Anyone who knows even a little about me knows that I am a proud Introvert. It is a personality trait I refer to often, and wear it as a badge of honor. People who follow me on social media will also often see me post articles referencing topics such as the Myths of Introversion or Harnessing the Power of Introverts. The reality is, though, that while there are oodles of resources about understanding introverts, there are folks who either don’t read them…or just don’t care. The are people who do believe that silence means disengagement or that a need to quietly recharge is a sign of being antisocial. The other reality is that we all either do or will work with people who hold these beliefs, and in work environments, especially those that are highly politically charged, we introverts have to learn to adapt. How do we do that?
Be Strategic About Your “Recharge” Time: Some of us may work in an environment that doesn’t provide much luxury for the needed moments to hide away and regain your energy. We might need to recharge after work is over (a long commute perhaps). Or engage in an activity at work that allows you both to be social and alone (like running with people at lunch). Another strategy is be extra social during peak times where people tend to congregate and use the off-times (such as large meetings we might not be a part of) to take a deep breath. Of course, when all else fails…there’s always the bathroom..
Be Prepared: For some of us, it might be difficult when we are put on the spot. Our need to be thoughtful about the answers we give might, at times, be perceived as not knowing the answer. Whenever possible, try to gain as much information you can in advance of meetings you’re attending. Ask for agendas, read the agendas, and prepare talking points for any items that might even tangentially relate to the work you’re doing. For agenda items that aren’t yours, do some homework. If you have honest questions or a desire for more depth, write it down and bring those questions with you. If you don’t get an opportunity to ask questions or offer input, follow up with the individual after the meeting (on the phone or in person, not just in e-mail).
Play to Your Strengths: If you’re a part of a committee or some type of task-group, volunteer for SOMETHING – but not just anything. Volunteer for tasks that fit the best with your strengths. You don’t necessarily need to be the point person or in charge of the task. If your strengths can add value to the work that needs to be done, your chances of success are higher. Plus, the comfort level of doing something that’s in your “wheelhouse” will help in your engagement level.
Be Your Own PR Team: This is where I struggle the most. In fact, I have a frequent rider card for this struggle bus. I feel very uncomfortable bringing attention to myself. I would much rather highlight the achievements or others, and sometimes that also means I will defer the credit as well. That’s not a “humblebrag” – I realize this is a detriment. As a manager, bringing attention to the work I’m doing can only help the work of our office as a whole. Plus, the reality is that, especially in politically charged environments, someone is going to get credit for work that is accomplished – and if you don’t take it, someone else will. Some of us are fortunate to work for or with people who are generous with sharing the work of others. I often speak of a former supervisor and mentor who lived for bragging about his employees like he was taking pictures of his kids out of his wallet. But, he was also in a position where he no longer needed to take credit. He had (and still has) tremendous political capital, and his work ethic was rarely questioned (and those who did soon learned better). Not all of us are that fortunate to have such allies on our team. We, and we alone, need to toot our own horns…so learn to pucker up!
Take a Walk: Simple advice, yes, but advice that can help in a number of ways. If there’s a need to meet with someone, try to offer to go to them versus having them come to you. First, especially if the person is across campus, you might be able to fit in some of that quiet recharge time during the stroll. Second, popping your head into other offices to say hello along the way is an easy way to keep the connections with colleagues, especially if your paths don’t cross very often. Added bonus, if you’re wearing a pedometer you can add to your daily steps!
Whether it’s fair or not, the reality is that the quality of your work will not always be judged on merit alone. It’s not always about WHAT you do, but WHO SEES YOU DO IT. It’s no secret that success requires us all to get out of our comfort zones. The same holds true for our personality types. Go eat lunch in the cafeteria once in a while. Say yes to the fundraiser or happy hour after work. Let your voice be heard in meetings (when you have something valuable to offer). We can still be authentic in our introversion, while also pushing outside of our comfort zone. Introversion is a strength, don’t let others turn it into our weakness.