Can You Be Successful if You’re an Introvert?
Business is the land of the extrovert, not the introvert. It is estimated that 75% of the work population are extroverts. I have some trouble with this stat. Seventy-five percent of the people I know aren’t extroverts. But I can round this square if I amend the statement slightly to say that 75% of the people act extroverted in the work place, even if they aren’t outside it.
Why would a reserved person fake extroversion at work? Because research shows that extroverts have more money-earning capacity and more promotions. Meanwhile, the hard-working quiet ones who do all the heavy lifting don’t necessarily reap the rewards they should from their efforts.
So, can you be successful at work if you are an introvert? That’s what we’re going to explore, but first:
What is an introvert?
Psychology Today has a good definition, but generally I think an easy way to recognize it in yourself and others is whether you draw energy from being on your own, or get invigorated when you are in the company of others.
It’s not all or nothing, of course. You might enjoy the TGIF with the guys or the pick-up hockey games on the weekends and still need time on your own. Similarly, you may be the classic curl-up-with-a-good-book type who occasionally likes to cut loose. It’s really about where your preferences lie on the continuum.
Does this mean I have to become an extrovert?
Yes and no. We’re not talking about a complete personality conversion, but some introverts learn to act more like extroverts in order to move ahead in their careers.
However, sometimes, people love what they are doing so much that they don’t care about more money or promotions. They would be happy to do what they are doing for the rest of their working lives.
If you are among these happy few, congratulations. I would say you could skip the rest of this series except that sooner or later, even happy introverts can find themselves frustrated and stymied by things which have nothing to do with the work itself. And then they learn to fake being an extrovert.
But if I don’t care about a big salary, why fake being an extrovert?
Even if you are in the lucky category of loving what you do, you may still want to learn to fake being an extrovert for two reasons:
- To get credit for what you have done. Most people like their contributions recognized even if they love their jobs. It’s satisfying but also being seen as the expert can lead to greater degrees of freedom (e.g. more project money, more autonomy, more interesting work) than if you go unrecognized.
- To do what you really want to do. Much as introverts want the world to go away and let them get on with their work, the organization usually impinges in some way. You may chafe at stupid rules which prevent your best work or under a boss who is completely clueless and therefore need to speak up.
As you go along in your career, these frustrations can build. If you don’t develop some extrovert skills, you may end up loving the work but hating the conditions under which you do it.
I have to say, I’m not sure I’ve convinced you that faking extroversion can be important, so that next post will provide an example of when introversion can do you in. The following ones will discuss how to fake being an extrovert, if you decide that this is for you (and don’t be too quick to dismiss it—at least read the next post).