Why every office needs an introvert

by | Aug 27, 2020

 

In this month’s blog

 

Remember the 1994 film ‘Forrest Gump’, when the lead character played by Tom Hanks says “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

We have moved to Lockdown Level 2 and sadly we still don’t quite know what we are getting, but it does seem that the corporate world is not entirely buying into the “work from home” dream. Back to the office we go.  To the meetings, the conferences, and the office politics – it’s all still there, as we left it 6 months ago.

Introverts were loving every bit of working from home – the peace and quiet, the uninterrupted workflow, and cuddling with the cat during every coffee break.

But back in the office, the making of a successful team is intricate and between tasks needing completion on the one hand, and egos on the other hand, it’s is a slippery slope.

Today we present a survival guide for the office introvert who would much rather be in the dentist chair than listen to office small talk.

 

FIRST: LET’S MAKE SURE WE KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AND INTROVERT AND EXTROVERT

 

“Introverts get their energy from within, and extroverts get theirs from the outside world.”

Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler simplifies it even further by posing the deal-breaker question:  “Do you need time to recharge after being with people? If the answer is a resounding yes!, then there is a good chance you are an introvert.”

She explains that opposites within the workspace or relationships can produce “Exponential Results”, but before this happens it is essential for introverts and extroverts to understand each other’s different “languages”.  She uses the example of having one group who can see only close up and one who can see only in the distance.  At first, it seems like an unsurmountable calamity but when you blend the two scenes, the picture comes into focus.

Want to quickly check where you fit in? Take this quiz by Psychologies UK: https://www.psychologies.co.uk/self/are-you-an-introvert-or-an-extrovert.html

WHY EVERY OFFICE NEEDS AN INTROVERT

The macro cosmos that is an office, tends to function best when it has equal representation across all personality types.  Chatty Charlie in sales breezes through any networking opportunity while Humble Hannah lends an empathic ear to HR issues. So where do introverts fit in and more importantly:

What are the definite perks to hiring an introvert?

  • Introverts are great listeners. They tend to listen to different sides of the story and gather additional information before making up their minds.
  • Because they are good listeners, they are also good at interviewing. Expect questions that are to the point and strategic from an introvert HR manager.
  • Introverts are good at managing their time, schedules, and budgeting. If it needs organising, then Mr. or Ms. Introvert is your go-to.
  • They excel in written communication. If your press release, newsletter, or social media is in the hands of an introvert, you have backed a winner.
  • Interestingly enough, introverts are also suited for sales. Whereas the extrovert’s sales tactics may include talking the hind leg off a donkey, the introvert uses his listening skills and problem-solving ability as part of his sales arsenal.

Introverts tend to be very driven and outcome-focussed. Productivity is one of their best qualities even though this is sometimes seen as a lack of social skills.

5 THINGS YOUR OFFICE INTROVERT DOES THAT MIGHT SEEM RUDE, BUT AREN’T

I often walk past a colleague’s table first thing in the morning and at 8h05 she already has those large earphones on – the kind that blocks out the world at all costs. Maybe she’s busy with her morning meditation, who knows, or maybe she just wants to block out idle chatter around the coffee pot.

At first, I thought that’s a bit rude, but now I know better.

Before reading any further, repeat this after me: “Your Office Introvert Doesn’t Hate You. It really, really is nothing personal.”

 

What else does the office introvert get up to that might puzzle the extroverts and Boss?

 

  1. Eating lunch alone – because as an introvert we really need to recharge our batteries, and eating lunch and listening to small talk is a bit like sticking needles in our eyes.
  2. Not making small talk – just how much senseless nonsense can one listen to and be part of, in one day? Introverts believe words are precious and should not be wasted on hour-long discussions about the Kardashians or the petrol price. What would this accomplish in any case? Let your words count.
  3. Not sharing personal information – when we do get to know and love you, we will be so happy to share personal info. For now, not so much.
  4. Not contributing during meetings – after being shouted down by the company extrovert with a Pavarotti voice, no one really feels like contributing to a meeting. Seeing how a group succumbs to the charisma of a loudhailer personality, and then fall subject to mob justice is very sad. Remember our last blog about successful meetings – The Rule of Seven? Understanding the introvert’s meeting style should be added to the list.
  5. Not smiling much – Don’t tell us a “slip on the banana skin” joke. Intrigue us with intelligent humour. You will be surprised by how much we can smile.

STRATEGIES TO GET THE BEST FROM YOUR INTROVERT DURING OFFICE HOURS AND MEETINGS:

 

  1. Rituals – your office introvert knows that saying hello and goodbye are essential for keeping up the team spirit. Spend the first 5 minutes of the morning for coffee-making, and catching up. Something as simple as returning that coffee cup to the basin and saying goodbye to whoever is still around, makes light of an introverts anxiety. There is safety in ritual.

 

  1. The 5-second rule:If your relationship with the office extrovert is of such a nature, ask for a small pause. The same applies to conferences or meetings – allow a small pause for all to gather their thoughts before jumping to solutions or opinions. Introverts need to think things through for a second or two before speaking up.

 

  1. Walking meetings: Jennifer Kahnweiler explains in her book The Genius of Opposites: “… a walk makes it easier for introverts to talk out their ideas since they don’t have to make constant eye contact. When they are talking or searching for words, introverts tend to look away from others to reduce visual stimuli so their brains are not as flooded with input.”

 

  1. Preparation: Unfortunately, meetings favour extroverted communication. Introverts, therefore, need to find ways that make them comfortable joining in. Author Brad Stone uses the example of Jeff Bezos who, before every meeting at Amazon, asks employees to write down their points in detail. The meeting then begins in silence as everyone reads the document which is distributed beforehand. Bezos believes it both encourages critical thinking and gives introverts time for reflection before the discussion begins.

 

  1. Phone calls Show me an introvert who loves phone calls and I will show you a unicorn. Phone calls are a bit like being put on the spot by your boss during a meeting or conference.

The best way to minimise the stress of a phone call (or being put on the spot, for that matter), is to be prepared. If in any way it is possible to schedule calls or block a certain time in your diary for receiving calls, then this would save introverts loads of anxiety.

Unexpected interruptions (like phone calls) tend to be met with irritability by introverts. It just derails your current thought process and brings an abrupt halt to what you were busy with. Add the awkward pauses during a telephone conversation, or speaking at the same time?  And so much small talk before you can get to the actual point? An introvert’s nightmare.

Fight the battle with implementing phone rituals and slots if possible.

THE INTROVERT HANGOVER

Still feeling doubtful about the legitimacy of being an introvert? It’s real and it’s chemical. Welcome to the term “introvert hangover”, a phrase coined by Shawna Courter.

On her blog page Introvert, Dear,  She describes an introvert hangover: “It starts with an actual physical reaction to overstimulation. Your ears might ring, your eyes start to blur, and you feel like you’re going to hyperventilate. Maybe your palms sweat. And then your mind feels like it kind of shuts down, building barriers around itself …”

 

If you have ever been put on the spot in the middle of Zoom call to share a document and don’t have a cooking clue how to do this, you will know exactly what I mean.

 

Research shows that introverts are wired to respond differently than extroverts to rewards. Rewards don’t make introverts tick or leave them energized.  A little hormone and neurotransmitter called Dopamine is to blame for this.

It turns out that Introverts are more sensitive to Dopamine than extroverts and get their fill of Dopamine a lot quicker. Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, in her 2002 book, The Introvert Advantage, writes “introverts simply need less of it to feel its pleasant effects. Too much Dopamine and introverts get overstimulated.” And that folks, is when the much dreaded Introvert hangover kicks in.

 

To the office extrovert, we have three words: Practice the Pause.

Next time you turn the morning coffee into rugby commentary, remember there is a guy or girl standing in line for coffee who knows way much more than you do but just can’t be bothered to interrupt your cascade of words.

Practice the 5-second pause and see what happens…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

CHRISTA BADENHORST

She knows her Merlot from her Mojito, her hotel from her motel. From craft food to caviar, her innate curiosity about life and wanderlust provide inspiration for her blogs, articles and press releases about the travel, wedding and Spa industry. Over twenty years in the hotel marketing & PR arena with impressive hotel groups, from Dubai to Durbanville, has evolved into the pure enjoyment of freelance projects under the banner of About Branding.

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