

  62. Junior Assistant Peon*

    It’s been my experience that negative coworkers with bad attitudes often have a legitimate reason to feel that way. Companies that complain about bad employee attitudes often have themselves (or past management teams) to blame.

  63. Frankie*

    Also possibly really bad from a gender/culture/race perspective, since expectations for projecting “happiness” already differ for women, for example.

  64. Renee*

    OMG!! The only thing missing from those job postings is a bullet point that says “Must come into the office every morning like a singing Disney princess.” I would run the hell away!

  65. boop the first*

    Yes, listed specific qualities with context would be way better. When I had a customer facing job, I would get feedback from customers who would say I was the first employee that actually smiled kindly at them and made them feel acknowledged. At the time, it was a shock because inside I was so miserable there that I was fantasizing about my own demise 24/7 and I thought that anyone could see it on my face. I guess you really don’t have to be happy at your workplace to fill the role.

    Those job descriptions are kind of great because they reveal so much.

  66. DrRat*

    Am I the only one thinking it would be fun to submit a fake resume under the name Evie Russell and go in to the interview dressed like her and in full Emotional Vampire mode?

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