Introverts: How Well Do You Know Your Boss?

By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D.

Ming was an introverted client. She told me that as a new employee, she had just received a critical feedback review from her manager. When I probed, she revealed that her manager said that Ming was abrupt with other staff people. Over the next week, I suggested Ming be aware of her voice tone and facial expressions in the office and to make eye contact and smile. I also advised her to make special efforts to demonstrate patience with people.

At the end of the week, she went into her manager’s office and asked if he had noticed an improvement in her behavior. He paused, looked at her with a blank expression on his face, and said that “no news is good news” was his approach to business.

To know this approach will be helpful to Ming in managing her boss. She won’t expect praise and then be sorely disappointed when she doesn’t receive it. I advised her to look for feedback from other sources, including her peers. Last time I checked, she is doing well at work and continuing to manage expectations with her boss.  Temperament and style greatly affect how we communicate with each other.

As an introvert, you are probably already a keen observer of style. Pretend you are behind the camera, filming a documentary called “My Boss and Me.”  What does his office look like? Does he have family photos, books, and sports memorabilia? Is his desk clean or messy? Is he talking on the phone or e-mailing? Does he prefer voice mail to e-mail? Is he an extroverted, face-to-face person? Is he on the latest smart phone? How is he treating the administrative staff? All of these provide clues about how to successfully connect with him. How does your boss view the world? Does he talk in facts and details, for example? Myra McElhaney, a corporate trainer, said that in dealing with more analytical bosses you need to tell the boss sales were up by 23 percent instead of saying, “It was a great week.” Does he prepare for meetings at the last minute or days in advance? What about his pace? Is it fast or slow? I had to literally race one of my bosses down the hall to match her high-energy style. Is she more big picture? Does she sketch out her idea as she talks?

One of my introverted clients approached her boss with a model of her thoughts on a four-square table chart. She caught her boss’s immediate attention. Follow their cues and you will be surprised at how strong your partnership with your boss can become.

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