Three ways an introvert can relate to an extroverted boss

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We introverts have a lot going on in these brains of ours! And if you’re like me, you’ll dig deep into your job, including all the details, and if you have a question or get stopped somewhere, you may send your boss an email. I do that all the time. I despise being interrupted, so I try to be considerate to others and do what I wish others did for me. I never call when I could email, and I never interrupt in person when I could call. But often it turns out that the boss’s personality type is quite opposite from ours! My boss is an extrovert and very much a “big picture” kind of guy, and I think that may be the case with a lot of managers. So here’s what I learned when everyone in my group took personality tests:

1) If you are an introvert and you have an extroverted boss, be sure to provide updates to him, even when he doesn’t ask for them. Don’t wait until he has to ask; initiate! In the past I would email a boss a long email, full of details, and when I wouldn’t hear anything for a few days, I wouldn’t know what to think! I might even get delayed in my work, waiting for the answer to my email. My boss actually told us a couple of weeks ago, “If I don’t hear from you, I assume you’re fine and I will be moving on to the next thing!” He wasn’t being unkind; he has great vision and is a perfect leader for our detail-oriented introverted staff. He points the way, and we fill in the details!

2) When you interact with her, be sure to provide a summary of what’s going on. It helps to prepare this ahead of time. I’m not good at thinking “on my feet” and I think that’s true of a lot of introverts. Ask questions – real questions that are intelligent and thoughtful. Once again, doing a little thinking about this ahead of time will really pay off. I find that if I just spend five minutes with a blank document or notebook page in front of me, I will come up with some good stuff. As an introvert, I just don’t have the habit of letting some things go directly from brain to mouth, so the document is a great staging area.

3) If you recognize that your boss or other coworkers are extroverts, be aware of their different style and don’t take offense or feel that it’s a war between introverts and extroverts. We introverts are often highly gifted, but the folks who think by talking aloud have no way of realizing what cool things we are thinking or how effective we are unless we make it a little more obvious to them. I am certainly not saying we must do anything that goes against our nature, but in the workplace we all have to stretch a little. Introverts have to learn to speak up a little, because other people can’t read our minds. Extroverts have to learn to shut up a little, unless they are the president of the company. 🙂

Being an introvert is very cool, in my opinion, and I relish my alone time. I feel sorry for people who are bored and lonely if they are faced with a weekend afternoon or evening alone. But if your boss or other influential coworker or customer is an extrovert, it pays to learn to relate to them a bit. Chances are, they will really appreciate your unique insight into the task at hand.

Photo credit: Goddard Photo and Video Blog

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