Traditionally, introverts are viewed as individuals who internalize their emotions, need time alone to re-energize, and tend to be quiet and reserved. So, how and why would such people need to engage in office politics?
For introverts, they may not seek politics, politics may seek them.
Introverts and Office Politics
The business environment has a strong preference for idealizing leaders as outgoing, charismatic, strong-willed A-type personalities, in other words, a fast-talking extrovert. Based on this bias, the qualities that Introverts bring to the workplace are often overlooked and undervalued.
As a result, Introverts are passed over for leadership roles where their qualities would provide an advantage to the organization.
Office politics is often geared toward the go-getter, the outspoken, the “mover and shaker,” and the self-proclaimed leader.
It is about power, influence, getting ahead, competition, and deals. On the surface, this sounds antithetical to the nature of introverts. After all, this does not resonate with people who are known to keep to themselves, preferring a book over a conversation.
However, to take introverts’ quiet nature as a sign of weakness would be a mistake.
Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of corporate titans, extroversion has been the standard personality in doing business.
In addition to the personality-driven leader, the ultimate team player is also favored within corporate settings.
Review most job postings, and such employer’s preferences are: “works well with others, dynamic, driven, team player, strong leader, shows initiative, outgoing and personable, contributes ideas, sales-driven… “
Although these traits are desirable, they tend to favor the DNA of extroverts.
If you were to expand the pool of applicants to include or even favor introverts, an employer’s preference would be: “Conscientious, follows through, independent self-starter, curious, customer relations-oriented, self-motivated, strategist, persistent, trustworthy, self-directed, autonomous, innovative, problem-solver, independent thinker… ”
Because of this disparity, introverts have to be smarter and more strategic when it comes to office relations, particularly, office politics.
How Introverts Should Set the Stage
A person possessing a shy and demure personality can be your best friend or worst enemy. For introverts, the power of introversion lies in its mystery. Niccolò Machiavelli in his seminal book, The Prince, said that it is best to be feared than to be loved.
It takes a combination of fear and love to garner respects. In the end, introverts want to be respected. How do you go about gaining respect?
On the first day of employment, your job is to observe and learn the corporate culture. Is it laid back? Hectic? Conservative? Eclectic? As you are going through the on-boarding process, ask pointed questions about the corporate mission, as well as corporate policies.
Corporations have personalities, DNA, and mores. These attributes were established by the founder and perpetuated by the personalities that are hired to perpetuate its existence.
Consequently, when you tap into the inner workings of the company, you know how it operates, as well as its philosophical and constitutional groundings.
By merely listening, observing, and studying the lay of the land with little personal input, you are arming yourself for being productive within the organization, as well as protecting yourself through corporate standard operating procedures and policies.
Initially, you want to be viewed as smart, inquisitive, and disciplined. This sets the stage as a baseline for your future moves and expectations.
Become a Corporate Policy and SOP Expert
In many corporations, employees follow customs not policies. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Custom as “Long-established practice considered as unwritten law.” Whereas, a Policy is defined as “A high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body.”
Generally, policies are written, where customs are not. Policies are created and sanctioned by the corporation. Customs are exercised by employees and accepted or overlooked by managers.
For introverts, these distinctions are important. At all costs, it is important to follow policies and procedures rather than customs. Most employees rarely read corporate policies, although they often sign off on having received and read them.
From a corporate perspective, once you sign-off on corporate policies, any liability rests with employees.
When dealing with office politics, the employee well-versed in policy and procedures will have the upper hand if another employee attempts any power plays.
Since introverts tend to keep to themselves, it will be office bullies who may use customs or non-corporate initiatives to have their way.
Examples might be assigning introverts excessive work, keeping certain employees out of the internal communication network, or spreading unfounded rumors against another employee.
There may be a myriad of reasons for such bullying tactics, but it’s generally practiced as a means of usurping another employees power, as well as attempting to mandate that an employee follow a custom.
Seek to Be Professional Over Being Liked
It is a given that most people want to be liked or found favorable. At no time should you create unnecessary enemies. However, the need to be liked should never supersede the need to be professional.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Professional as “Exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” All things being equal, if you exhibit professionalism, you should be respected. It will be naïve to assume that professionalism engenders likeability.
In some instances, your professional demeanor might provoke scorn and envy. Invariably, you are not responsible for how people feel about you, but how they treat you.
If you are treated outside the bounds of professionalism, that’s where your knowledge of corporate policies come into play. At the end of the day, you merely want to do the work you were hired for without any emotional or psychological disturbances from coworkers.
Use the Power of Introversion to Create an Aura
In a world where people are going to great lengths to gain notoriety, there is great strength in being mysterious. Be a person of few words. Your words will mean more when you speak.
You might even find people “leaning in” on your every word. The most successful stars and celebrities manage their image impeccably by revealing very little about themselves. The only information you get out of them is what they allow you to receive.
And often this information is structured to further their agenda and self-interest. Let such strategies be your blueprint within the corporate setting. Remain a mystery by keeping your personal business to yourself.
If the information you provide does not further your professional aspirations, do not share it. By being above the fray, you are consistently free of chatter, rumors, and allegations against you. You can achieve monumental accomplishments under the radar. Just let your work do all the talking.
Office politics are difficult to avoid no matter how well-prepared you may be.
The keys of setting the stage, staying abreast of policies and procedures, always remaining professional, and using introversion to create an aura are beneficial in succeeding at office politics. Just like it is advised to be professional over likeability, you don’t have to like your coworkers.
All employees serve at the pleasure of the company. Each were hired to ensure its viability and perpetuity. As long as you are serving corporate needs, you are facilitating the role of a superior employee.
Let the axe fall on anyone who violates the basic tenets of professionalism and civility.