Friday, November 15, 2019

Diversity and Inclusion for Introverts


I spoke at an HR event recently where the key themes were company culture and employee experience.  Following my talk, I was asked by the event moderator if I would accept less money in exchange for more fun at work. 

‘No way,’ I said.  ‘I’m an introvert.  If you want me to have ‘fun’ at work, you have to pay me more.’

That got a big chuckle, but I wasn’t trying to be funny.  I like working with people, but for me ‘fun’ is reading a book alone in my house.  That’s how I shake my funky stuff.  

Just to be clear, introverts like me aren’t shy or unsocial but unlike extroverts we recharge in solitude.  Whereas extroverts find solitude lonely and tiring, and recharge in more social settings. 

In all the HR forums speaking about diversity and inclusion I’ve participated in, I have yet to see anyone bring up how to include introverts.  No one considers that if your company culture is highly collaborative, it can suck to be an introvert.  No one takes introverted work styles into account although it impacts everything from how people do their best work to how they communicate.

Hiring for cultural fit should mean hiring people who are passionate about your mission, not people who all behave or think the same way.  

Sadly, however, despite so much focus on diversity and inclusion, companies expect people to be extroverts at work if they want to advance. This isn’t as unfair as it sounds because communication and relationships are the cornerstone of successful business and no one can do great work in isolation. 

Nonetheless, while extroverts are more likely to excel at sales and proactive customer service, it’s typically introverts who show up in areas that require methodical execution and deep expertise.  That’s because introverts are more likely to invest the time and solitary deep work required for mastery of complex topics than extroverts.

LEADERS TAKE NOTE: Not everyone on your team has the same preferred work and communication style.  A one-size-fits-all management style won't bring out the best in everyone.  Take time to understand your team and help them play to their strengths, not yours.

But it is what it is.  For the time being, extroverts will continue to be in the spotlight at work and are also more likely to advance and earn more. So, here are some tips and reading recommendations for introverts to help you design your dream career without attending lots of networking events and pretending to be someone you aren't: 

Know what you want – If you feel stuck in your career, you may be Barking up the Wrong Tree.  Do you want to lead a team or be an executive?  You’ll need a support base to get promoted and if you’re an introvert who hates talking to people it’s worth asking yourself if that’s really what you want.  Do you want to work remotely or part-time?  You’ll need expertise and in demand skills to earn that flexibility.  Most things are easy if you know exactly what you want and what you’ll compromise – or not compromise – to get it.

Focus on relationships, not networks – You don't have to be an extrovert to be friendly and supportive of the people you work with.  Most opportunity comes from either being top of mind, where extroverts have an undeniable advantage, or being someone who helps others be successful, where introverts do.  Remember, no one succeeds without support, including you, so pay it forward.

Walk the talk – People who get what they want adapt their approach until they get it.  I’m not saying you should try to change into an extrovert because you’ll fail but you may have to have a difficult conversation or change jobs to get what you want.  Take a deep breath and commit to asking for what you want and finding something better if you don’t get it.

Play to your strengths – Great ideas are cheap - the real magic happens in the execution.  If you have a dream and lack the charismatic charm of an extrovert that creates its own luck, work at getting so good they can’t ignore you.  Fortunately, as an introvert, you have a natural advantage when it comes to deep work.


Find a communication style that works for you - Just because you don’t enjoy team lunches or networking doesn’t mean you can’t proactively reach out to different stakeholders in your company or write energized and positive emails.  Introverts can be great communicators if they organize themselves around outreach activities and use their natural empathy and powers of observation.  You may never be the life of the party, but you can be a great communicator.

Let’s face it, if you’re an extrovert with acceptable skills the world is your oyster.  Sadly, my introverted friends, that’s not you but you have your own superpowers.  Figure out what they are, develop them to peak performance, be nice to people along the way and the world can be your oyster, too.

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