As an Introvert, do you find it challenging to share your ideas or thoughts with your boss or team? Have you ever wished that there was an app or guide to help Introverts navigate a relationship with an extraverted boss?
There’s an ebb and flow to navigating a relationship with your boss. However, work has the potential to become more complicated when the boss has an opposite style from yours.
I learned this the hard way.
For many years, as an INFJ, I felt like I had to “give in” to my extraverted bosses because they always seemed to be more articulate than me. I felt like they overpowered me in conversations and I never had the chance to share what was on my mind. It was constantly frustrating. My perception was that I had to battle for time in our one-on-one meetings to find a window to share my ideas—which never seemed to happen. At least that was the story I was telling myself in my head.
Years later, I realized that I might have been partly to blame for these frustrations. I always backed off. My extraverted, confident boss was always asking me for my opinion, but I gave away my own power due to feeling less confident and telling myself my responses were not ready to be shared. I needed a new mindset. One that was about sharing something—anything—even if it was only a quick observation to demonstrate to my boss that I was wildly capable of doing my job.
What’s the story you’re telling yourself about your extraverted boss relationship?
Focus on your Strengths
My biggest learning has been to focus on my strengths and who I am instead of wishing to be someone else. Focusing on your talents and skills will get you farther in navigating your boss relationship than getting frustrated and anxious over who you think they want you to be.
Introverts bring many strengths to the workplace that are often unseen or hidden. These skills can provide unique insights and ideas to your boss and team. A few introverted strengths include:
- Bringing focus to a discussion or a conversation
What are your strengths?
Understanding your strengths and talents will help you be a more confident person and employee. Right now, open a new memo on your phone or grab a piece of paper. Write the numbers 1-5 and then list five strengths that you bring to your work relationships. If you’re not sure, take some time to reflect on some work achievements or successful projects that make you feel proud and what made you successful. If you still cannot come up with five strengths, open a new text message and ask a colleague or friend to name one strength that you possess and that they appreciate about you. Knowing and owning your strengths is the first step towards navigating an extraverted boss and becoming a more confident you.
3 Areas of Opportunity for Introverts with an extraverted Boss
Below are three areas in the workplace that Introverts often find challenging and at the same time could be an opportunity to shine with the right mindset and actions:
1. Communication Styles
This is where it all starts because Introverts really enjoy written communication while most Extraverts thrive with verbal conversations. Seeking to understand your boss’ preferences from daily communication to taking time off to project status updates will help you manage your mindset and reactions. Often, we guess what people need or want when it comes to communicating at work. Employees who are considered top talent do not sit and wait for their boss to ask them questions. Rather, they approach the boss with their ideas proactively.
Strategic Action #1: Have a conversation with your boss about communication styles and preferences.
Whether your company uses personality assessments or not, asking a boss or teammate how they prefer to communicate demonstrates your interest in making the relationship work. A few questions that you could ask:
“Describe your communication style related to daily tasks, team updates, vacation days, etc.”
“What is your preference for everyday communication - phone, email, or text?”
“How can I contact you in an emergency or if there is a serious issue?”
Strategic Action #2: Share a portion of your thought and ask for more time
The most common communication struggle that I hear from Introverts is the need for extra time to process—except there isn’t always a lot of extra time for introverted processing. But, listening and problem-solving are your strengths. Use them!
If you’re expected to give immediate ideas, try saying, “This is off the top of my head” and then state your immediate reaction. Then add “If I could have a little more time to process the information, I am confident that I could bring a more developed solution or idea.” This approach allows your boss to see that you have ideas and it allows you the freedom to process more information and follow-up with a more thought out plan.
Strategic Action #3: Try a mini-brainstorm session.
This approach works well in one-on-one meetings with your boss when you’re discussing any topic that needs a solution. Once the boss shares the topic or issue, ask your boss if you could take 5-10 minutes each to think about the topic on your own. If your desks are close, maybe go back to your desk for 5-10 minutes. If not, set a timer and be quiet. With this extra time, write down as many ideas or questions as you can come up with on your own related to the topic. You can even use post-its like you do in a team brainstorming session. When you’re done, share your list of ideas or questions with each other. This action allows both the Introvert and Extravert to have time to process their thoughts and provide ideas or solutions for the discussion.
This may feel awkward at first. It certainly was for me! But once my boss noticed that I came back to her desk with actual responses and ideas to discuss, she started to send me away for longer periods and sometimes would schedule a meeting for the next day. Yes, this approach bought me 24 hours to think many times which was a huge win.
Large group meetings can be a big source of frustration and anxiety for Introverts. Extraverted bosses may want you to present your ideas or a project update to your team or possibly your boss’ boss.
Strategic Action: Offer to create an agenda for the meeting so that you know the topics that will be discussed in advance, plus this will show your boss that you have initiative and interest in the work on your team. Also, if you’re looking for a way to add your ideas to the larger group and can’t seem to find a window to jump into the conversation, try summarizing what you’ve heard in the meeting first and then add your ideas or thoughts to the summary. For instance, “What I’ve observed or heard in the meeting today is (describe what you’ve heard in a sentence or two) and I thought we could also try _______.”
One of my favorite bosses used to say that “feedback was a gift” and I would say, “Yes, a gift that you would like to return to the store!” With all joking aside, I am grateful for the very few bosses and teammates who took the time to provide me with real, honest feedback that helped me learn and grow. But that doesn’t make feedback any easier to hear right? I found one way to get feedback from my very extroverted and direct Senior Director that was quick and allowed me to understand what she thought of my performance.
Strategic Action: This works well after you’ve given a presentation, had a meeting with a client, completed a project proposal and are looking for feedback. Before trying this feedback activity, it is a good idea to discuss it with your boss in order for them to know what you are expecting from them.
Immediately after your meeting or your project proposal is read, ask “How would you rate my performance or work on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being “I rocked it” or “I nailed it” and 1 being “I seemed unprepared” or “I was unsuccessful”?
Let’s say they rate you a 4. Then you would ask, “What could I do next time to make it a “5?” This may seem like a simple question yet this feedback activity has provided me and some Vice Presidents that I worked with valuable insights to help manage their careers.
Mid-year or Annual Performance Review Feedback: If the feedback is related to a performance review, try asking for a copy of the review in advance of your conversation. This allows you time to reflect on the feedback provided and be ready to have a discussion.
Navigating a boss relationship will always have its challenges and opportunities even if you have the best boss in the world. What I have learned about relationships with extraverted bosses, as an introvert, is that we both have strengths and talents to offer each other to create positive change and success in the workplace. Understanding what you bring to the table and finding ways to share it with your boss will be the key to your success.