Why Are Introverts So Underappreciated In The Modern Workplace?

If you are an introvert like me, this is nothing new to you. Wherever we go, whatever we do, this is our burden to bear. There has been a lot of interest on the topic of Introversion recently. It seems that the world is finally waking up, albeit somewhat uncomfortably, to the idea that it is absolutely fine if certain people don’t enjoy going out, or if they prefer to read a book as opposed to going to the movies with friends, or if they appreciate calm and quiet and don’t want to talk too much. While I welcome this change and hope that such exposure helps the rest of the world understand introverts better, I am also slightly suspicious of this new trend. Suddenly, it appears as though everyone wants to be an introvert. As introversion has increasingly become synonymous with intelligence and claims of being an introvert seem to lend a certain off-the-wall quirkiness to otherwise dull personalities, more and more people are identifying themselves, rather erroneously, as introverts. I find this latest fad very worrisome, since now, more than ever, there is an urgent need to clearly delineate the distinctive characteristics which contribute towards introversion and to demonstrate to the world that we do not always share the same traits or behave in a particular way. Introverts are unique and fascinating creatures who can add just as much value to any activity or pursuit as an extrovert can, though not necessarily in the same manner.

The office is a tricky place, especially if you are an introvert. The problem lies in the fact that just because introverts prefer to listen, rather than talk, they can easily be branded as shy, withdrawn or unenthusiastic. In a setting where you are expected to be a “team-player” and constantly think on your feet, introverts often appear incompetent and unequipped to handle the pressures associated with the job.

And then there is the dreaded “N” word —Networking! In your workplace you are expected to socialize, to make friends or at least form strategic associations which might help you advance your career further. Even though it shouldn’t be this way, in many modern offices your chances of getting a promotion is almost entirely dependent on which colleagues you are having drinks with on Friday evening after work or who you are playing golf with over the weekend. For an introvert these expectations seem unreal and also quite unnecessary. It shouldn’t matter whether I enjoy playing Foosball with you during breaks or whether I want to celebrate the birthday of the HR guy whose name I can barely remember.

People must stop assuming that we are bad team-players or loners just because we don’t always fancy participating in unnecessary group activities with our colleagues.

From my personal experience over the years, I have always found it very difficult to articulate my thoughts and present them in a coherent manner to the right person at the right time in the workplace. Sometimes I might get an idea, but my natural instinct is to mull it over in my head for days and debate the pros and cons of telling my superiors about it, lest they reject my idea or ridicule me for being so unimaginative. But gradually, I have come to the realization that it’s not my fault if my superiors are unable to recognize my potential and take full advantage of my capabilities.

Employers in the modern workplace must accept the responsibility of allocating tasks on the basis of the potentials and demonstrated abilities of each and every employee. They must understand that not every employee can be eloquent and dynamic and come up with million dollar ideas at team meetings. Some employees need the patience and support of their superiors to contribute effectively to any project. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are slow or stupid. It just means that they work differently.

As this report from Levo League suggests, extroverted women, on account of their ability to take on leadership roles more easily, earn more than introverted women. So, we still have a long way to go. Let’s just hope that the recent buzz surrounding introversion and its sudden pop-culture appeal can help bring these issues to the fore and help start a meaningful dialogue about them.

These are the personal views of the author and not her employer.