In every organisation, there are some people who do their work silently and are hardly heard, let alone known. As a matter of fact, they are very important for the organisation, not only for the good work they do, but also for their composed and nonchalant presence.
The common belief is that this group is more suited for roles such as finance, accounting, technology than marketing, sales and customer relationship functions. Moreover, the public perception is that they are quiet, dedicated and prefer to work solo.
People of this personality type do not compete with others. Their fight is with the self and they evaluate their performance by using an intrinsic yardstick.
In a world where individual branding has become very important, do the introverts struggle to be heard, noticed and known?
During a recent appraisal, a friend was warned by her boss that her growth will be hampered if she did not network within the organisation. She was explicitly told that no one in the senior leadership knew her and that was the reason she had not bagged opportunities despite being deserving.
Like my friend, many introverts who are diligent workers lose out on senior roles because they are unable to establish a rapport with the seniors. Now, this becomes a bigger problem when the organisation is large and the senior management is scattered in different locations.
“HR should understand that there are groups of people at work, who, by nature, will not make any noise, but efforts should be made to hear them”
Apparently, the world that we live in not only suffers from a short memory but also is a little hard of hearing. It registers only those who regularly seek attention by speaking up! Through consistent conversations and by working their charm, they succeed in creating powerful contacts and networks.
Susan Cain, author of the bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, asserts that personality shapes our lives as intensely as gender and race. She believes that where people fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum is the single most important aspect of their personality.
In every organisation, one-third of the employees, to varying degrees, are likely to be introverts. Ganesh Chandan, CHRO, Tata Projects, says, “In this context, I worry about introverts, and whether their concerns and opinions are being heard. Sometimes, they also become victims of bullying. Every organisation needs someone to be the voice for such people who like to stay quiet.”
Managers are becoming sensitive towards this personality type and making sure that they are protected and heard. However, in the long list of priorities that any function has, everyone ends up focussing more on who makes a lot of noise. A lot of attention gets diverted there, and as a result, the introverts suffer.
“There are certain skills—such as sincerity, dedication and the ability to consolidate information— which introverts possess that help them do well in roles, such as marketing and sales”
“Here, the HR can play a role. They should understand that there are groups of people at work, who, by nature, will not make any noise, but efforts should be made to hear them,” opines Chandan.
Some areas, such as sales, marketing and customer-facing roles are more suited for extroverts. These people, by nature, are very social and people centric. “Though there are instances where introverts have done very well in sales too, that is not their natural personality type. However, they can be more adaptive—play the role and after that come back to their natural self,” says Chandan.
Varun Upadhyaya, head of HR, Wockhardt, says, “There are certain skills—such as sincerity, dedication and the ability to consolidate information— which introverts possess that help them do well in roles, such as marketing and sales. Due diligence comes more from introverts than extroverts. I must say, extroverts are like the icing on the cake. But for the icing, you need the cake first!”
Interestingly, the personality that a person demonstrates during growing-years arouses a lot of speculation related to his/her choice of work in future. Moreover, there are ready profiles available in the society, all we have to do is relate to them on the basis of commonalities.
Everyone starts their careers as one of the two types— an extrovert or an introvert— but over a period of time, the people who learn to balance the two are the ones who become visionary leaders.
Recognition of the mute workers should be built into the approach and not just be a policy or a framework. This is another form of diversity that needs sensitivity flowing from the top.