As We Age, Do We Get More Introverted At Work?
This question arises from what may be a mistaken premise. Many of the signs of an introvert could be misconstrued with “wisdom”. Signs such as enjoying time by yourself, being the last to raise your hand in a group setting, other people often asking your opinion, preferring not to engage with people who are angry or upset, not initiating small talk with salespeople or other casual meetings. These seem like very wise behaviors, and many being the kind that is cultivated by the kind of wisdom that comes with age and experience.
And studies have shown that introversion does increase with age (Gutman 1966 and Heron & Chown 1967). However, the correlation between age and introversion was shown to be small, though statistically significant. Which means that even if older individuals are more likely to be introverted, it does not necessarily mean that it is a result of their age.
This only leads to the argument that it is a growing wisdom rather than necessarily introversion. Thus, we could argue that the indicators of aged wisdom are likely to be mistaken for introversion even if you are not.
In fact, there are many aspects of aging that lead to your continued improvement and performance in the workplace. Even with the increased introversion (wisdom). Of the top 10 worries of getting old, physical ability & independence was rated as the most common concern by those surveyed. As well as the mental impact of aging and the risk to your finances.
With these concerns driving you, it may well fuel your ambition and work ethic. Combine this with a growing sense of introverted wisdom and you can quickly understand why they call them your “golden years.”
However, for now, we will use introversion to describe the state of mind as this presents an easy frame of reference to understand the behaviors that are likely to affect your work. With that being said, let us explore the other signs of introversion that may present in an aging individual in the workplace.
Understand that there are both positive and negative aspects of being an introvert at work. Introverts are more likely to be antisocial or shy, inattentive, slow or unenthusiastic. On the other hand, introverts think before they speak, they don’t patronize those beneath them and they don’t act rashly. Are you noticing any trends yet?
Let us look at these positive and negative aspects of introversion from the context of being an aging employee in an increasingly young workforce. Imagine yourself (you may not have to imagine it) working at a company, perhaps an office.
As someone of an older demographic, are the younger employees likely to think you antisocial or shy if you avoid their offer of beer pong? Or to go “clubbing”? Probably! But that seems more like wisdom if you take a step back.
If you think before you speak (a rarity these days) and take your time to complete your work properly, are younger employees likely to believe you slow or unenthusiastic? Possibly! Though, that is how work should be done. Do it right the first time, measure twice cut once.
And perhaps most obvious of all, as a senior employee, you are likely above some or many others in the hierarchy. With this position of authority, and as an introvert (or wise elder) are you likely to avoid patronizing your subordinates? Of course, because with your well-earned wisdom you can think outside of yourself. You can remember what it was like to be where they are. And you are likely to be free of the bragging and arrogant behavior younger employees who rose quickly often have.
It should go without saying now that many of the effects of aging and a growing, wiser mind, may be misconstrued for a growing introversion. As you age this is likely to happen. And especially so in a workplace, where such introversion has both positive and negative aspects. It is with this understanding that you ought to embrace these aspects of yourself. Be slow, but attentive to your work. Think before you speak, because others will not. And reserve your social time for those things that are of true value to you. Either in the workplace or outside of it.
Your time is valuable and increasingly so. Turn the negative aspects of introversion into strengths in the workplace. And enhance the strengths that come with your aging wisdom.
About the author
The article was written by Mila Payton. Mila holds a BSc in International Business. She enjoys writing about psychology, business, and self-improvements. When she is not working, Mila spends her time cooking for her family and friends.
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