Just Want to Be an Introvert at Work? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a subject matter expert in an engineering company and, well, a technical genius. I am aware it isn’t politically correct to put it that way, but it is the truth—I have an unusually high IQ and people who come to me for help literally call me “The Genius.”

Our whole team recently did a 360° feedback online. I received my report, which was okay. My direct reports have no complaints with me.  I am a good boss because I studied how to be a good boss and do all that is required. Even though I find it tedious and dull, I do what it takes. My boss also thinks I am great.

The problem is with my peers. It isn’t so much that they said negative or judgmental things; it’s that for many of the questions they mostly responded “N/A,” meaning they didn’t have enough experience with me to credibly respond. The number of N/A’s from my peers made me realize how little they know about me.

I am a quiet person. People tire me out. After work, I really just want to go home, hang out with my cat, and test new levels of video games—which I do for fun for a gaming company run by an old friend. I am generally not included in social events, probably because I consistently decline any invitations I get. I am not just an introvert, I am a turbo introvert.

So, here is my question: Does it matter? Is it important? Is there a compelling reason for me to make the effort to be more social with my peers?

Would Rather be Alone

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Dear Would Rather Be Alone,

Well, it all depends on your work and career goals. I am a
little surprised that the success of your team isn’t affected by the fact that
you barely interact with your peers. It sounds like regular interaction and
cooperation with other teams is simply not required for you to accomplish what
needs to be accomplished. That may or may not be true as your company grows and
changes. There might be a chance that you will be OK with keeping to yourself
for the foreseeable future; however, you might consider the following points.

The higher people go in organizations, the more they need to be connected to their peers to share ideas and ensure collaboration between functions. Research about emotional intelligence reveals that IQ only takes people so far—and that people who have not developed emotional intelligence (EQ) will hit a career ceiling. There might be some value in discussing with your boss your vision for your future in the organization and asking who among your peers might be most critical for you to get to know. Another thought is that one of your peers could easily be your boss someday—and wouldn’t it be easier for you if they had some sense of who you are?

I understand that people tire you out, so I encourage you to
start seeing it as part of your job to create relationships with people in the
organization who matter to your success. You can study how to do that the same
way you studied how to be a good manager. You don’t have to be super
social—just an occasional coffee will do it. Don’t try to be anyone but
yourself, but don’t make it about you. When you are around people, find a
couple of open-ended questions that get them talking. Make it about work by
asking things like “What do you like best about your job?” “Is there anything
my team could be doing to make things better for your team?” and “Is there
anything that you think I should know?”

Then you can reward yourself by going home to your cat
knowing you have gone the extra mile. Apply that high intelligence to doing at
least the minimum. It won’t hurt you—and it will probably help you in the long
run.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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