Myths about Introverts

ImageYou may have read my previous post on the Social Bully of Retention Plans, on the discussion of introverts and extroverts at social gatherings at the office. I received some very interesting replies, including a couple personal emails from bloggers who seemed to want to tell me, “how it really is”. One of my very good friends is an extrovert, we do a lot together both in the community and at home watching movies. When we are together, it is very difficult to tell who is the introvert and who is the extrovert because of our flexible and accommodating personalities. There are myths that introverts are “missing out”, “don’t know how to have fun”, are “cold” and “antisocial”, lack creativity, are shy, don’t like people, don’t like to talk, are only “book smart”, and more…. these are simply not true. All of these traits have no preference for personality, they can belong to anyone. Discerning the difference between the two is not as simple as outgoing and shy. There are many misconceptions between these two personalities, and unfortunately, because extroverts make up 70% and more of the population, introverts have been labeled unjustly. This post is intended to clarify the personalities in a positive light, and give more background information on why introverts should be valued in the workplace, not shamed, but encouraged to be themselves- just as extroverts are.

Myth #1) Introverts are Shy. Shyness implies a fear of social interaction- introverts are not any more afraid of people than extroverts. When I worked for a large IT company, there were mass company events, or “social gatherings” rather, once a week. The Director of Events would speak in front of aproximately 2,000 people and more over the course of the day with a team moral booster speech, act as MC, and so forth… And every morning, he would put anti-anxiety pills in his coffee about 20minutes before going on. He was an extrovert, and he could barely speak in front of a crowd without his meds. Shyness is unique to the person, not the intro-extro personality.

Myth #2) Introverts don’t have fun. I would be very interested to know what group of introverts came forward with this information. Introverts go paintballing, are horse enthusiasts, do extreme sports, belong to clubs, go to concerts, and take the train to work just like anyone else. Just like extroverts, there are high energy individuals and low energy individuals. Some introverts don’t like the outdoors, but like cooking instead- others thrive when mountain climbing but don’t like books. Introverts make their fun how it meets their own needs and what is good for them. Which leads me to the next myth, that introverts can change to be like extroverts- and it would be better for them.

Myth #3) Introverts can change to be like extroverts- and it would be better for them. Introverts cannot change, just as extroverts cannot change. Depending on the field of work that each goes into- they may adopt traits that assist them in their environment. Even more so if the individual is passionate about their line of work, and has a dynamic character. In this instance a strong introvert can be an Event Planner, and a strong extrovert can be a Librarian. Although it is a tad unusual for these, as the majority ¬†dominates the opposite personality, it is not unheard of, and will not hinder the personality’s success. If introverts are forced, coerced, or made to believe they “must be an extrovert”, it can take a severe toll on them expending more of their energy, kind of like a jaguar pretending to be a dove all day- it’s just harder. This may be why some people think introverts tire out more easily or are extra quiet- it could just be because they have used up all their energy sporting their extrovert skills.

Myth #4) Introverts make poor managers and don’t connect with employees. False. Introverts in the office are typically in the “know” for the office pulse, but tend to fly beneath the radar undetected. No doubt that extroverts make a point of their presence being noticed- however introverts as managers sport a reliable, trustworthy open door policy, as opposed to a fluttering social butterfly get around. For professionals that have worked into middle-but for sure upper and senior management, they can attest that the differences between intro-extro at these levels become very difficult to spot. This is because a good manager climbing the ranks typically has to have a dynamic personality and character to effectively manage a diverse group of individuals. A tunnel extrovert cannot manage an introvert, and a tunnel introvert cannot manage an extrovert. Either/or, the fact remains that the stats flip for management- upper management is made up of 70% introverts > this says a lot. Introverts are more sensitive to employee relations and culture which makes them valued managers. This is primarily due to the more easy going nature of introverts who enjoy exploring different types of stimulus at varying degrees as opposed to a lot of stimulus at one degree all at once.

introvertMyth #5) Introverts only want to be alone. Believe it or not, just like extroverts- there are “world class introverts” just like “world class extroverts”. There are different sub-levels and degrees of each, kind of like the difference between being outgoing and obnoxious. There are world class introverts (kind of like myself) that can go days without being in touch with the rest of the world, even without a phone or computer. Sometimes I just really enjoy reading, writing, contemplating, and being creative on my own for a bit. Usually I want to share this with someone when I’m done my time alone, and I love sharing with other introverts who do the same thing. But believe me, not all introverts like to be alone. There are a lot who enjoy talking and sharing regularly throughout their day. Typically though, introverts prefer groups of 1-3 of close friends who they have sincere, close relationships and connections with as opposed to 5-8 people (again- notice the increase in stimulus) when together at once. It’s not that they want to be alone- it’s that they require lesser stimulus overall. Introverts get lonely for company and relationships just like anyone else.

Myth #6) Introverts are not creative. A lot of this stems from the myth about introverts having their noses in books, and being quiet all the time. Introverts can be very creative, in fact, there is not a statistic that can tell you who is more creative. Each personality enjoys art, music, food, languages, culture, and everything in between. Each personality expresses their creativity differently- writing, reading, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, designing a web page, marketing, blogging, social networking, public speaking, community networking, and the lot to follow.

I hope this helps you in your journey with understanding the differences, and how to positively work with, and understand introverts. Perhaps even for some of you (30%) you recognize yourself, and can see the qualities.

Happy Office Politics.

The Human Resources Myths

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There is a myth around Human Resources, their need in the office, their role among other workers, where they stand in the hierarchy, and what their job description is. And it seems, politely so, that a surprising amount of HR, don’t even know their political and ethical role.

Human Resources was established for employee counsel, as opposed to everyone going union and using union reps (who are employed by the employee, not the employer), as an alternative as an advocate for the employee with the company’s goals and best interest at heart. It is a balancing act that requires true diplomacy, tact, grace, and a cunning and shrewd business sense. Like hiring an accountant for the company, you do not simply hire someone to figure out the numbers nonsense. You hire an accountant who is knowledgeable about filing, working numbers in the right integrity, ensuring your costs remain low, and seek out options for marginal profit and can balance the books in a such a way it’s not costing unnecessary dollars waving “bye bye” out the window. So with HR, you should be seeking a strategist, not a people pleaser.

Human Resources is not a High School Guidance Counselor. I don’t want to hear about your petty problems with Bill and Sally. Spare me the details. It is your responsibility under the work code of ethics to figure it out until there are irreconcilable differences. If you want someone to be a sounding board, that’s different. In that case, tell me. But don’t stalk me to my office, complain, and then cover it up with how you really like them because they are such nice people. That’s gaslighting. Don’t complain in the first place. Therefore, do not privy me to information as a supposed “leak”, and then say “whoops, please don’t do anything” when really you think this is a sneaky and clever way of getting me to discipline someone. I’ll fire you for breech of trust, misrepresentation, withholding information, ethical slander, fraudulent character, triangling, gaslighting, undermining, contributing to bad moral, and anything else I can sum up. Two words, Be Ethical. HR is not here to do people pleasing, or to solve employee disputes. Solving disputes is a combined effort between the supervisor/manager and HR when it escalates, and not before then. For those of you who may not be aware, HR monitors your behaviour in disputes, handling relations, and conduct. We keep note of anything that is a misrepresentation of character, breech of trust, or violates ES (Employment Standards), LR (Labor Relations), or Company Policy. If you violate enough, you go on the black list. It may be 2 years later, but when push comes to shove, and your behaviour has not changed or showed character growth, technically it doesn’t exist in the books, but it will still go against you.

It’s not all RAGS (Rules and Regulations). Policy is unique and eloquent. That’s why it’s called Policy, not law, not rules, not rights. Policy. HR should be creative with policy and court it with the same enthusiasm as a business relationship would with high profile client. You should know the character of policy (when it is appropriate), its circumstance (how effective in this circumstance), its development (in all circles, such as Trades, Medical, Social Services, Legal, etc), its rulings (how successfully different policies have been implemented for this scenario), and when and WHERE to extend or expand upon it. Policy does not dictate the law, but it does paint the scene and players for which the legal action will be carried out. Make it eloquent, just, and above all: air tight. Everyone in the company should have signed a confidentiality agreement to start, integrity agreement second. Policy should be updated regularly with HR Employment Standards development, legislative changes, and company growth and development. Ten policies that work excellent for a company of 40 employees, may backfire for a company that doubles within a year.

“I don’t want to hear about your hobbies, quirks, or personality traits- you either have the skill set or you don’t.” As quoted from an HR professional here in Vancouver. What? Who decided on this? Is this why employees are suffering each other and everyone hates their job? I can tell you now, if someone has strong pathology, looks like a psychopath, is an outside of work alcoholic, philanderer, has anger issues, or is abusive – I will NOT hire you. For the simple reasons of how you act in your personal life is always a translation of how you will act in your professional life. Morals and Values do not change when you walk in the office door, you take them everywhere. Furthermore, if I find you annoying, I will not hire you based on that you don’t fit in with the culture of the office. Fair is fair. I’m not going to piss my employees off. And that’s not in policy.

Human Resources handles the basic duties of an Office Manager plus benefits and payroll. False! This is one of the most common myths, just add on the high school guidance counselor bit. HR does not manage the office the same way an OM does. Typically, OM (Office Managers) have administrative training, a professional HR should have training in employment law, basic one-to-one counsel, peer support, training and coaching abilities, and be able to provide counsel to senior management, something an OM is not trained to do. So on the Hierarchy scale, the HR doesn’t actually have a “place” as their diplomacy and integrity is supposed to keep them as advocates for the employees, but keeping managers and senior staff on track achieving company goals. It’s a neutral position, that if it has to could be somewhere beside a senior Director- however the HR would most definitely have to be quality and know their stuff.

These are just a few of the myths in HR. You may recognize one, two, or all. But if you are an HR professional, please keep these in mind and make critiques to be the better professional I bet you can be.

Steps to De-stress – an RX for Crazy

StressedWoman_shutterstock_59328619-1024x682Stress from both professional and personal lives can be overwhelming. It can leave you dreading a single toe to leave the bed in the morning, to finding excuses not to return home at night. So when another weekend passes you by, and you have been counting down the hours until your return, it’s time to start planning a little you time.

Schedule a NO Stress Zone¬†Scheduling a time away, and in a place in your home where stress “is not allowed” can be surprisingly rewarding and fulfilling. Many readers are probably thinking of their spinning classes, krav maga classes, walking club, and so forth. -but that’s not the time away I am talking about. If you recharge by being with someone, then maybe ask your partner or a loved one to partake in these activities with you. If you are an introvert like myself, then we thrive on alone time, and the next person to walk through that doorway will find the giant rolling ball from Indiana Jones chasing them. I’m talking about lessening your stimulus intake to destress your body’s sensors emotionally, mentally, and physically. Every Thursday night my home gets cleaned. Especially the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and my bathroom. How your surroundings look represent how you feel on the inside, and can add to stress that may already be simmering. Your home does not need to be spotless. In fact if you are anything like myself, you will want it to look like someone is living there, so not so organized it feels like a hotel. Rather, tidy, neat, and the basics done so I am not worried about having clean dishes or laundry for the weekend. The garbage is changed, my fridge is stocked, my tub is clean for spontaneous baths, etc… This way, when Friday comes and I am too tired to clean and just want to go to the bar and meet up with my neighbours, I can come home to a clean home and wake up Saturday morning to a clean home. Then all day Saturday I get to enjoy my home, even if I have to go into the office, or work from home- it takes a burden off my plate. Saturday night is sacred to me though. Nothing interrupts Saturday night. No clubbing, no dancing, no noise. It’s just me, a bottle of white, some candles, a soft blanket, bacon bits, and Svengoolie. Yes, that’s right, I watch Svengoolie (a Movie Jockey who commentates and hosts old black & white horror movies like Frankenstein and Cult of the Cobra). I take the SIM card out of my phone, turn off all possible alerts on my laptop, and completely shut out the outside world. This night, I look forward to every week. It is my reward for working overtime, long hours, and under stress. I let the cares of the world take care of themselves, and tell myself to be lazy until Sunday morning. There is something so fantastically ritual about it, that it pleases my every senses. The next morning I wake to take on the world long before Monday can even begin to drag itself out of bed.

Stop Taking Work Home So many of us take work home. We answer our cell phones, check our email, write reports, and take on extra tasks when we are off the clock. This tends to happen rarely, every now and again. But if you are doing this regularly it means it’s happening for one of two reasons: you either have an extremely high profile job and complex responsibilities (which typically you are compensated by in other ways), or (this is the most common one) you have bad boundaries. The number one reason employees are stressed about taking work home with them is because they feel it is their duty to do the work. Part of this comes from a low laying level of desire to have continued drama in ones life (examine your past, youth, and childhood, if it was always “go!go!go!” mentality, most likely you have brought this into your work life today by doing too much), or you are fearful of losing your job (feelings of inadequacy, needing constant approval, needing to be constantly needed), or you are a micro-manager and find it very difficult to let go at the end of the day because you want every day to be your best foot forward for the company. Remember, think back to your employment contract. You are being paid for X amount of hours a week, which equates to a monthly salaried budget for the agency. This means, whatever it is, you have at least one week to one month to ensure full project completion. Don’t stress. This is also why as workers we are generally working in teams, with peers, and have a supervisor for counsel, and hopefully a few people we manage to help us carry our workloads. Draw firm boundaries. Unless you are a designated facilities or emergency manager, even if the building burns down at 2am. It is not your concern until 9am. Do not “Wear Your Stress”. Your stress and worry should not be like the sweater you are wearing that you take everywhere. Whatever it is, leave it at work. There are enough worries in one day without having to worry about the next. Let the cares of work take care of themselves in your absence.

Get Immediate Debriefing Support A lot of employees don’t know that most Human Resources in agencies provide counsel and support, such as soundboarding for employees who just need to vent about their days. Most likely you have a supervisor who oversees you and provides you with support. Sometimes employees feel judged, or cautious that they might seem incompetent if they go to their supervisors for support, so HR is a good option. It’s true that having a friend to talk to about your work can be helpful when it comes to destressing. Sometimes though, when a friend does not work in the same environment, it can be difficult to relate to the specifics of the politics and systems. If you have a group or a few work colleagues that you can grab a beer with after work, or even grab lunch with once a week- this will help time fly by a lot faster to feel as if you are truly being heard and understood. If you can find good supports this way you will feel better about the work you are doing.

Use Rewards When I am really stressed, ready to fly off the deep end, and am unsure if I can muster the strength to get out of bed and complete the last week of long term project that has me working 70hr weeks for the last month… I use rewards. I promise myself in the morning to get an extra large gourmet coffee of my choice, accompanied by a sweet treat. Then for a few days in a row I do a cheap lunch out. I promise myself that on Friday I am getting take away for a dinner party with friends at mine, splurging on my favorite beer, and permitting myself to be super lazy all weekend. Oh yes, and I might take Monday off. As you can see, I use food to reward myself. However once it is all spent and done, it’s a couple hundred dollars on food and a dinner party. So for those of you who don’t relish food as much as myself, perhaps a couple pairs of new shoes, clothes, a night away at a fancy hotel, a piece of furniture, bed sheets, books (my second favorite reward), and so forth could be your reward. Or maybe, it’s just having that whole weekend plus Monday off. When we know what we are working towards, we feel better about it, have more confidence, accept rather than reject the stress levels, and are more apt to not crashing so hard when it’s done. It also provides a sense of closure so you feel some gain from all the work you had done.

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Good Luck! Happy De-Stress!