help! I’m an extrovert managing a team of introverts

If you’re an extroverted manager, you might find yourself mystified by your more introverted staff members: They don’t want to do workplace social events, they’d rather not team-build, and they stay in their offices all day. How are you supposed to create a cohesive team when everyone’s acting like a hermit?

The strange reality is that there’s a default in American workplace culture to assume extroversion. But some of the management practices that work well with extroverts can go over like a lead balloon with introverts – which means that you should be particularly thoughtful about how you manage your introverts.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to win over the hearts of introverts, even if their work style is different from what feels natural to you. You can read it here.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Clever Name

    Yes to number 2! I feel caught off guard and kind of like an idiot when a manager puts me on the spot and asks a question that really requires some thought, because I can never come up with a decent answer in the moment. I really need at least a day to process. And no, I’m not taking 8 hours to think about one thing. I’m letting the question/problem percolate in my subconscious as well as actively thinking about it while I do other things. Luckily, my managers have realized that they will get much higher quality work from me if they let me think about certain things before getting back to them.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      I was coming here to say the exact same thing. I hate on-the-spot brainstorming, because I need time to think things through. What might seem like a great idea at first may turn out to be unfeasible because of other issues not taken into consideration at first. Even if I still pitch it as an idea, I’d rather say, “Well we could do X, but we would need to think about how to care for Y and Z,” instead of charging ahead and running into problems later.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yes! Could not agree more. The very few times Ive been asked for input by the President, its been on the spot like this and during a meeting about something else entirely…and then I actually think of some good feedback or idea later, but have no access to him. (Im not supposed to email him directly, ever) so I have to email my manager and I don’t know what happens from there, she either passes it on and never hears back or sits in it because it’s no longer good timing…ugh so frustrating

    2. The IT Manager

      Slightly OT but not really.

      I had a friend who frustrated me because she’d brainstorm out loud but I didn’t realize it was brainstorming. I’d be happy and ready to fully support her plans but then she changed her mind. My revelation was when I realized that she was just brainstorming out loud whereas I think about these types of things, decide, and make my announcement only when the decision has been made. Lesson: Introverts may like to brainstorm privately and only speak once they’ve given things full consideration.

      1. Sharon

        OMG, you just gave me a lightening strike – I think this has happened to me, too. I know in the past I’ve ground my teeth when my volunteer team lead talks about something and then when asked later she says it was never under consideration. I’ve wondered if she was super absent-minded or lying or what, just befuddled and frustrated.

        So then the next question is, how do you tell the difference between those people just thinking out loud and making a decision? Ugh!

        1. LQ

          Ask. My director does this. But he’s generally pretty clear about it. When he isn’t I just ask him “do you want me to move forward on this?”

          1. Ariadne Oliver

            This!! Those of us who like to take our time and mull things over often verbalize our thoughts. I realize that it confuses other people when we don’t verbalize ALL our thoughts, because they only hear one or two and don’t realize there’s a lot more going on in our brains. Just ask the person “are you thinking out loud, or is this the direction you’ve decided to go?”

            As for brainstorming during a meeting, I think that managers who put people on the spot in meetings should be flogged. It always makes me think they want that person to look bad in front of others.

        2. Emily K

          When I’m leading a meeting, or within a meeting it sounds like an action item is being assigned that falls under my purview, I always like to summarize action items about 5 minutes before the meeting ends: “OK, so, *scans down notes* I’m going to reach out to Lucinda in R&D to interview her for a story in our Annual Report about the new Fruit Teapots line under development, and I’ll also circulate a draft Annual Report table of contents report to everyone here.”

          If I’m running the meeting, I’ll also list everyone else’s action items: “We also agreed that Fergus is going to work on the foreword and will circulate for us to review, and Wakeen will select the 10 best photos we received in our “Take a Photo with Your Chocolate Teapot” customer promotion and post them to our Facebook account later this week. We’ll all give the content an initial boost by re-sharing to our own networks and asking the company all-staff list to do the same.”

          It’s a really good way to make sure that everyone leaves the meeting on the same page and nothing slips through the cracks because someone didn’t catch they were supposed to do it, and no half-baked ideas end up getting erroneously executed.

          1. GOG11

            OT, but I *adore* your teapot examples here. I frequently try to convert my job or field-specific stuff or advice for others on here into teapot terms, and I really struggle. It’s probably a bit weird to say, but your examples are fun and cute and I love them.

      2. MaryMary

        I had a client who would brainstorm out loud, but she would answer herself too! “Well, we could do A, but I don’t think department 1 would respond well. Or we could try B, but we implemented something similar in 1997 and it was a disaster. How about if we do C?” I would just wait until she stopped talking or asked me a direct question.

      3. TT

        We actually coined a phrase for this during a leadership class: TOL (Thinking Out Loud). After receiving some affirmation that I’m not a total fool for doing this so often (because I’m a raging extrovert), I had the following conversation with my husband (raging introvert):

        Me: So Jay, talking out loud is how I THINK. Mind = blown!
        Husband: But….aren’t you supposed to think before you speak?

        *Husband walks away chuckling under his breath.*

      4. ggg

        There was a rule with my Ph.D. advisor — if he told you to do something three times, he was really serious about it. One or two times, he would forget about it or decide it wasn’t important, but three times meant it was actually a good idea.

    3. lowercase holly

      if it’s just my manager and me brainstorming together, nbd, but she will definitely get better quality answers if she sends the question ahead of time. usually if i’m asked something in person, i will end up following up later with more ideas anyway.

    4. LQ

      I’ve gotten much, much better at coming up with answers on the spot. But the problem is when I “brainstorm” only give one answer, the one I think is the best answer. And then I’m done. No, really I don’t have 40 answers. I ran through and dismissed bad ones, the one I’ve presented is the one I like. People at my office want to have dozens of answers (and I still get a little grumpy when people think that the one answer I’ve thrown out is just one throw away answer when I feel like it is a Good Answer – yes I know that isn’t how “brainstorming” works but I don’t like it).

    5. Pipette

      I’m an introvert too, but I’ve learned how to brainstorm by doing improvisation theatre. It takes quite a lot of effort at first, but once you’ve figured it out it’s like turning a switch in the brain from “carefully considered reasoning” to “lets throw something feasible out there and see where it goes”. I think it actually sped up my carefully considered reasoning process too somehow. Good brainstorming sessions have a different dynamic, because everyone knows that you’re dishing out half-baked ideas so it’s not nearly as bad being wrong or have an idea rejected. But anyways, being able to adjust your mental quality assurance processes to be appropriate for the situation is a useful skill for everyone.

  2. AdAgencyChick

    OMFG 4 and 5 get all of the YESSSSSSSS from me.

    Work social events are not fun to me. They feel more like work than actual work does. I know I’m not the only one.

    1. Allison

      Yup, I hate them too. I absolutely suck at chatting with people in the company and usually cling to my coworkers the whole time.

      My company actually has a thing tonight, and I rarely go because they’re usually on nights where I have a dance class, I don’t have class tonight so I feel like I should go. But my manager has never given me a hard time for not going so I wonder if my just not going (with no excuse) won’t be a big deal.

      Well, maybe I do have an excuse: I wanna make French food to celebrate Bastille Day, and I’m worried Whole Foods will run out of baguettes!

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Thank goodness we do not have any social events here. One thing they got 100%right here

    3. MashaKasha

      No, no you’re not the only one! They feel like overtime work, that in most cases you also get to pay for! Not fun!

    4. JC

      I am an introvert to the extreme, but at my currently workplace, I actually don’t mind them. I like my coworkers and am comfortable with them, so I find work-related social events fun and not awkward. I have definitely worked other places where I have dreaded them, though. Particularly at places where the staff was cliquey and I wasn’t part of the clique.

    5. Jem

      Amen. I would honestly rather be told I have to work an extra two hours than have to attend the office holiday party. Though I’d prefer neither!

  3. A Teacher

    Thank you! Big building meetings with 100+ people are overwhelming enough and I like my coworkers, for the most part. It’s bad enough walking into a meeting and trying to figure out where I sit, getting called on with no warning and the inability to brainstorm is overwhelming at times.

  4. Maxwell Edison

    #2 was a big issue back at ToxicJob. If you couldn’t come up with an answer to something on the spot, you were a shirker. The worst part was that it for the longest time management was OK and understanding of needing to “percolate” ideas, but one day that was verboten and it was all instant brainstorming.

  5. Menacia

    Myself and the team I work on are all introverts (we work in IT, surprise, surprise!) and our boss is more of an extrovert, but not to overtly so. I find your list of ways to manage introverts to be spot on. My boss will call/IM me with a question and expects an immediate answer. I’ve learned to say “Can you give me a minute or so and I’ll get back to you?” if it’s a question that requires some thought/research. When we are all in our weekly meeting, and our boss asks for ideas or recommendations from the team, you could hear a pin drop. I end up doing most of the talking, just to get everyone else going because I speak their language. Though we work in cubicles, the walls are high enough that you can’t see everyone else, though you can hear them. We do have options to work in other areas of the office if we need some quiet, which does help. I LOVE email communication the most out of any other form, it allows me the time to think before responding, and have the information written down in case I need to refer back to it. I pick and choose the social events I want to attend, and don’t feel pressured (though when my boss was new, she did try to push me to join the group for lunch every day, I essentially nipped that in the bud, my lunch, my prerogative). Team building activities, I actually like these if the activity is right for the people involved. One thing our department did as a group was the Myers Briggs MBTI personality typing. What was funny was the one guy who I would have thought would be way high up on the introvert scale actually sees himself as an extrovert. The introverts were placed on one side of the room, and the extroverts on the other, to see him standing next to the loudest, in-your-face extrovert in our department was rather amusing. I would have liked to say that this meeting brought up some ideas for how extroverts and introverts could work together, but nothing has changed. Since I’ve started educating myself about my introversion, I’ve learned more about how to better handle certain people and situations. I don’t expect others to change for me, but I now have no problem speaking up if something isn’t working for me, and am open to working toward a mutual resolution.

    1. Ariadne Oliver

      IMO, you are using the facts about introverts and extroverts the correct way. Too many people think that these personality tests are about ways to get other people to change to their way of thinking; however, they are actually meant to help different types of people communicate better. Good for you and everyone else who is thinking now of better ways to communicate with others.

  6. Allison

    Oh man, being put on the spot in brainstorming meetings is the worst! And it happens eat every offsite team meeting we have! We usually have some activity where we need to write ways we can improve the team on post-it notes, then put the notes on a board, and I can never think of a thing to write but my coworkers always have plenty of suggestions.

  7. Sue Wilson

    Yes to 1 and 3. I actually love social gatherings and team-building…if they’re an hour or less. It’s definitely not the activity that’s the problem, it’s the time I feel I have to stay at the activity past the time I am ready to go. On-the-spot brainstorming has never bothered me, and I’m sure there are plenty of extroverts, because I know them, who would have a problem with that too.

    1. Sue Wilson

      As a side note, I think the colloquial definition of introvert/extroverts has moved away from the social-scientific definition in a way I think is unhelpful. I love doing things. I just know that I will quickly tire of them and have to go back to my cave of solitude far more quickly than other people. Give me an ice cream social anyday. Don’t make me stay at the ice cream social for 3 hours.

      And that goes the same for person-to-person communication as well as on-the-spot brainstorming. I’ve always been quick on my feet and I enjoy being so and doing things that stretch those muscles. I like talking to people and sometimes prefer in-person communication (as long as it’s not directives, because I will forget them). I just want a set time period for that type of thinking, because it will exhaust me if I don’t mentally prepare.

      I just think people assume that because introverts don’t do certain things often or for long, that they don’t like doing those things, and for me at least, that’s not the case at all.

      1. Rita

        Yes, this. I’m an introvert and I love work outings (I’m usually the one planning them). But you usually find me off to the side observing instead of participating, or in a one-on-one conversation with someone. And afterwards I definitely need to recharge.

        1. Kate M

          As an introvert, I agree that I also love planning events. In fact, I’m much more comfortable in social situations if I actually have a job to do (I like to be the one hosting, or doing the cooking, or in charge of the grill, or manning the ticket booth for a while). That might be a little more on the social-anxiety side of things than on the introvert side, but I feel like it gives me a purpose for being there, and I can retreat into doing my job if I get stuck talking to someone I don’t know, or don’t have anyone to talk with at the moment.

          1. Snargulfuss

            Susan Cain talks about this in her book Quiet. She writes that introverts often-times feel more comfortable hosting or entertaining because it allows them to have a responsibility or purpose that can either be a break from social interaction or help facilitate conversation with people.

          2. Chalupa Batman

            I’m a strong introvert, and while I hate social events with people I don’t know well, I don’t mind planning them for exactly this reason-if I have something to do, I don’t feel anxious about all the people and I always have something to talk about. I avoid volunteering for other people’s events because I don’t like the feeling of standing around waiting for something to do. For the most part, formal social interaction needs a purpose for me to feel comfortable.

      2. KJR

        Well this is comforting…there’s more of me out there! I thought I was a big party pooper because I don’t like to do social events for long. Just as you stated, I enjoy them, but don’t ask me to do it for 3 hours! Now I see it’s part of being introverted. Makes perfect sense now!

      3. eplawyer

        The best explanation I heard of introvert/extrovert was that introverts draw their energy from being alone and extroverts draw their energy from being with others. That doesn’t mean that introverts can’t do social events or that extroverts can never be alone. It’s just where they get their energy from to do things.

        As an introvert that nobody believes is one (one friend said I have an “outgoing personality) I find this explanation works for me. I can go to things, but then I need to leave because I am just tired. I need to go home and re-energize after being on the spot. While on the spot I am fine, but I need a break.

        It’s also a sliding scale. Some people are more extroverted introverts and some people are more introverted extroverts.

        1. eplawyer

          oh and self-employed person who works from home. The perfect arrangements for me. With an office, people could be there. I would have to interact, etc. This way, I keep in touch with the outside world via chat, texts and email. But on my terms. It works and I get a lot more done than I ever did in previous jobs that involved being in a open office. Or even one with a separate space but still expected to have an open door.

        2. Meg Murry

          Yes – this so describes me. I can be “on” for a few hours, and make small talk with my co-workers or clients. With my co-workers I can go a little longer, but with clients or people I don’t know as well or need to be on my best behavior with – after an hour or two I am drained, and I need to spend the rest of the day ALONE, preferably in a place where I don’t have to even see or hear anyone else. It has sapped every bit of my energy to be “on” for those few hours, and I need to be alone to recharge.

          1. AJS

            This describes me almost perfectly. I can be “on” but all of a sudden I will reach my limit and will think of nothing but how to get home so that I can be alone.

        3. ancolie

          Yup. The closer I am to people, the more time I have until I need to recharge, generally. But there’s *always* a limit.

          I’ve had a few times where my energy reserves were drained and I could not/did not have the option to go and recharge. The worst was the week-long field school for my grad program. A close (extroverted) friend carpooled with me (~4 hour drive), we stayed at another friend’s parents’ house with her because they conveniently lived right by, and a friend of hers (maaaajor extrovert) we hadn’t met before was there, too.

          I learned that introverted me should NOT EVER be the only transportation with 2 extroverted friends for a whole week. I really liked the new friend, too! But after the day’s work was done, they ALWAYS wanted to go places. At first that was fine, but I began to burn out because it didn’t seem fair for me to make them stay home so I could recharge AND I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD DRIVE ANYWHERE.

          Man, I got burned out, then charred, then charred more and compressed into charcoal, then got soaked with lighter fluid. The next tiniest thing ended up being a match. I just couldn’t take it anymore, but I didn’t even realize this was the problem! They’re my friends! I like them! But I became irritable, then agitated, then pissed off. It kept getting worse and worse and they were having a great time and laughing and that made it worse, too. I was BOILING with rage and fury at them and I didn’t know why.

          No hyperbole, I was enraged. Increased heart rate and blood pressure, this -> <- close to tears, balled up fists, monosyllabic replies to them, doing everything in my power to not start screaming. It was the intensity of, like, 100 preschoolers' tantrums at once.

          Everything turned out okay afterwards, and my friend and I had a really great talk and figured out that fundamental difference we had, but I NEVER want to experience that again.

      4. themmases

        I agree. I am very introverted, and also pretty shy, but I recently took a second job where the major attraction for me (besides money) was to be able to get out of my office and meet members of the public. It also involves spending much of the day navigating and being driven around by someone I’d never met before this job started. Then I go into stores in totally unfamiliar parts of the city and convince shop owners to let me write down a bunch of information about a controversial item they sell.

        I’m good at that, I enjoy it a lot, and I would even say I find it energizing– but in the same sense that a good run is energizing. It absolutely doesn’t mean I want to do it indefinitely, at any random time, or for no clear reason.

      5. MaryMary

        Good point! People also assume that introverts hate public speaking and being in the spotlight, and that isn’t true for me either. I hate being put on the spot if I’m not prepared, but as long as I know it’s coming and I’m confident in my material, speaking in front of hundreds of people is no big deal. On the otherhand, I have an extroverted friend who can only get through public speaking with the help of modern pharmaceuticals.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          Yes! I love public speaking. People always look at me like I’m crazy when I say that. But I would much rather give a prepared presentation to a packed auditorium than go to a networking event where every interaction is a big fat unknown.

        2. ancolie

          I’m totally comfortable doing public speaking for the exact same reasons — IFF it’s in front of strangers or acquaintances/general colleagues. If there’s any family or friends there, I hate hate hate it. If I mess up or look dumb in front of strangers, eh, most will forget or not KNOW and associate it with me. But people who matter to me? Oh hell naw, that’s way more embarrassing.

      6. JB (not in Houston)

        My understanding of the social-scientific definition is actually what you described, except that it can also include people that live more in their own heads than not. It’s a spectrum. To me, I think the problem is that the colloquial definition conflates it with shyness, which it’s not.

        I don’t like socializing with my coworkers because although I like socializing, I only have so much energy for it, and I don’t want to spend it on (some of) my coworkers. And for events that come after work, I’m exhausted by the time I’ve spent interacting with people during the work day. So I totally agree that being introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like doing things, but in my case, it’s exactly why I don’t want to do work things.

      7. Nerdling

        I agree. I really enjoy our work get-togethers and the annual Christmas party. We do occasional happy hours, which I love. Heck, I don’t even mind the open office all that much – or I wouldn’t if I had some quieter place I could escape to. Part of my job is teaching, and it’s probably what I’m most passionate about; the only real way my introversion gets in the way there is that at the end of the day I’m dead tired, emotionally, and have a deep desire not to see or talk to anyone for twelve hours.

      8. Emily K

        Yeah, it’s really a shame that somewhere along the way people decided introvert means “slow, quiet, anti-social person.”

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

          I very much agree. Personally, I don’t see any correlation between losing energy from attending social events and hating to brainstorm or resolve issues in person. Those are two entirely separate preferences.

      9. Anx

        I’ve always considered myself an introvert, but I question that assessment. I rarely want to go to to parties, group activities, join teams, etc. But at sleep overs and small events I’m always the one that wants to stay up and out the latest (this may because I’m a hardcore night owl and typically get a big energy boost around 9pm). Even during daytime events I love long, immersive social events, so long as there’s no forced activities and plenty of ‘get-to-know-you’ time.

    2. fposte

      Also, it helps me if I can freely come and go. Open house-type stuff rather than sit-down dinner type stuff.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yes! I have been trying for years to get my office’s social activities committee to make some of our fun events more like this, and I’m shot down as being “not a team player.”

  8. BadPlanning

    In my parts, happy hours work pretty well. I think they do because we use them very casually and most people have families and/or hobbies/activities, so no one thinks twice when someone can’t stay long. Everyone drives themselves if they want, so no one is stuck there. It’s a bar/grill so you can combo it with dinner if you want. And there’s no expectation to stay for a long time. If you stop by, slurp down a coke and have to leave again — we’re just happy you could stop by for 20 minutes. For a shy introvert like me, I just have to promise myself that I’ll have one beverage and then I can leave. Most of the time I start chatting and have a good time and stay longer.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      I’m the exact same way, even for social non-work events. I have to really motivate myself to get ready and leave the house, and then I’m always glad I did. My husband is like this too, and I have to tell him that we’re going to venture forth and interact with other human beings. Our nature is to just stay home and watch a movie, but then we always end up having a good time when we go out.

  9. Kvaren

    #1, so much. I read articles about open office plans and I think to myself, “they can take my cube walls from me out of my cold dead hands.”

    I visited a customer in the finance industry last year, and most mid-senior IT employees’ (non-traveling employees) workspaces were just a spot at a table. There were rows of tables, and you sat right next to your fellow FTE resource or contractor and got to work. No walls. No separate desks. No drawers. As a consultant, I just quietly freaked the frak out inside my head for those two days onsite.

    My introversion isn’t crippling, but I do need my personal workspace boundaries to be adequate. If an employer threw me into an open office plan, I would without a doubt find a different job.

    1. Menacia

      Yes, I was on a project where initially I was sharing an office with two others, and then a cubicle with two others…that was the ONLY time in my entire career when I actually had a meltdown. I never even realized the working environment was a huge factor, but it was, it was! Thankfully, when the project was over I was able to go back to my own high-walled cubicle!

    2. Midge

      I had a few blissful months during a staffing transition where I had my three-person office to myself. Now we’re fully staffed and it’s much harder to concentrate with all the chatter. Not only that, but our office is the hub for my department, and it’s right off the building lobby. So a very noisy, busy place in general.

      1. Kvaren

        It’s not even the chatter for me, I generally like it. It’s just that I need whatever kind of safe space my subconscious perceives when I have physical separation from other people. Remove that safe space, and my nerves go kaput.

        1. Lunar

          This is so true! I get much more work done when I’m alone in the office, even though it is quiet and not distracting when others are around. For some reason, I can just relax more and get into what I’m doing.

          1. Anx

            Sometimes I wonder if I became such a night owl because I felt like I couldn’t truly start my day until I was alone. And as a child, that meant everyone went to their rooms for the night. I dreaded classwork in school, even more than homework.

        2. second time commenter

          Thank you! I’ve been feeling like I’m crazy since January when they put someone in the desk right behind me, back to back. I feel like I’m on edge all day, like a lever marked “don’t relax – someone is right behind you” is jammed on in my head all day.

          It doesn’t help that he’s pretty noisy (although not complain-about-ably so, just some occasional humming and hmming, plus constant low-level sniffing and chuckling at work-related IM conversations), so I feel like I can’t start to concentrate because I’m in “waiting for the other shoe” mode, but even when he’s completely quiet I still feel so on edge just having someone right behind me all day.

          Sadly whether I’m crazy or not I’m pretty sure management would think it crazy to complain, so I’d better learn to live with it.

    3. Stranger than fiction

      Alisons description in #1 of a quiet side sounds like my idea of work heaven!

  10. T

    As a more introverted person, I would always laugh when my ex-manager got offended when she announced a social event and immediately heard “is this mandatory?” She would say things like “those ungrateful people…” and “who in their right mind doesn’t love happy hour?” Luckily, my current boss dismisses everyone early and then adds we’re having a happy hour downstairs so please stop by, even if it’s just for a quick drink, but if not, have a good weekend. I typically go for one beer and then take off. I usually don’t drink more than one (without food) if I’ll be immediately driving anyway.

    The worst events by far are the forced Christmas parties. I don’t celebrate Christmas and just because it may not be called a Christmas party changes nothing. Then it means I have to go to a “holiday party”, sit a room decorated with Santa items while everyone talks about nothing but Christmas for two hours straight. I would not be remotely offended if my mostly Christian company wants to have a Christmas-themed party, complete with carols and prayer. Just don’t force me to attend or shame me if I’m given an option and I choose to not attend.

    At a previous job, I would take a sick day every year on our the day of mandatory Christmas party. Not only was there caroling but we were forced to stand up and take solos because the owner thought it was “funny”. He would actually choose the most introverted people in the room to “get them out of their shell a bit”. Say you don’t know the words? We have cheat sheets with the lyrics! For an introvert, it was absolutely horrifying. I witnessed it the first year I worked there and took a sick day every year after that (for 6 years).

    1. Amber Rose

      Oh god I would just die. I can handle a little teasing about being quiet, but made to sing? I was asked to say something to a small social group on Sunday and froze in horrified silence until I was rescued. That was friends. If it happened at work I can’t even imagine the misery.

      1. Case of the Mondays

        I was asked, on the spot, to say grace at my husband’s family’s thanksgiving dinner party. I said “no thanks” and the whole table cracked up. Apparently it’s an honor. To me it was a horror.

    2. Liane

      Oh, please, no! I am an introvert*, I am a Christian, and *in the choir* but no. No solos! Would scare/embarrass me to death. And I have a choral quality, not solo quality voice, so bad for morale.

      TL;DR: Even someone who is usually into the activity may hate it as a “Work” activity

      *another of the “yes I love Kewl Social Things on my terms, which include getting away to recharge”

    3. Stranger than fiction

      Totally. At past jobs, nothing brought on anxiety like the yearly holiday party. You know you need to look great, you know spouses are going to be there and wonder how friendly you can be in front of them without them wondering if you’re flirting with their husband, gotta be mindful not to drink too much so you dont say something inappropriate…etc.
      And one time, they made everyone do the chicken dance!!! I literally left the room

    4. UK Nerd

      There are few things so annoying as people who think that because I’m introverted that they need to make me ‘come out of my shell’. Anyone who’s ever poked a snail should know the only way to get them to come out of their shells is to leave them alone.

    5. ancolie

      Oh god. I’m not only introverted but I also have … issues with singing in front of anyone. I would most likely start crying in that situation and then have that boss would think I was some weirdo.

  11. JOhio

    Took me a minute to figure out that “trains’ quiet cards” actually meant quiet CARS. Can that be fixed? Meanwhile, thanks for the advice – I have to find some way to get my new manager to read it!

  12. Amber Rose

    The best team building stuff is when the boss grabs coffees for everyone and we all take 10 to drink and chat in the lunch room. No pressure to stay if you have work to do, but it gives the two halves (manufacturing and office) a chance to actually socialize a bit.

    Also +1000 to #2. I’ll take on projects and come up with solutions but I need thinking time. I’m useless at talking through my thought process. Every attempt at it has failed. I can ponder, or discuss, not both at the same time.

    I can ask a thousand questions though. If i’m only needed as a sounding board that’s fine. I’m good at questioning things.

  13. Anon this time

    The day I finished reading The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney I burst into tears (but not at work!). I could never figure out why I didn’t really “fit in” with any job. I always got high marks for my work ethic and results, but dinged on communication skills/forced socializing. I found her advice on how to communicate at work so helpful and while there are still occasional kerfluffles, the boss and I have a great working relationship and I’m managing my little team of extroverts as well as can be expected. I made my boss read the chapter on communicating at work–he still doesn’t quite get why I’m wired that way, but he works with it.

  14. Juni

    We have a nice teambuilding system in place here that sort of happened by accident – in a team of ~20, there are one or two birthdays a month, so we started doing BYOL get-togethers, in a spare conference room. Since everyone from the VP on down attends, there’s no pressure to run off to a meeting, plus it’s only lunch. The birthday boy or girl’s manager usually brings treats, generously reimbursed. It’s very low-key and if you do have an external meeting or something it’s no hard feelings. But it always feels really nice when the VP comes to our birthday parties almost every time

  15. The Other Dawn

    Yes to all of these!! I used to HATE when someone would stop by my office to ask me a question that required thought. Email me ahead of time and you’ll get a much better answer. And use email for things that don’t require back-and-forth. Less time wasted and I don’t have to make small talk.

    So, what advice do people have for a manager that’s an introvert? I find it difficult sometimes to make myself interact with my team, even after 7 months on the job. For the most part I like to sit in my office and do my work, since a lot of what I do isn’t daily, routine stuff.

    1. fposte

      Schedule it. I don’t do weekly one-on-ones because my team and I are up in each other’s business all the time, but it sounds like they’d be great for you if you’re not doing it already.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Well, we do have a weekly staff meeting, which includes my boss. I’m thinking more of a daily check-in. I know they’re important, as I’ve read that here many times. But I find it so hard just to walk over into their area and just start talking. I know that sounds immature maybe, but it’s hard for me. Maybe I just to suck it up and do it. I think part of why I find it difficult is because we have so much work to do and they’re always heads-down and working hard when I go over there; I feel like I’m interrupting.

        1. fposte

          A staff meeting is everybody, though; I’m talking about you and one other person, nobody else. I think “suck it up and do it” is true to some extent, but if you put it on the schedule, whether daily or weekly, and make it an official thing that you do, it’s less about you dealing with them socially and more just performing a task on your list. Which I think might make it easier.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m thinking more of a daily check-in. I know they’re important, as I’ve read that here many times

          Good god, no! Weekly at most. (And you schedule it as a meeting and have them send you an agenda ahead of time; don’t just walk over and start talking!)

          1. The Other Dawn

            Hmm, interesting. For my whole career my boss has always come over to check in with me once a day or so. Just an informal 5 or 10 minutes to see what’s up and relay information back and forth. Never thought anything of it and felt it was helpful.

              1. The Other Dawn

                Definitely not one-on-ones daily. Just an informal thing for a few minutes each day. I’m in banking operations so this definitely makes sense for us to do daily.

                1. Ariadne Oliver

                  Other Dawn, I used to have a boss who “managed by walking around”. Basically, he would walk through our area in the morning, just saying “hi” to everyone, and listening whenever someone talked to him. It helped to build trust and rapport, and it was good to know that our manager wasn’t afraid to get his shoes dirty by walking in our work area (we did have snooty managers who didn’t really want anything to do with their staff and treated employees like they were carriers of Swine Flu). You don’t need to interrogate everyone, but walking around with your coffee cup/water bottle in your hand, and acknowledging your team is a good thing.

        3. LQ

          Are you thinking of the Agile daily stand up? For that basically people only need to cover those 3 points and then go back to work. You don’t need to do any small talk, I think walking in and just start at one person, work your way around the room, “Great! Sounds good.”

          If things DO come up in that meeting that require thought/time (a barrier obviously) put it on a list, say, “ok we’ll come back to this after I have a chance to revisit it”. (Then you can email them about it.) Aim to make that meeting really short.

    2. AE

      My boss frequently cancels meetings and then doesn’t try very hard to reschedule them. It’s very frustrating!

    3. LQ

      I’m also going to say that if someone else doesn’t seem to be missing small talk or doesn’t seem to be looking for it, don’t make it. I do stop into my bosses office because if I email him, he just doesn’t respond, and even if he did, often I need to get a little bit of nuance that doesn’t come through well in email (or that he simply wouldn’t say in email). But I’m not going to ask about his vacation and I don’t want to talk about the weather, I just want to know what people REALLY mean when they say they don’t want to turn on Track Changes in Word. What is the concern I should be focusing on resolving there? (or whatever it is…)

    4. MashaKasha

      I would always say things like “I will have to look it up and get back to you”, and wonder how other people can come up with answers on the spot. Until one day I stopped by my super-extroverted team lead’s cube with a question about the project we were working on. She gave me the answer right away, which I implemented, also right away. Sadly, she happened to give me the first random answer that she pulled out of her rear end, which (the answer, not the rear end) of course ended up being incorrect.

    5. catsAreCool

      Generally what I want from a manager is:
      – tell me when I’m doing well (this isn’t absolutely necessary if the next one is done)
      – tell me when I’m not doing well and when I need to do something differently
      – have reasonable expectations
      – have clear expectations and directions
      – help when I ask or send me to someone who can
      – let me know if I need to adjust priorities on work

      All of that can usually be done by e-mail :)

      1. Rebeck

        I’m totally copying this for the “what do you want from me” section of our annual reviews!

  16. T3k

    Oh god yes. Especially #1 and #3. I may have a… not ideal… job right now, but I at least get my own little office space. Trying to get my boss to just email me all the details of a design, however, has been harder. (And yes, I rage hard when I’m interrupted in the middle of a design to look over something she could have just explained in an email).

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      We have an open plan office, and I sit across from my extroverted boss. He is *constantly* interrupting me to chat about whatever is on his mind. Something he misread in a “humorous” way, a comment on an email that went out to everyone, random historical trivia, just anything at all. It is the one fly in the ointment of what is otherwise a good job.

      1. MashaKasha

        We had four-person cubes at OldJob and I sat next to an extroverted coworker. It was an 8-hour stream of consciousness every day. That woman never shut up! Same as your boss, anything at all that crossed her mind immediately poured out of her mouth. We’re on good terms now, but back then, I was pretty close to strangling her.

  17. Kay

    EMAIL, people! Email! Stop calling me up on the phone and having long pointless chats with me! (That often start with “did you see the email I just sent you?”

    Can we all just collectively agree to move on from voicemail, too? A part of my soul dies every time I see that light blinking on my office phone.

    1. AE

      … and don’t write long-winded e-mails and expect me to appreciate every word! I will scan it over and literally skip to the “bottom line.” (meanwhile wondering why you wasted your time with all the blather)

    2. themmases

      Yes! When I see a voicemail, I think: a) something was so urgent or sensitive someone had to call me rather than email; b) it was so important, or specific to only me, they had to leave a message for me rather than find someone else or solve it themselves; c) and now whatever it is has been sitting and waiting since I left my office, possibly overnight. It’s a great way to make me anxious and put a huge damper on my morning.

      Also: just because the best way to address something was a phone call doesn’t mean the second best way is a voicemail. If you called because something is complicated and it’s easiest just to talk it out, then the *next* easiest thing is probably to lay it all out in an email where you can attach the thread for context. Half the voicemail questions I got at my old job related to an issue already being addressed in an ongoing email thread.

  18. E

    Ugh. I have an extrovert boss who has tried to instruct me to act more like him. The thing is, it’s not just that we have different personalities, I actually disagree with his approach. He wants me to be more outgoing (like him) because we work with a lot of outside companies/organizations, and he wants us to have a reputation as friendly and welcoming, etc. Which is great, of course we want that! But the specific example he gave was you know how when you go into certain stores, all of the staff will great you enthusiastically? (Yes, I know and I hate that!)

    But the more time I’ve spent here (I’m still relatively new), the more I think his brand of friendliness comes across as really fake. You can hear him turn on the big booming voice to greet someone with “HEY MAN, WHAT’S UP, HOW’S IT GOING?” and a slap on the back. At some point I realized that the “HEY MAN” is usually because he doesn’t even know the person’s name. And then I realized that he never actually engages. Every interaction is a variation on the same generic conversations… You could swap out what the other person’s saying and it would make no difference, but he’s sure saying it all super-enthusiastically! It’s the weirdest thing to me, like he’s a robot programmed to be a friendly person.

    Whereas I may not put on the cheerleader voice and jazz hands, but I know everyone’s names! And beyond that, we’ve usually had a previous conversation that I can follow up on (“Oh , weren’t you just on vacation? How was that?”) , because my version of friendly and welcoming is just… showing that I’m interested in talking to a person.

    Anyway, this is turning into more of a rant than I intended, sorry, but it’s just frustrating. He’s kind of cooled off on explicitly pushing me to be more outgoing, and I do wonder if it’s because I know a lot of coworkers and outside colleagues have told him (unsolicited, every time I’ve heard it myself!) how great I am and how much they like working with me. I’m glad it seems to be leaning that way, because otherwise I figured there would never be a way to challenge back with “you know, I disagree with your approach, and I think you come across as fake sometimes, so I’d rather not act that way.”

    I’ve been so curious in my few months here to ask around and see if other people feel the same, but I could never do that. Maybe it is an Emperor’s New Clothes situation, where everyone’s thinking it and nobody wants to say it. But maybe it’s not, and people don’t think he’s fake at all, and then I just look like the jerk.

    1. fposte

      I don’t think it has to be either of those things. I don’t know your boss, so I can’t speak specifically to what he’s doing, but I’ve worked with somebody very like him. I think it can be hard for an introvert to understand the genuine joy in connection of an extrovert, and that his interactions may be simultaneously completely authentic and really offputting to you. I’m an introvert, but I live in a smallish Midwestern town, and we do a lot of friendliness that is a “variation on the same generic conversation.” If you’re dismissing it because it’s not sharing anything special or new, you’re being overly literal, I’d say.

      So I think you two might ironically be mirroring each other: he doesn’t get how you can be the way you are and thinks you should behave differently, and you’re the same about him.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yes, I was going to say this. Years ago I worked with a woman who didn’t like some of the salespeople because she thought their friendliness was so fake. I tried to explain to her that, sure, if *she* acted that way, she’d be acting fake because she only acted that friendly with people she considered friends. But for those sales guys, it wasn’t fake. Those actions didn’t imply any kind of deeper personal connection. They were operating at a much more shallow level (not that they were shallow people, just that those actions were not conveying anything deep).

        I feel the same way about how some non-Americans think that Americans are fake-friendly, or how people from the Northern US feel that way about Southerners. Sure, if someone outside the culture acts that way it would be fake because for for that person, acting that way has a specific meaning, and the person doesn’t mean that. But for others, actions have different meanings. I think of it as false cognates–words that have one meaning in one language, but the same-spelled and same-sounding word in another language has a totally different meaning. I think maybe I’m not being clear, but I’m saying I agree with fposte.

        1. Tau

          I feel the same way about how some non-Americans think that Americans are fake-friendly, or how people from the Northern US feel that way about Southerners.

          I’ve always thought this! And also for the reverse – say, when Americans think certain non-Americans are rude and unfriendly. (I’m German, I know of what I speak here. ;)) I love the false cognate metaphor, it’s a really good explanation for this.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            I’m glad it made sense! And I agree, you are completely correct on the reverse side. (And for the record, the few Germans I’ve met have been lovely.) We even see it here, too, with other Americans. I used to work for a company in Texas that had an office in NYC, and when people from the NY office would come work in ours, some of my coworkers thought the New Yorkers were super rude. But they weren’t, they were perfectly polite.

      2. E

        Thanks for this. I know I’m definitely looking at it from one side, so I do try to meet in the middle as much as I can. I make a point to go by his office when I arrive (he gets in earlier than me) specifically just to say good morning (and get a “GOOD MORNING!!!!!” shouted back, haha) because I know that matters to him, even though I’d rather just get to my desk and get to work. I answer the phone with much more enthusiasm than is natural to me, even though I feel like an idiot every time. Etc. But I have REALLY struggled with his desire for overall, 40-hour-a-week enthusiasm. He once told me I should be more enthusiastic on the phone… while I was calling our bank to ask for missing statements. (Though like I said, it’s cooled off lately.)

        But what I mean about generic conversations goes beyond normal conventions. It’s not that he’s asking us to make small talk. I’m a friendly person! I can talk at length about the weather, our local sports teams, why is the coffee so bad at the coffee shop downstairs, etc. Nothing special, nothing new, but that’s how you function as a person in those awkward semi-social work conversations. His is not even small talk; when I say he doesn’t engage, it’s like, here’s what I’ll overhear when someone comes in to meet with him:

        “HOW ARE YOU, MAN????”
        “I’m good, I just got back from vacation.”
        “WOW!!!!”
        “Yeah, the family went to Disney World.”
        “THAT’S GREAT!”
        “It rained most of the time, but we still had fun.”
        “GOOD, GOOD!”

        Maybe even that doesn’t convey it, but it’s seriously SO WEIRD. He doesn’t comment on what the person’s saying, doesn’t ask a follow up question, just loud, enthusiastic interjections. That’s what I mean about the robot. I find it so bizarre. And that’s how he wants us to interact with people? I mean, I know you’re right about extroverts just enjoying the social contact itself, but at any point, is there a qualitative judgment on the contact? (That’s an honest question – someone just bouncing random enthusiasm off of you, vs. having a conversation?) I feel like the rest of us in the office are here having regular conversations with people but he wants it ALL! ABOUT! ENTHUSIASM! no matter the content.

        But I think your last point really gets at my issue. So I think you two might ironically be mirroring each other: he doesn’t get how you can be the way you are and thinks you should behave differently, and you’re the same about him.
        That’s the thing…. I don’t necessarily think he should behave differently, I just don’t want to behave that way myself. I find it off-putting and wonder if others do too, but there are any number of other people I find off-putting, and whatever. I’ve never written a comment about any of them because they’ve never told me I should act more like them, we just coexist peacefully and don’t understand each other, you know?

        I realize the boss/staff dynamic changes things a lot, of course, because he can tell us to behave however he wants. I’m just talking in generality – huge difference to me between “we’re different” and “we’re different so you should behave like me.”

        I do think it goes back to the point about the default to extroverts; how to him it was just a given when he used the example of enthusiastic store greeters as something everyone loves. It literally didn’t occur to him that some people roll their eyes at that, or even actively avoid those stores! But I also wouldn’t like if a more reserved boss told enthusiastic coworkers to tone it down. We have an excellent, diverse staff. At the peer level, it’s maybe the best group I’ve ever worked with. Everyone is super smart, passionate about our field, and genuinely likable and friendly in their own ways. It’s awesome. And we’re not in retail or customer service or something like that where there’s more of a need for a unified front / party line type of thing, everyone acting the same. So why not just let a bunch of good people be themselves, rather than trying to fit all different-shaped pegs into one hole, where at least some portion are going to be faking it?

        Anyway, I’ve gone on about it too long again. This should be a separate post because maybe it’s veering into general management/staff talk rather than just introvert/extrovert. Sorry. Clearly it just really bugs me. When he first mentioned it, I was so shocked. I’ve never in my life, at any job, been told I was unfriendly or short with anyone, and I asked if he’d had a complaint or anything. Nope. I said I’d work on it and asked him to let me know going forward if there were any specific incidents, and have heard none. It’s just a general feeling of we should be “on 10” all the time in the office when I guess I’m probably naturally a 6 or 7. And like I said, it’s not something I feel like I can talk through with colleagues the way I would with any other “what do you think of this” situation. So, oooof, here I am. (I have one coworker who’s even more reserved than me, and I’m so curious about what kind of conversations he’s had with her and how she feels about it.)

        1. fposte

          “I don’t necessarily think he should behave differently.”

          It sounds like you do, though, because you’ve several times assessed the way he behaves as fake. I think what you might really mean is that it wouldn’t bug you so much that he is how he is if he left you to be how you are.

          And that I totally get. You’ve got the kind of boss that Alison’s addressing her post to–one who’s using himself as a template without understanding that there are other fine ways to be. (Actually, the boss Alison is addressing is more aware than that, but never mind.) And that’s both frustrating and bad for the organization, because most places need a mix to run smoothly and serve a spectrum of customers/clientele, and it sounds like otherwise you’ve got that. Hopefully he’ll either figure it out or move on before his conversion plan takes root; in the meantime, you can either go for the nod and smile or a considered discussion, maybe with customer examples, about why it’s good to have different styles.

    2. Sparkly Librarian

      I chuckled a bit at your description of the manager. I am a strong introvert with a job that requires a lot of interaction with the public, and I compensate by wearing a customer-service face. I literally say, “Hey, man, what’s up? How’s it going?” several times a day to teen patrons (my target demographic). It’s like a script I’d use on a tech support call. (I also use “Can I help you with anything?” and “Good morning!” liberally, and it has the same level of work-appropriate pleasant facial expression attached.) And while I am learning names of the regulars (I’m new), and may use them in conversation, most of the time it’s “Hey man” because I don’t know the teen’s name or haven’t had a chance to look at him long enough to place his face. After he says hi in return, or maybe we continue the conversation, I have a better chance of remembering who he is.

      1. AE

        Yup, it’s a role you take on. It becomes a habit, and even if it seems phony, people at least know you’re open to them and they are more likely to engage with you. It’s part of the job.

      2. E

        Ha, see my loooong reply above. I totally get that. I used to work in retail, you just settle into a script for interacting with

        I’m talking about “HEY MAN, WHAT’S UP???” to guys who work on our floor. Out of maybe 15 people. Whose names he doesn’t know. That’s what I mean when I say it feels so fake. I may not be that enthusiastic when I greet them, but I actually know these people. So I want to say, “wait, which of us is friendly?”

        (And I use the all-caps purposefully. I assume you’re not also practically yelling if you’re a librarian! haha.)

        1. Sparkly Librarian

          Gotcha. The volume itself would bother me (in or out of the library). I’ve had a couple of coworkers who were loud enough to be distracting – you could hear them anywhere on the floor of the office they happened to be on. One was a recruiter who started EVERY call, “HI, ALEX! THIS IS CHRIS FROM TECH COMPANY!! HOW’S IT GOING?? IS THIS A GOOD TIME TO TALK??”

    3. LQ

      Not everyone thinks that kind of person is fake. And often they aren’t. They really are that jolly or boisterous or excited to see the person in front of them. They might not know that person from another person but they really are super excited to see that person. It’s kind of hard to wrap your brain around if you’re like me. But they really do feel that way.

      Don’t say you think it’s fake, you can say that you feel it is fake when you do it, but don’t say it is fake when he does it.

      1. E

        Well, I guess I wasn’t clear enough, but see my reply to Sparkly above – I unintentionally replied to you as well, about why I think it seems fake! He should know at least some of these people, which is why it’s hard to wrap my brain around him being so excited to see them, but never learning their names. ???

        Your point is taken, though. I shouldn’t ascribe authenticity to others!

    4. Mints

      Huh, this is interesting to me because I’m definitely introverted but I don’t mind the behavior you’re describing in your boss. I actually really like it, because I don’t feel pressure to answer a certain way. At my old job I had two co-managers and one of them would just gush positive exclamations, however I answered “How was your weekend?” Like really, however I answered. “I went to dinner with some friends” “Awesome!” “I mostly stayed home and watched Netflix” “Sounds great!” “I went shopping with my sister” “Oh cool!” He was really easy to talk to because there were no wrong answers.

      I also don’t mind this in retail setting when I can actually hear the person repeating the same greeting over and over. I still think they sound nice when they say it to me (assuming they are nice). I see it as both nice and superficial, but I don’t mind.

      Maybe it’s because I’ve spent time working retail and other public facing positions where part of the job is literally “act cheerful.”

      I could see how it would be annoying if the manager tried to get you to change though, and I’d bet that annoyance is seeping into the “fake” complaint. I’d be annoyed too.

  19. Pete

    I don’t believe it’s a “strange reality.” Extroversion is what’s expected by managers who tend to be extroverted. I was a non-traditional undergrad a few years ago. One of the management textbooks instructed the future managers of the corporate world not to hire introverts. Well, it has been a few years, maybe it didn’t give that explicit instruction, but the text definitely allowed me to infer “you don’t know what those people are thinking and they cannot be trusted.” It was stunning.

    1. Nanc

      We’re thinking “will you STFU and let me work?!” but I don’t suppose the textbook will ever be updated to include that!

    2. AE

      Yup, extroverts find introverts tiring because it’s like pulling teeth to get us to disclose our thoughts. Sometimes I’m thinking nothing at all and just enjoying sitting and being still and a friend will ask why I’m so sad. Not sad. Okay, are you angry? No not angry. Are you sure you’re not angry? Well, I wasn’t angry until I started playing 20 questions with you!

      1. Beth

        If you don’t interact with someone, then most people will take that to mean that you don’t want to interact with that person. Interacting with people is how we form and maintain social bonds.

  20. Great advice

    Love the advice in the article, but also the comments above. Explains why I felt so drained after only 1-3 hours on-site. On paper, it always seemed like I’d have so much time for life outside of work, but I would usually come home and be done for the day.

  21. Vicki

    #1 – “you should avoid open office plans and give people as much privacy as you can. ”

    A friend of mine was visiting Google and asked, as they walked through the large open plan office space, “Where do the Introverts sit?”

    The person she was with answered “Oh, we don’t have any of those.”

    My friend thought “Oh, right. Suuuuuuure you don’t.”

    1. T3k

      They probably hide out in those sleep pods… at least, that’s probably where I’d hide out if I worked there.

    2. MashaKasha

      My son interviewed there, but went with another offer.

      He’s as introverted as they come.

      He said they were too corporate for him and too many people. Now I know what he meant. I’d run screaming from an open plan too!

      1. Ack

        “I’d run screaming from an open plan too!”
        +1000000000000

        This place I used to work at switched from cubes to open plan right after I left. I am forever grateful that I missed that craziness. I would not be able to concentrate. Talk about feeling vulnerable, and the noise level alone would drive me batty. Why did people even go back to open plan in the first place? Have we learned nothing from the film 9 to 5?

  22. AE

    You want a manager to be somewhat extroverted because it’s a people job. I’m an introvert but I’m not shy, especially in meetings. When I’m passionate about something I’ll speak up. And if I haven’t come to the meeting prepared with an answer, I’ll be the one who is quiet while everyone floats their piece, and then come up with (usually) a good solution that incorporates their ideas after they’ve finished. If I’m quiet in a meeting I may be bored, or I may be listening. I can understand how extroverts would need some information from me because you can’t tell what someone is thinking if they don’t talk.

    It really irks me that people confuse shyness with introversion. I like the privacy of my office, and people who chatter nonstop really annoy me. I especially can’t stand people who talk to themselves while they work. They probably find me inscrutable and there have been a few who thought I was snobby because I wasn’t chatty. I have learned to put on the role that’s appropriate for a situation and get along with whomever I’m with, but I’m still me and still an introvert. I make friends at work and I put in an appearance at workplace social events. Fortunately I’m in good company, because there are lots of introverts where I work (and a few Aspies who REALLY don’t want to engage in small talk)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m a huge introvert but never feel like it’s gotten in the way of me managing well. I disagree that managers need to be somewhat extroverted. It really just means that I need to manage my time well and be thoughtful about when I need to have people time vs when I don’t.

      I agree that shyness and introversion aren’t the same thing, but here’s a semi-related post about shyness and managers:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2010/08/can-you-be-good-manager-if-youre-shy.html

    2. fposte

      Another introvert manager here. I’m fine with the people, because they’re wonderful and they’re one of my great work rewards. I just don’t want to talk to them all the time, and fortunately, I have an office with a door, so: problem solved.

      I think that we may also be talking about the difference between a reserved manner and introversion. I’m a heavy-duty introvert, but I don’t have a reserved manner at all (though that often works as excellent camouflage for deeper reserve). I’m also chatty and excellent at small talk. I don’t know that I always enjoy it in the way an extrovert might, but I’m pleased at how well I’m executing the task, and that seems to be enough.

  23. Jane

    I feel like most of these tips are just “provide a good work environment for everyone.” I’m an extrovert, and I still prefer to have a private workspace for when I need to put my head down and get work done. (I also agree with the commenter above who wants voicemail to die.) I also don’t love social events or forced teambuilding. I do really love on-the-spot brainstorming, but I try to only include people who also enjoy it, and definitely don’t try to force people to join in.

    1. Tau

      Yeah, I’m an ambivert who you can probably classify as an extrovert for the purpose of this exercise. I am not particularly enthused about my open-plan office and terrible at on-the-spot brainstorming please don’t make me try. I do tend to prefer face-to-face to e-mail, but that’s more about residual social awkwardness kicking into high gear when I can’t see the other person than extroverted tendencies and it’s not that strong a preference. And social events + forced team-building can be anywhere between fantastic and hell on earth depending on what they are and what happens, which seems like it would be a pretty common reaction to them really?

    2. So Very Anonymous

      Yes! I’m an extrovert and I agree with all of these things. I also don’t do well with small talk (bores me silly), but I love brainstorming… when it’s with other people who also enjoy brainstorming.

      Someone mentioned above that extroverts think out loud. One of our higherups does this, in addition to changing her mind constantly. This pattern confuses everyone, since it seems like she is constantly shifting course. As a fellow extrovert (I work among a lot of introverts) I cut her slack on this, thinking she’d realize that she needs to make some distinction between “stream of consciousness” and “what is actually going to happen.” (She hasn’t). Speaking as an ENFP, I’m tolerant of some unstructured P-ness, but I think an E-P type “verbal processor” manager needs to understand that her reports need/expect some structure and clarity.

  24. Denita

    Yes on all points. My manager is a super extrovert (very sweet and charming) but sometimes her enthusiasm for things wear me down. She likes to hold weekly meetings which last from 1 to 2 hours, which I wouldn’t mind…if it were only weekly meetings. We have meetings with her two to four times a week with the same timeframe and it’s *killing* me since we end up finishing talking about our work 30 minutes in. I’m trying my best to be patient, but I’d rather be back in my cubicle alone with my thoughts.

  25. second time commenter

    Re #2, I’m introverted (or at least shy) and I hate being put on the spot with a question, especially on the phone. Please just email me so I can have 5 minutes to think first. And please don’t give me a sheet of A3 paper and a marker for “mind-mapping”. That’s going to be a really empty piece of paper.

    But left entirely to my own devices, I won’t have the confidence in any of my ideas to know that they’re The One, so I do like to bounce my half-baked ideas off someone else to see what their response is – whether they immediately shoot it down as a bad idea, talk it up as a good one, or just ask questions I hadn’t thought of yet.

    Team-building days? I hate, hate, hate the “stand up in order of your birthday and we’ll divide you into arbitrary teams for embarrassing competitive exercises or making lists of nebulous work qualities” thing. No standing up, no public speaking, and nothing competitive, please. But last “away day” we had we just went somewhere different and listened to talks all day. That was nice enough.

    I really long for a quiet working space, though…

  26. Chris

    I don’t know if I’m an introvert per se, but I’m certainly not a traditional extrovert. And I think the most enraging thing about extreme extroverts is the assumption that everyone will “loosen up” or “break out of their shell.” Hey, I’m an adult, please allow me to select what I do and don’t do in public. I do not do karaoke, for instance. It has never happened, and will never happen. This annoys some of my friends to no end, and they’re always trying to talk me into it. I often hear, “don’t be scared” or “don’t be nervous” or, “c’mon, don’t be embarrassed, everyone is laid back” or whatever. I’m not scared, I’m not nervous. I don’t wish to do that. I do not sing in public. Trying to shame me into doing it isn’t going to work. And I’m not even a real introvert. People with real social anxiety must exist in a state of constant terror in those situations.

  27. catsAreCool

    I’m an introvert, and I’ve sung karaoke a few times and mostly enjoyed it. Funny how things work. But then again, no one was really pressuring me to do it.

  28. Academic Librarian

    I present as an extrovert. I tested as an ENTJ. But…..I hate, hate, hate -team building, staff appreciation, professional development meetings where there are “exercises” or “group work”, and don’t get me started about endless “brainstorming” I want to read, reflect and think. I hate showers, birthday parties and staff appreciation events at work. Happy hour is a misery- I would rather be working.

    On the other hand- I really enjoy catching up on the phone. Email makes me crazy. By the third round- if you want to know what I think, pick up the damn phone.

    I rarely go to public events because I hate crowds, lines, and noise. (sometimes I do go as “service to my marriage”)

    I do enjoy dinner out with a few friends. Or having people over to my house. I am blessed with a private office with a door. (yes I know how lucky I am)

    On the other hand- I can work anywhere- noise , no noise, it doesn’t matter as long as a baby isn’t crying.

    I enjoy teaching- small seminars, big groups, couple hundred? no problem. I enjoy one-on-one reference.

    1. Kristine

      I’m an introvert, an MLIS holder, and (avocationally, of course) a belly dancer! Figure that out. :P
      I love teaching too, Academic Librarian. And this 20 years after getting a B.A. in English and resenting the question, “So, do you teach?” Personally, when it comes to us NTJs, the “I” or the “E” doesn’t matter so much. ;)

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