Introverts at Work

I’ve done fairly well for myself career-wise, all things considered. But I was in a management meeting yesterday where HR gave a presentation about the importance of networking and I think I made a bit of a spectacle of myself.

I am keenly aware of the importance of networking in terms of career progression, especially beyond a certain point. I am also extremely bad at it, and I acknowledge that as well. So far, so good.

But then they start talking about people who avoid happy hours and other work functions and how they become a “running joke” at the office and I think that triggered me :stuck_out_tongue: I said some people don’t do those things, not because they dislike their co-workers or because they think they have better things to do with their time, but because they are intensely uncomfortable in unstructured social situations and it’s not fair to turn that into a joke.

Some of my colleagues started chiming in with networking suggestions and, for the most part, I’m sure they were trying to be legitimately helpful. But I struggle with this only because I feel like if you don’t have social anxiety it’s impossible to understand just how difficult this can be for some people.

Anyway… it’s been a long week. :slight_smile: Thanks for letting me vent.

Network on your own terms, it doesn’t have to be a crowd thing. The basic point is to humanize yourself to others and let your skillset be known to people so you’re not that antisocial creeper nobody knows anything about. If there are group projects at work you can get involved with, those sorts of things can be a decent opportunity because there’s not usually a bunch of people involved, and your skills get showcased without you having to soak up too much limelight. At my previous job, most people knew my name and the sorts of things that you could get accomplished by invoking it, but not many knew the name belonged to me. Perfect–the name is recognized and receives opportunities and I could remain comfortably in the shadows. It doesn’t take much to get known, and if you can do it without risk of getting hammered at happy hour, even better.

Well, to me that sounds like an incompetent HR department on a make-work exercise to show how important they are: and that particular remark is very close to licensing bullying.

I rather think the warning bell sounded when you said “management meeting”!

Getting me to attend happy hour or ‘other work functions’ wouldn’t help - you can lead an introvert to a crowd but you can’t make them chat. Crowd environments have two simultaneous effects - they encourage the overwhelmed introvert to stay silent and sidle towards the edge of the crowd, and they provide the bulk of the crowd with sufficient other targets that it’s relatively easy for the introvert to get away with this.

I’m a loner at work myself. What cracks me up the most is the look I see on people’s faces when I tell them I’m not interested in joining in on the “pizza party” for hitting whatever goal or milestone.

“Whaddya mean you don’t want pizza? It free? :confused:

I resent the very idea that anyone should be expected to attend outside-of-work social events.

For me personally, I don’t drink much, don’t play golf and don’t care to spend my time with people not of my choosing. It’s possible this has held me back in some way (no evidence of it that I’m aware of), but if it did I don’t think I care.

I make every effort to be personable and kind to my co-workers, and I genuinely like many of them. Networking is indeed important, and I keep mine filled with good people. But we should let go of this ridiculous attitude that we should have to drink together, bond over sports or whatever. Peoples’ off time should be their own.

Amen to the OP. I dislike that style of networking intensely.

I’m a consultant and I don’t “network” in that way at all. I let my reputation do the job for me. Seems to work fine as I get enough to me busy and the kids in shoes. I have no need for additional work, more money or advancement and especially not if the price to pay for that is the netwroking described in the OP.

I will happily go out for a meal or a drink with a very small group of people that I’m working with and who I feel comfortable talking to. Sometimes there will be a new person or two to meet and I’m perfectly happy in that small-group scenario but large-scale gatherings with people I don’t know make me very uncomfortable and as begbert2 suggested, it just provokes me to hide or run-off.

The attitude described in the OP’s meeting is all types of wrong and the leader should have clamped down on it and made it clear that it’s not cool to have a go at people like that.

I used to enjoy facilitating the department meeting, and was eager to volunteer to work on presentations concerning my projects, but at one point I felt people were taking advantage of my giving nature, so I pulled-back from all of that. Now, I do not raise my hand for such events as I would have in the past. When I was more active and visible, it was creating more work for me, and no additional rewards (my manager never made mention of nor recognized my efforts, and they did not appear on my annual review), so I had no reason or motivation for these things.

At the same time, I also retreated from some of the more social aspects of the company. I will do the minimum necessary, and happy to help when asked, but if I don’t want to do something, I don’t. I am with the OP re: being very uncomfortable in unstructured social situations, and if it is a large group, I try to hide or leave the room for breaks. I don’t give a damn if people notice and mock me. I just want to to a good job and help the people I work with, but the social stuff I can do without (I don’t judge those who like that stuff, however).

I agree that networking is done on your own terms, and there is no “right” way to do it. The company may offer some avenues, but you can manage your own contacts your way. My company is big on creating social groups oriented around someone’s race, gender, etc. for the purposes of networking, but I prefer handling it myself.

So let me get this straight…

I work in a group of about twenty people. I see them, on average, ten hours a day. I’m pretty sure I see these assholes more than I see my own family. What am I supposed to do during happy hour that I don’t already accomplish during the work day?

After-hours social time is almost physically painful for me. Its not just that I’m introverted and awkward and quiet, but I deeply resent the fact that I’m expected to give up my personal / family time to show up to an unpaid work function. And if all you’re going to do is drink and talk about sports, then I have no interest at all.

I once got an annual performance review (an Officer evaluation when I was in the Army) which my senior rated told me the only reason I didn’t get top marks was because I “wasn’t social enough.”

Seriously. Not that my work was bad or my skills need improvement. I just wasn’t social enough. By which he meant, I didn’t drink beer and talk about hockey.

BTW, sir, if you happen to be reading this: Fuck you, you disgusting piece of shit.

It is my most hated part of the job. It is also a painful necessity.

One thing that helps me is to look around for someone as uncomfortable as I, and try to help them feel welcome. We may end up talking all night like the wallflowers at a high school dance, but at least the topic will be something more interesting than football.
Another is to make it my goal to give five compliments in the course of the evening. People like people who like them. If all you do is avoid interaction, they will assume you don’t, and then they won’t like you in turn.

I also highly recommend LinkedIn(troverts). It’s a great way to make connections, remind old coworkers who you are, and give meaningful compliments that really help other people’s careers.

I think extroverts don’t really understand how some people don’t want to be around other people all the time. I’m not anti-social and I like people just fine, but I also like to have time to myself.

At one point we had a ‘team-building’ day that was built around the MBTI personality exercise. As part of this we all had to stand in a line across the middle of the room, the instructor would read a question and we had to step forward if we agreed or take a step back if we disagreed, for example "If a member of staff comes to me regarding an issue they have with a colleague, step forward if (a) I deal with the issue based on an unbiased examination of the facts, step back if (b) I deal with it depending on my personal opinion and whether I like or dislike the people involved. By the end of the exercise I was one of only three people towards the front of the room, everyone else was crowded at the back.

It explained a lot.

It wasn’t just me though, another part of the exercise had everyone writing what they thought were their good and bad attributes and then everyone else secretly writing what they thought of that person. One colleague said he was well liked, easy going, approachable etc but his feedback said he was arrogant, a bully, bad-tempered etc he tried to put a brave face on it but you could tell he was very nearly in tears. For the record I found him a bit over-bearing but very far from a bully and he certainly didn’t deserve to have that done to him.

The sort of nonsense above is why I hate team-building days. That and I’m an antisocial introvert. :wink:

I’m having flashbacks to several managers who expected people to go chase skirts (uh, I have several of my own) and/or get drunk/do drugs with them. Oh, and those people who ask “why don’t you drink, anyway?” as if not imbibing alcohol was some sort of offense to the universe (plus, I’m drinking; I’m drinking a soda and you were already an imbecile before you started to slurr).

It’s fucking inappropriate when the boss does it and it’s fucking inappropriate when HR does it. Sadly it’s also fucking illegal to hit them with a nice hefty vase.

That is so unbelievably fucked up. That is not the kind of feedback you deliver in public.

The OP should get into IT where we introverts are the majority. :slight_smile:
Saying that in a public meeting is obnoxious - but at least they put it out in the open, which is better than finding out in a couple of years that you didn’t get promoted because you didn’t go to Happy Hour.
Networking is useful for leaving a situation. I hate parties too, but the way I networked was to get involved with industry activities. They are often structured, and give you a chance to meet lots of people and to also show what you can do. That will help you get away from this place.

I wouldn’t quit go so far as to calling it bullying. It’s just extremely different personality types unable to understand each other.

I agree entirely, the day did have some interesting aspects and exercises but as you say some of it should really have been in private, not public.

I worked in quality-assurance in an IT department for a couple of years, in general it was an OK work environment but one thing drove me nuts. We would have a weekly conference call meeting with our parent company in America…every…single…time…the issues would be resolved in the first five minutes with the next couple of hours ago throwing out ideas and circling around problems that have already been solved. My feedback from management was generally good but I was told that I need to speak up more during these conference calls, sorry but I’m not good at wasting time like that.

Perhaps it was more a social networking thing than problem solving in retrospect but that’s not how it was presented.

Not quite the same thing, but at one company we had an annual week long all-hands company meeting, where we’d sit and listen to hours and hours of boring presentations by each department head about what they’d done all year. In an effort to engage the audience more, I guess, they’d have a session where they’d give us a discussion topic and we’d break up into groups and discuss it and then present our conclusions to the company. Thing is, these topics were ALWAYS marketing questions like “who is our most serious competitor and what should we do to counter them?” or “how can we make our product more attractive to this demographic?”. So we’d have engineers and secretaries and technical managers sitting around a table discussing a topic totally outside our areas of expertise. WTF was the point of that waste of time?

I’m very introverted, and reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain made a world of difference to me. Introversion is a strength and the reason I succeed. There is a lot to be gained by introverts and extroverts getting to understand their traits and how to enjoy them – both one’s own and that of one’s opposites. She also has a 19 minute TED video that is very worthwhile.

Being introverted is reason to be very pleased!

Team building, my foot. This sounds like cult indoctrination.

Did you also have to sing the company’s theme song every morning?

Yes, but the OP also mentioned social anxiety, which isn’t really the same thing as introversion.