Being an introvert whilst trying to get a promotion in an extroverted company
An old colleague of mine joined me for lunch recently and inevitably after the usual catchups and sharing of office gossip the chat turned to 'so how is work going... for you?' My friend had recently been promoted and I've just had my first ever appraisal. Being that I've always been freelance until April this year it was a bit new for me. Somewhat enjoyable (what moment of ego stroking and being told you're doing a good job isn't enjoyable), and somewhat cringe. Cue: the CAREER DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVE. Sigh.
The conversation with my friend actually started with us talking about our personality types and fitting in to company styles, brand personalities and the like. We are both total introverts and had experienced similar situations with colleagues of other personality types trying to 'bring us out of our shell'. I think the problem with introverts is that no-one really gets us. They think introverted = shy. Now anyone who knows me will know that I am definitely not shy!
Just to break the myths, here's the best thing I've ever seen to summarise an introvert.
In talking to my friend about her recent promotion we realised that in both working situations we had been given caveats on moving forward in our careers that revolved around becoming more extroverted in our working styles. Doing so seemed to our employers to equal participation, a great attitude and an eagerness to work.
The caveats? For both of us they seemed to be based upon being more collaborative with people that we work with (read: work in the same office as), getting involved or showing interest in other people's projects, 'reaching out' to more senior members of the company and not just focusing on our own projects. If you take a look at the graphic above you will clearly see that all of these stipulations of us moving forward are based around us changing our personality type. Companies frame it as being an aspiration or goal. But if the goal for an extrovert was to stop being social or interested in other projects and just to get on with their own work, they would probably find that really hard to do, most likely hate it and come to resent their workplace. Is this the way the working world works? Biased to the extroverted?
Unfortunately it seems the only way for us (introverts) to advance is to suck it up and fake it till we make it. To most introverts I know, 'fake it till you make it' is almost asking someone to stick pins in your eyes. I'm a realist. No bullshit, straight to the chase. If I don't see any merit from what you're asking to my general working day I will really struggle to do it. I guess that's going to hold me back in my career progression. But should it? Surely working environments should understand that people come in all shapes, sizes, strengths and weaknesses. Why is being an introvert considered a weakness?
Us introverts aren't moody, quiet, judgemental, or unkind. We like to focus on our own work and do a good job of it. Sometimes getting involved or showing interest in other projects may seem easy to an extrovert, but to us, it's really draining, and frankly, unnecessary.
Until the working world starts to understand introverts a little better, I'm afraid that we may see the extroverted move forward into senior positions faster.
So what do we do? How can we help our workplaces to understand the introverts?