Work Survival Strategies

How Not to Manage an Introvert

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Do you supervise individuals who would describe themselves as an introvert? If the answer is yes — you may want to take a moment to examine how you manage them. In many cases, we hold misconceptions about introversion which can lead to ill-fated supervisory decisions. I’d like to help.

While many people confuse being introverted with shyness, introversion is in fact, about how an individual handles stimulation and processes information. Those on the introverted end of the introversion/extroversion continuum, require a different set of workplace conditions to excel — and we need to become sensitive to their needs. Small changes in management and workplace elements, can transact into a more comfortable environment, which is conducive to success.

A few things to re-think:

  • Putting them on the spot. It would be misguided to expect an opinion from an introvert at the “drop of the hat”. One hallmark of introversion is the need to sit with one’s thoughts and process information  — often away from the “madding crowd”. If  you offer an introvert a period of time to process, you’ll likely take full advantage of their skills and talent.
  • Publicly recognizing them. Stop yourself. Really. Many introverts would rather jump off a cliff than have attention shifted in their direction without notice. If they are about to to receive an award or accolade, let them know what you are planning ahead of time. They’ll appreciate the gesture and have time to prepare.
  • Teaming. It’s not that introverts are against teaming —  they would just rather contribute on their own terms. This means time to ruminate over issues on the table and providing bit of a lull before they will jump into the conversation. To an introvert, teaming can become a bit of a workplace nightmare – in direct opposition to how they would normally approach their work.  So, be sure to offer opportunities for introverts to start the idea generation process before team meetings are held and allow points in the conversation where they can jump in. (Try pausing 8-second before jumping to the next topic.)
  • The power of a quiet space. You don’t have to necessarily be an introvert to appreciate a calm environment in which to process information. Incorporating spaces within your office design that allow for quiet and privacy, is always wise. (Read more about that here.) But, someone leaning toward the introverted side of the continuum, will be forever grateful.
  • They have nothing to communicate. By nature introverts can be less likely to share their thoughts — which makes it even more important that you check in with them regularly. Send them an e-mail, asking how their projects are progressing. They can reflect and respond on their own terms.
  • Introverts cannot lead. Truth be told, you are dead wrong here. Recent research has shown that those on the introverted side of the continuum are more open to a differences in opinion than their extroverted colleagues. As a result, they are more likely to make more informed decisions. In fact, it has been shown their hesitancy to monopolize the conversation, can actually make them powerful team members. Sounds like leadership material to me.

Are you an introvert? What workplace conditions help you excel?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and formerly at US News & World Report.

Music = Inspiration

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From time to time, we all experience some form of “writers block”. In the broadest sense, the words (and work) stop flowing, as we find ourselves faced with a “wall” which impedes our progress. We may simply be working too hard, or have lingered too long attempting to solve a specific problem.

Of course, changing gears can lead to a breakthrough (read more about the Eureka Phenonmena here.) Listening to a great piece of music, can affect this gridlock — setting our minds in motion, in an entirely different direction.

Here are six pieces of music that might take you away from the pressure, toward a more productive, fluid space. I happen to find these selections helpful. But, I would love to know what you queue up on Youtube or your IPod when energy is running low?

Share them with us here.  A little inspiration can never hurt.

Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve:

 

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What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong:

 

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Clocks by Coldplay:

 

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The Best is Yet to Come by Frank Sinatra:

 

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Nessun Dorma by The 3 Tenors:

 

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Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap:

 

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Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

Why We Don’t Ask for What We Need (or Deserve) in the Workplace

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It is difficult to ask for what we need (and deserve) career-wise. I believe this is a common experience. You can almost feel the tension building as we muster the courage to speak up and give our “inner career voice” wings. We are fearful. We hesitate. We obsess. We role-play the potential outcomes in our minds. However, to progress in today’s world of work mastering this process is an absolute necessity. Whether we are seeking recognition for work well done, a much-needed raise, or a simple “tweet” to support our work — asking for what we need is a challenge we simply must overcome.

So, what are we to do about this very common problem? Rather than examining the “hows” of asking  for what we need — it is best to examine the “whys” of our hesitation.

A few things to consider:

  • Lowered confidence. We have all experienced setbacks at work. However, because of these experiences we can develop a bit of a “blind spot” concerning our true value. As such, we become guarded and often hesitate to take any kind of risk. In the end, we don’t speak up and miss out on opportunities to collaborate, plum projects and an enhanced future.
  • We don’t want to brag. This is really tough one. Most of us are brought up not to “toot our own horn”. However, to secure that needed “leg up” — we need to be sure that others are noticing our work. As a result, a little well-placed PR is a necessity. In today’s fast paced workplace, playing the “shrinking violet” is likely a losing strategy. We need to get over that.
  • We don’t like to ask. If you describe yourself as fiercely competitive — you may not like to depend on anyone to help secure your future. You may even think this would cause you to appear needy or less competent. If this is your vantage point, remember that no man (or woman) is an island. It actually takes many people to build a meaningful career.  So open yourself up to reach out.
  • We’re in the dark. In some cases, we are simply unsure of our actual career worth. Why? Because we do not seek accurate feedback. Asking your boss, clients or colleagues, “How did you feel about the work I completed?” is a fair and reasonable question. So ask away. We need to know where we actually stand to feel we are in any position of power — and gathering the facts is really the only way.
  • We’ve made unreasonable comparisons. Sometimes we feel unworthy because we are drawing unhealthy comparisons in relation to the careers of others (and judging ourselves quite harshly). We feel we don’t measure up and don’t have any claim to valuable outcomes. Why not offer yourself a break?
  • We are afraid of the word “No”. The prospect of being rejected is never a pleasant — and hearing a negative response is a possibility. However, remember that we have the ability to recover. So, why not process the “no”, peel back the first layer of emotions and ask “why not”.

This is not a dynamic that resolves overnight. If you desire progress, simply start small and work your way forward. Asking for what you want or deserve might be difficult the first time around — but the process will get easier.

Just remember this: If you ask —  you just may get.

Have you been faced with this dilemma? What happened?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

Getting Over the Hump of “Hump Day”

 

Hump DayWednesdays — the grumpy “middle child” of the work week.  If only Wednesday could magically turn into a Friday, or dare I say, transform into Saturday.

While you might have breezed through Monday and Tuesday, somehow Wednesday just seems to be the day that “snags”. It can pull us down. It drags. You may find you struggle through meetings and “zone out” while others are speaking. Somehow the energy of the weekend has dissipated and you’re right in the thick of it all.

I’ve actually held a grudge against Wednesdays for years — and I don’t think that I am alone. It’s really a bit unfair. So, it’s time to change our tune.

Wednesday’s do not  have to be the day that we just need to “get through”. In this vein, here are a few strategies that might help make Wednesdays your favorite day of the work week:

  • Do what you love. Build in a stretch of time for something you enjoy work-wise. For example, a project or content area that really interests you. Even if the time increment is modest (say 20 minutes), you’ll feel more energized.
  • Get out of the building. Anoint Wednesdays as the day you make plans to leave the office (and yes, your computer) for lunch. Invite someone new to join you each week — someone who might have an interesting role or personality.
  • Contact someone you like. Do you have a favorite colleague or business contact? Allow yourself time to reach out to them on a Wednesday — a great way to boost both perspective and mood.
  • Laugh a little. Start out Wednesdays with a bit of workplace humor. Read a few New Yorker cartoons or listen to a clip from your favorite workplace inspired comedy movie.
  • Change things up. Make Wednesdays, a day of change. Disallow an annoying workplace behavior that probably isn’t doing you any favors — or revise the “status quo”. For example, go the entire day without contradicting someone or refrain from sending e-mails that could replaced by a walk down the hall. You get the idea.
  • Be nice. I mean — really nice. Make Wednesdays the day that you thank as many people as possible for adding something positive to your work life. Bring your “stars” a coffee drink or a danish, and vow to stop taking people for granted.
  • Build on a success. Review the events of last week and tease out a success. Write down 2 or 3 actions that would build on that progress — and keep the forward momentum going. Now follow through.

How do you get through “Hump Day”? Share your strategies.

Image: Geico

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

The Untold Resume Story

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Last week, I attended a client meeting discussing the merits of candidates for a key position. At one point, the conversation turned to a current freelance contributor with whom they had developed a long relationship . The conversation went something like this:

Company Executive A: “What about bringing in Erin on this one? Her work is beautiful.”

Company Executive B: “We should think about the required progress on this project — we need to keep things moving along quickly.”

Company Executive C: “I’d like to see Erin here, but I worry about her ability to handle the schedule when the pressure heats up.”

Hmmmm. That information was certainly never mentioned before — and it certainly was not on her resume. This individual had completed multiple projects with the company quite successfully. Her work was described as “inspired” and she usually hit budget targets. However, it appeared that a portion of her “invisible” or “unwritten” resume was affecting her chances with the current opportunity.

This brings us to an interesting inflection point. We all have an alternative or unwritten resume —  which effectively captures what is not included in the more formal version. (See a great discussion of the topic in this classic HBR post.) This unwritten version, might include aspects of our work life including attitude, performance under pressure and our overall ability to collaborate.

We all have a side to our career story that we may be overlooking — and its elements may have a significant impact on our future. We all need to ascertain the complete story. The sooner the better.

So what do you think might be included in your “invisible resume”?

Time to think about that.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

About Your Career: My Advice to the Class of 2013

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(This post was previously published in LinkedIn’s “Class of 2013: The Commencement  Speeches You Wish You Heard”.)

I’ve heard (and offered) my share of career advice over the years — and at this point in your lives, you are likely hearing more than your minimum daily requirement. I understand. Nearly everyone wants to offer a reflective opinion concerning how you should go forward, and leave your mark on the world. I realize that all of the chatter might feel a bit overwhelming — especially with all that is ahead of you — but rest assured, the advice is certainly well intentioned. However, one key point to remember as you leave this chapter behind, is to temper its application with the sound of your own voice. Listen openly to all the advice that is offered, as it it given with love and concern. However, be sure not to lose yourself within that conversation.

Much of the advice that I personally received about work and career, was really quite good. Some… well…not nearly as good (and memorable for very different reasons). I won’t offer the unabridged volume to you today — and I’ll keep the message brief. But, I would like to share some of the most memorable snippets with you. So, here is the best (and the worst of it) — offered to you, with an accompanying “hindsight is 20/20″ review.

“Find something you love to do. If you can eventually get someone to pay you for it, you’ve got it made.” I’ll have to say, this was the best of the lot. Looking back, I never would have have guessed that my dad (a family physician), had been privy to the “secret sauce” of work life happiness — but he did have the power of experience behind him. When he offered me this advice, employee engagement per se, was yet to be discussed. But his words resonated with me and I thought about his comment often. His words guided me at many a crossroad. My dad loved what he did everyday — and this was apparent. He worked long hours, took countless late night phone calls and never missed an opportunity to say hello to a patient outside of the office. When he passed away, I heard countless heartwarming stories from his patients explaining how he had touched their lives in a deep and meaningful way. It was amazing. I wish that kind of career for all of you — so search with great urgency for a role that you will love.

“Don’t stray from your core area of strength.” Wrong. Don’t sell yourself short. Learn as much as you possibly can, about as many core areas of an organization as possible — this will help you to transform into a seasoned contributor. As I entered the world of work, I’d spent years studying work behavior and the elements of organizations. But, what I desperately needed to see, first hand, was how all of the pieces coalesced in real time. When posed with a unique opportunity to write proposals for the broader organization, many let me know they thought it was misguided to leave my role in research. But, for some odd reason I didn’t listen. I’ve never regretted that choice, as I learned more about the business than I ever imagined. Building flexibility, while developing new strengths is always a good path. So even if those opportunities don’t present themselves, search for them. Create them. Ultimately, a career is a mufti-faceted quest, where unexpected twists and turns should be welcome – so don’t hesitate to travel “off-road” and explore once in a while.

Leave your personal life at the door”. This was undoubtedly the worst (and the most perplexing) advice offered. When this was generously shared (from a very senior staffer, as a newly minted manager) I was absolutely speechless. All I could think of that moment was “How do I possibly accomplish that?”, and “How does anyone, for that matter?” As it turns out this advice wasn’t really a viable goal after all. We essentially bring “all that is us” to our work each day – for better or worse – as our lives outside of the office shape who we are as potential contributors. It would be nearly impossible to perform a dissection, and remove our home or personal life from our office life (or vice versa, for that matter). The irony of this, is how many of us now complete our work from our home offices. Funny how that turned out – as personal lives routinely intersect (and meld) with work life today. Going forward, encourage evolution in your work life, to make work, work for you.

In closing, I’d like to say that I envy the place where you find yourself today. I see a career as an exciting series of doors, leading to the chapters of your future. Open those doors with hope and respect — for yourself — and those that you will certainly meet along your journey.

Good luck to you – I wish you a happy and fulfilling career.

(What is the best or the worst, advice that you’ve received? I’d love to hear it.)