By Sonia Acosta
Can you go an entire workday without saying a word? Does it mean you're an ineffective employee, you don't like your co-workers, or you don't have anything meaningful to say? Of course not. You're probably just an introvert, or you're more reserved at work than in your personal life. You might be more productive when working alone, but you're still capable of contributing in a team setting.
Unfortunately, sometimes people make negative assumptions about quiet workers. Here we bust seven myths about introverted worker.
Myth No. 1: Quiet workers don't have a lot to offer.
While this is a common misconception, quiet workers don't necessarily contribute less in a working environment than their chattier counterparts. Maya Townsend, founder of Boston-based management-consulting firm Partnering Resources, says that people often think that quiet workers are incapable of being credible sources of knowledge or serving as experts for an organization.
"Recently, I conducted an organizational network analysis with a client," Townsend says. "The leaders were surprised to discover that one of their quietest employees was actually deeply trusted and relied upon by his peers. He knew his stuff, and while he wasn't flashy about it, he was there when people needed him."
Quiet workers are shy.
People often assume that quiet workers are shy. In reality, the way people behave at work doesn't necessarily reflect how they behave in their personal lives. Also, being quiet doesn't always originate from shyness.
Kera Greene, a career counselor at FEGS, a health and human services provider based in New York, says it's not about being shy; it's about different personality types. "Quiet people are not necessarily shy. They may be introverts," Greene says. "Introverts prefer to work by themselves. They think better, work more efficiently and get energized that way. Extroverts accomplish the same goals by interacting with people. Shyness, or lack thereof, may actually have nothing to do with it."
Myth No. 3: Quiet workers aren't social.
Quiet workers are often perceived as antisocial or as having few friends outside of work. If you're quiet at work, you might be the total opposite when you leave the office. While you may keep to yourself in a professional setting, your friends might consider you outgoing and quirky.
Myth No. 4: Quiet workers dislike their co-workers.
If you're on the quieter side at work, it doesn't mean you dislike your colleagues. It's just a personality trait. Quiet people tend to communicate differently than outgoing people and have different comfort levels when it comes to social interaction.
Myth No. 5: Quiet workers think they're better than everyone else.
Quiet workers may be perceived as snotty, but they might just be quiet. If you're an office extrovert, make an effort to get to know quieter co-workers. Try not to interpret their quiet nature as a negative quality. You might be surprised about how well you can work with them once you let go of assumptions and gain their trust.
Myth No. 6: Quiet workers are insecure.
Quiet workers often get labeled as insecure about their skills. Being quiet is more of a personality trait and a comfort-level preference than a sign of low self-worth. Some workers let their work speak for itself, instead of bragging about their achievements. If extroverts pay enough attention, they will find that their quieter co-workers' contributions are on par with others in the organization.
Myth No. 7: Quiet people don't make good leaders.
According to Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, executive coach and author of "The Introverted Leader," 40 percent of executives are introverts. "Introverts tend to be humble and not brag about themselves," she says. "They also take time to process their thoughts and are then incorrectly seen as slow or not 'go-getters.' We still hold a stereotype in Western cultures that leaders need to be aggressive and have Type-A personalities."
To better showcase their leadership skills, Kahnweiler suggests that quiet workers focus on increasing their visibility. "Introverts can gain presence in a way that honors their personal style," she says. "Writing email updates to key influencers with status reports and accomplishments is one way to keep yourself visible."
Networking and expanding the number of people you work with will also help increase your visibility. "I recommend to my introverted coaching clients that they look for opportunities to work with people in other functional areas of the company," Kahnweiler says. "Business-resource groups for different special interests groups, local branches of professional associations and community projects also offer you a wider network that you can build on."
Introverts can also use social media to express themselves professionally and gain exposure. "With the thoughtful use of social media to share relevant information, introverts can gain a strong professional presence online," Kahnweiler says. "These impressions count. Using social media as the platform to begin relationships is excellent for introverts who thrive in solitude."
Sonia Acosta researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.
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