The Brave New Workplace
At the turn of this decade, a radical shift happened in corporate culture. Out went the official chain-of-command with seniority-preference, and in came the “chill” workplace, with a flat-structure and proactively driven innovation. The Wall Street aesthetic of suits, boots, a leather-satchel and Starbucks, are replaced with Silicon Valley hoodies, skateboards and beer. Wooden furniture with golden name-plaques are out, and instead, we have bouncy-balls, bicycle-meetings and open-office.
With our flat organizational structure – one form of hierarchy is gone, but alas, is replaced by another from of hierarchy – that based on loud voices, charismatic smiles and spontaneous connections. Three people in a coffee-house is a startup. Two people having a smoke-break is a new project. An after-hours beer-pong is a new promotion. A handshake at a conference is a career-shift.
Welcome to Workplace 2.0 – the Open Office – where there are no cubicles and no rules.
Here are some tips that helped me navigate my way. These are not merely coping tools, rather these are tips that PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS.
Introvert Tips for Corporate Success
- Rely on Chat and Email communications as much as you can instead of face-to-face. For introverts, we like to see, visualize, structure and plan ahead. Written communication leaves us a trail which can help us plan better and ask better questions.
- Don’t ask questions directly – a lot of extroverts prefer small talk and getting comfortable before they can help you. Hence, explain your situation and commiserate with your co-worker. This commiseration creates a bond where your co-worker will attempt to help you out by themself.
- Depending on how supportive your team is, if you have crippling social anxiety, then speak with your manager, and discuss your communication techniques which are agreeable by all parties.
- Avoid “Open-Office” environments and pick the farthest cubicle, if it helps you focus more. If you have to have to have open-office, then ask for curtains and shades. Also, check if noise-cancellation headphones can be reimbursed.
- Be punctual, responsive and willing to help. People often notice regularity and dependability, where introverts fare better. In a hyper-extrovert environment, make sure you display your introvert strengths.
- When selecting projects, take up those projects which are “boring” but “need to get done”. Make sure your team knows you are willing to handle projects which extroverts pass over for things that excite them, again positioning yourself as a dependable person instead. The “boring but essential” projects generally involve lesser communication and meetings, and are perfectly suitable for introverts.
- Make sure you give clearly thought out written status updates every day or twice a day, on team chat or email. This provides visibility to your work and people can pitch in to help if you need collaboration – something which you may not get if you are a quiet person in an extrovert environment.
- Keep updating your skills and learnings with every project, so you have a clear organized career trajectory before you. Discuss with your manager what options you have in the company along this trajectory. Rely on preparation over spontaneity when discussing raise, promotions, team-transfers or leaving the employer.
- Prepare for job interviews at least once a year, and make sure your resume and linked-in profile are updated. This may not only help if your employer terminates your services, but also if you need intra-company transfers to a different team or a different branch location.
- An important strength of introverts is being sensitive to danger – ie – predicting things which may go wrong, and being honest about it. The way you express this is very important. Instead of saying “This won’t work”, say “I think we may face these challenges down the road”. Someone who can accurately predict challenges and blockers is a valuable asset to the team.
- Find out if any of your office colleagues share your hobbies and interests. Large companies often have hobby groups and mailing lists. Bonding over specific interests can be a valuable networking strategy for introverts.
Lastly, have confidence in yourself, and remember – no individual knows everything. Most people are just winging it – only they are good at hiding it. As long as you keep rowing the boat, you are valuable to your current employer and other potential ones.