Until recently, it was a commonly held belief that extroverts are the real winners in the workplace. We expect extroverts to have the charisma and natural ability to lead; to connect and influence others. Our assumption, therefore, has always been that extroverts have a real advantage over introverts playing the political game.
But with the recent attention to introverts initiated by Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, we’ve learned that introverts can influence in a quiet yet effective manner and have the ability and potential to emerge as powerful leaders as well.
In my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, I address the importance of being politically savvy for career success. But my curiosity about the ability of introverts to master workplace politics and utilize the tools I outlined in the book’s political toolkit, led me to reach out to Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of Quiet Influence, for answers.
It is a common assumption that you need to be an extrovert to be politically savvy. What are your thoughts? Is it a disadvantage to be an introvert or can it be an advantage? If so, how is it an advantage?
Introverts can be very politically savvy. By not rattling their sabers or shouting their ideas in a Type A way, they exert quiet influence. They make a difference by challenging the status quo, provoking new ideas and inspiring others.
They also think before they act, take in the scene around them and put together a strategy that reflects this careful analysis. For instance, in entering a new organization they take time to carefully watch group dynamics, assess the cultural vibe and become familiar with the business focus. They also get a feel for the style of movers and shakers in their midst. Their carefully crafted strategy reflects this analysis.
Being an introvert can be a disadvantage politically when others don’t stop to listen to introverts. In a fast paced Type A world, managers, clients and team members do not take the time to pause and listen to the introverts in their midst. Introverts will sit back waiting to be called on when not encouraged to contribute and their turn never comes. As the time for sales and promotions emerge introverts can be left behind. Therefore, introverts must rely on building strong relationships with people who can speak for them along with their own efforts at self-promotion.
Self-promotion is critical to build relationships of influence in the workplace. How does an introvert, especially a woman, get comfortable with self-promotion?
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