After my post about my introverted self, one of the follow-up posts I’ve had on my “to write” list was how employers/managers should manage introverts. In my own experience, I always felt throughout my career that my employers tried to transform me into an extrovert. Performance review after performance review was consistently peppered with “needs to speak up more”, “needs to participate more vocally in meetings”, “needs to voice her opinions more”, despite the fact that at the end of the day, I outperformed on deliverables.
I often felt frustrated by this, because while I probably didn’t recognize it at the time, I really wanted to say, “But that’s just not the kind of person I am; you don’t understand how I work.”
Coincidentally, I’ve suddenly been seeing a lot more noise about this topic in social media and in the press in the past week. I watched this TED Talk from Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. It was another enlightening moment for me, as she pointed out how our education systems and our workplaces are built to encourage extroverted behaviour, and if you don’t play by those rules, you are labelled as anti-social. More often that not, introverts get passed up for promotions even though they are the stronger performers.
What a great point: if one out of every two to three people are introverted, we need to find a way to work with them!
Today’s Globe & Mail also tackled the issue of kids who are identified as introverts and how the school system – and even parents – treat this as a condition that has to be corrected. But why do they assume there’s something “wrong” with introversion? The flaw with this article is that the writer seemed to equate introversion with shyness. Shyness is a condition where one can be crippled with social anxieties. Introverts don’t have a problem interacting socially, they just don’t like to do it in large groups.
As Cain points out, schools and workplaces need to adapt with different ways to optimize introverted students’ and workers’ productivity. We actually have a lot to offer, but you’ll never get it fully out of us in an extroverted environment.