Monday, August 20, 2018

This is What Being the Shy One at Work Does to Your Career

When you're the "quiet one" or the "shy one" at work, others may make assumptions about you.

For example, they may think the fact that you don't say anything in meetings means you're not confident in your opinions, or that you're not prepared. They may believe that your silence when others are bantering about their weekend or their Fantasy Football picks means you're socially inept, or that you are a snob and think you're above arguing about the Cleveland Browns.

Is any of this true? You may say "No!" - or at least think that in your head since you are the "quiet, shy one."

You may defend your lack of gabbiness on the fact that you're just an introvert. Nothing wrong with being an introvert, you argue, as many of the great people are introverts -- Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg -- even Isaac Newton for goodness' sake! 


Being the "quiet, shy one" at work does have it's downside. Managers may not see you as leadership material or capable of working with key clients on important projects. They may figure you just don't have the drive or ambition to climb the ladder.

If you're OK with being stuck in the same job with about the same pay for the rest of your life, then this won't be a problem. But, if you'd like more challenging work, or to be given a bigger role in your company, then you may need to change your behavior. Not drastically. Just enough to be the "quiet, shy one" who has great ideas and wields influence.

The key is thinking of ways to make yourself heard while still being comfortable with who you are. In other words, becoming a motormouth isn't going to feel right to you, and it will seem false to others. You need to strike the right balance -- knowing the key times to speak up and when to let others know what you're thinking.

 Some ways to do that include:

1. Soliciting feedback. Ask colleagues or even a manager who you respect for some thoughts about how they view your communication and work style. Do they see you as uncaring about the team? A deep thinker? Someone who can be trusted? An employee who seems to have no professional drive? Help them feel good about being honest -- tell them you really want to gain more responsibility and be more useful. 

2. Don't make assumptions. If you want to be included in a project, then you're going to have to ask for it. Don't wait for someone to recognize how hard you're working and then offer it to you because you might be waiting for a very long time. Start making your desires known and then be ready to offer the reasons you'd be a great addition.

3. Build stronger ties. Just because you've worked with a colleague for two years or had the same boss for five years doesn't mean you have the kind of bond that will help you get ahead. Have lunch or coffee with colleagues and really try to get to know them.  Attend company events with the goal of understanding what other people in the company do and how you can interact with them more.

There's nothing wrong with being quiet or shy or introverted. But if you want to get ahead in your career, then that's going to require some strategic communication efforts on your part to ensure that your quietness isn't perceived as a liability.

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