Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Introversion in the workplace: a few observations

Forget what they teach you during that MBTI results review session:  for the most part it's basically not okay to be a strong introvert in the workplace.  At least for many occupations.  As someone who has always been a strong introvert and who has spent a quarter century working in the for-profit private sector, a few things are clear to me:

  • Malady - Introversion is still viewed as a kind of malady that needs to be "overcome".  How many times have heard "Oh, Bob is really shy, but he'll loosen up once he gets to know people here"...or something like that?  It's as if our friend "Bob" has a cold that will soon run its course.  Maybe, just maybe, Bob is not overly comfortable interacting with the group.  Let's not even get into confusing being "shy" with actual introversion.
  • Extroverts - Extroverts get to appear to be in control simply by virtue of their talky natures. Forget what the statistics say, as 50 people shouting will always sound louder than 50 people speaking softly.
  • Actors Studio - It's my concerted opinion (based on my own experiences & observations) that successful introverts in the workplace by and large almost always have to learn to "act" extroverted.  I do it all the time.  In fact I think I've got it down to a science...so much so that I can actually "fool" people into believing that I am this flaming extrovert.  Never mind that I turn into a lump of anti-social jello at the end of the day.
  • Extroverts make for bad workplace actors - Extroverts by and large have a difficult time "acting" introverted for an extended period of time, which is a good thing, as there is virtually no pressure for them to do so anyway.
  • Group support - I was talking to a fellow introvert at work the other day about this very topic when this funny thought occurred to me:  we introverts should get together more often to talk about strategies in the workplace...which sounded like a good idea at first...until I realized that I really don't like group interactions all that much (even with other introverts) anyway.  Yes, if you get a bunch of extroverts together and you get a party; get a bunch of introverts together and you get a bunch of people that don't want to get together.
Is it an extroverted world?  Not really, but it is easy to see why some think so.  American culture puts the action hero on a pedestal and mocks the bookish nerd.  Never mind that it was probably a "bookish nerd" that wrote the action hero's story in the first place.  As for me, well I'll gladly "play" the action hero if, at the end of the day, I can crawl back into my own skin for some decompression.
 

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