Every few days I scour the pages of seek.com looking for a job. It is a bit like looking for a date on RSVP. I filter out the ones that are too far away, too boring and too conservative. My days of wearing a pencil skirt and blazer are over.
But unlike internet dating where my success rate was quite good, my emails filled with details about how fabulous I am go unnoticed. I don’t get feigned interest, or gentle rejections — hell I don’t even get brutal criticism about my lack of suitability, what I get is nothing at all.
I get the silent treatment.
It may have been a long time since I wandered into the job market, but I don’t remember being so blatantly ignored. I send off my carefully crafted cover letter, addressing each of the seventy-two selection criteria, and then … crickets.
Sadly, being on the receiving end of the silent treatment is a trigger for me. My parents and my late husband thought withdrawing all communication was an effective way of punishing me. Getting no response from someone catapults me back to a place I thought I had left behind, a place where I feel I am not good enough.
But perhaps those thoughtless potential employers aren’t punishing me, perhaps they are trying to spare my feelings. As the saying goes, ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. I disagree. I would rather you tell me how you feel, even if it is negative feedback.
I am not a delicate flower that will fall to pieces at the first breath of a cold wind — I am pretty tough. I would rather you tell me I am too old, overqualified, too feisty, too weird or too scary for your organisation than for you to say nothing at all.
I would rather my boyfriend tell me when I am being selfish, or mean, or insensitive than for him to withdraw silently.
I think we all tiptoe around each other too much, worried we will hurt each other’s feelings. Our reticence is well-intentioned, but perhaps misguided. You can tell me about my flaws because I already know what they are. If you point them out, I won’t be offended, I will just try harder to do better in the future.
Don’t give me the silent treatment because I cannot bear it. I would rather have your criticism than nothing at all. From the first I can grow, change and transform, and from the second I learn nothing.
Would you rather hear the brutal truth or have your feelings spared?