The Pitfalls of Being a Wallflower in the Office
Being introverted may be a bad thing at a party, but being a wallflower on the job actually comes with advantages. If you work with open-minded people, they will see you as a hard worker, a good listener, a conscientious and dependable employee, even as a calming and professional influence. Wallflowers have a wonderful universe they live in, they draw their inspiration from it and some of the best work ideas come from that universe (just think about Steve Wozniak: he was sitting alone in a cubicle when he invented the first Apple computer).
However, not everyone sees introverts as valuable and creative individuals. All introverts know that there are those who take your natural behavior as anti-social. This may lead to being left out of many party events, but also to missing out on career opportunities. Let’s see what the disadvantages of being a wallflower in the office are.
Where some people like to openly and passionately talk about their children or favorite sports team, introverted people tend to express themselves with nothing more overt than a T-shirt or desktop screen saver. This “nerd” behavior can seem odd or laughable to extroverted personalities who expect everyone to openly express their opinions. Also, there aren’t as many extroverts sharing the wallflowers’ passion for obscure bands and TV shows.
Occasionally, some compassionate person may feel that your introversion is just shyness or some deep-seated personal issue, and try to draw you into conversations. If you don’t respond to their overtures, they may feel that their assumption was correct and you’re simply unfriendly.
Others might feel that your reluctance to socialize comes from a feeling that you think you’re too smart or too important to waste your time with co-workers. In reality, you’re usually too immersed in your own thoughts and tasks to appreciate the common need for real-world interaction. But when you’re seen ignoring others, it makes you seem cold or downright rude.
Introverts love to spend their time alone at home, snuggled up in their favorite pajamas, hanging out with book characters. You don’t go to parties or drinks after work, you find them draining. However, your colleagues might eventually get tired of inviting you to social occasions or even engaging in conversation when they can expect a rejection. They may have decided you’re a snob or oddball and you find you’re not socially accepted by your own team.
The introvert may be OK with this scenario at first, but eventually, sadness and depression creep in from being constantly overlooked or left out of social gatherings and office fun. This can lead to unhappiness with your job and/or co-workers.
Getting along, and even prospering in your job, is much easier if you open up to forming more relationships. You’re more likely to be presented with new responsibilities and challenges to improve your value and visibility. It’s easier to connect with your boss and form a personal bond that you can rely on.
A lot of gifted people are also introverts, but they are satisfied to function quietly in the background and avoid office politics. This can lead to others taking credit for your accomplishments and ideas, or you may get blamed for someone else’s mistakes without even knowing it. Some brash, immature colleagues may assume that because you’re quiet, you’re a push-over or even a simpleton, and try to take advantage.
Even if a manager recognizes that these things aren’t true, they’ll still tend to have greater confidence, and see greater value, in those who are more assertive and contribute more to the workplace atmosphere. Leadership skills are typically associated with strong personalities. This can cause introverted employees to be under-appreciated in performance reviews and passed over for promotions.
The vast majority of the time, introverted people don’t mean to be rude and may not even consider that their social instincts might be considered offensive. As an introvert, you may tend to feel more stressed by social confrontation and need plenty of alone time to unwind and relax. You’re a logical thinker and don’t see any point to sounding off about your opinions and emotions.
Social awkwardness notwithstanding, you provide benefits to your employer as any other good employee. Introverted people tend to be both more creative and more analytical. You come up with more original approaches and weigh consequences. This means better solutions and products the company can offer.
As an introverted personality, you’re more immersed in your work and more likely to remain engaged and loyal if your contributions are appreciated. Employees that stay for the long term are much more valuable to the company. As your skills and experience grow, you’re more productive and better at problem-solving and decision-making. It takes time and money to replace the skills of a veteran employee. This means saving the money that would be spent on the recruitment and training process.
Management needs to understand that introverts operate a little differently but can also provide superior skills. For example, you may be bad at making presentations but excellent at writing proposals. You can function well as a team member without the close relationships that others need. This means a diverse workforce and a workplace that will attract top talent.
The truth is that every company should have both introverts and extroverts in the mix. You wouldn’t want a bunch of chatty, excitable extroverts handling a technical project that requires complex and precise details the same way you probably don’t want an introvert holding a meeting with partners who come unannounced.
Introverts prefer quieter and more solitary roles, and that shouldn’t be dubbed as snobbish or abnormal behavior. They should have the opportunity to show their skills in a way that suits them, for the better of the wallflowers of the office, but also for the better of the company.
Michelle Laurey is a freelance writer who enjoys fitness, relaxing in the fresh air, trying to live a healthy life and daydreaming about visiting new places (and actually visiting them). Her best ideas and problem solutions appear while she’s riding her bicycle. You can reach her via Twitter.
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