Debunking the "Introvert" Label In Workplace Culture


I am an avid reader and I tend to enjoy books that discuss personality traits, workplace culture, and how people relate to one another; however, no other book to-date has had more impact when it comes to these topics than Quiet by Susan Cain. As background, no matter which personality test I take, I always register as an extreme introvert, and the label “introvert” has traditionally carried with it a somewhat negative connotation. I have heard comments such as “you don’t want to be around people” or “you’re boring and just would rather stay at home than do anything fun.” These are not true statements about me, but yet, they are hard to avoid as an introvert. Enter Quiet.

The Introvert's Perspective in Workplace Culture

This book emphasizes that society sometimes devalues introverts in favor of the “extrovert ideal,” but we have the power to change that. Susan Cain has a style of writing that demonstrates the intense research that she has done on the topic of introversion but also reveals her personal challenges that she has faced being an introvert, especially in the early part of her career when she was a Wall Street attorney. I could really connect with her being an attorney as well as being an introvert and how she has moved past any of the “introvert challenges.” This book also is encouraging in that she introduces successful introverts throughout the book, including Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, and Steve Wozniak (of Apple fame). I was able to look at these examples and appreciate what people have achieved as introverts, particularly when they don’t have the extrovert characteristics that society seems to believe may lead to success, such as enjoying collaborative work and being comfortable with self-promotion.

There is a lot of good information in this book that can be helpful to introverts and extroverts alike when it comes to Workplace productivity. One myth that people sometimes have when it comes to introverts is that they hate public speaking.

But as Susan Cain has said “[t]hanks to the miracle of desensitization (exposing yourself in small doses to the thing you fear) and to the great joy of speaking on a subject I’m passionate about, ironically I now have a career as... a public speaker.”

I can relate to this because, over time, I now generally feel very comfortable doing public speaking, particularly on a topic about which I am passionate.

Susan Cain also gives several pieces of advice to introverts and extroverts. With introverts in the workplace, she recommends that they need to have patience with an extrovert’s need to talk his/her ideas out loud and, at the same time, pay attention to what they can learn from the extrovert. Another recommendation for introverts is to show outward enthusiasm for good work done by an extrovert; if the approval is only processed internally, then an extrovert may think the introvert disapproves. As for extroverts in the workplace, she recommends that they circulate presentations or materials to be discussed in advance of a meeting to give introverts time to process and be prepared to discuss. Similarly, she recommends following up with introverts after a meeting, because they often have their best ideas once they have had time to process them.

Ultimately, given the impact that this book has had on me (as well as introverts and extroverts with whom I shared this book), I recommend this book to both introverts and extroverts because both groups can learn a lot from Susan Cain’s stories and the lessons that can be gleaned from the book. If anyone does read the book, please reach out to me because I am always looking for people with which I can discuss the points made in the book and how we can apply them to our daily lives.

The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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