How to effectively deal with your Introvert Boss?

26 Jun

Introvert BossHave you ever worked under an Introvert Manager? In my opinion, managers should always be people person with soft skills, but that is not always the real life scenario. You must have seen (or experienced) multiple situations, where an introvert person is in the management role because of his/her experience with the subject knowledge, connections with the management, or something else. No matter what is the exact reason behind this, you might come across these kind of situations more often than you might think. Thus, in this blog post, I am going to provide you with some pointers on how to deal with your introvert boss effectively and respectably.

Don’t increase their insecurities: Introvert managers spend too much of their time and energy in safety seeking to keep from looking like fools, being blamed for something, or even losing their jobs. Thus, you should try not to put them on the spot. Asking their opinion in meetings does not make it easier for them to participate; instead, it increases their anxiety. So, you should always try to ask them their opinion in one-on-one settings, where they feel more comfortable. Don’t ask vague questions during this one-on-one sessions. You should rather ask specific instructions about how, what, when, and where; so that you don’t have to bug him/her multiple times about the same information. If possible, do some homework before you ask these specific questions. Go through some scenarios, where you can address all policy impacts of his/her decisions in the same meeting. This will limit your visit to his/her office, and it will get you all the information that you might need.

Take decisions by yourself: Introvert managers always attempt to remain safe by avoiding to make decisions by themselves. Thus, I would recommend you to take new initiatives by yourselves. And if needed, take important decisions by yourself, after talking to other employees and stakeholders. During this process, you need to make sure that you keep your manager notified (or informed) about these initiatives, so that he/she doesn’t consider you as a threat to his/her power. It is comparatively easy for an introvert manager to provide his/her opinion on some decision, rather than taking that decision by themselves. It would also help, if you can show him/her your decision process, and how you came to a given decision from all the other alternatives. In this way, you can increase your manager’s comfort level by providing him with pros and cons of all the other alternatives.

Don’t expect any feedback: Introvert Managers feel more comfortable working with things than with people. For example, they might do well working at restocking items or finding glitches in a software program. They will enjoy inventory control, ordering supplies, and detailed work but be less successful in dealing with employees and employee problems. Thus, they seek/provide little feedback and disclose little information. In fact, introvert managers not only feel uncomfortable around people, but they actually fear them. So, don’t expect any praise, guidance, criticism, or help from your introvert boss. You might have to provide these for yourself or ask your colleagues to do so. Due to the sheer nature of your boss, you might want to set up a 360 degree survey for your job performance. In this way, you will be getting true and real feedback from all the people you work for, and may be, this can help you in getting that next promotion, which you might not get, if your performance is only judge by your introvert manager.

I hope, this blog helps you in dealing with your introvert boss. Have you (or do you) worked for an Introvert Boss before? If so, how did you deal with that situation? What other ideas can you give to my readers?

I will be waiting for your interactive comments. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.


Posted by on June 26, 2013 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management


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21 responses to “How to effectively deal with your Introvert Boss?

  1. Chanterelle

    June 26, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    I received this note from one of my employees, followed by a link to your blog entry: “I skimmed this article and thought it was funny because of the assumptions that are made about introverts, and how you would violate the blogger’s expectations of an introvert manager.” As a self-recognized and externally confirmed introvert, I jumped at the possibility of finding out how I might violate someone’s expectations.

    While reading your entry I needed to pause and look for the “About Me” section of your site to find out if you are a comedian. I passed over your profile picture beneath which reads, “My purpose is to help people to better manage, lead and organize their businesses and lives.” Nothing funny about that….in fact, that’s what I aim to do, but I probably don’t advertise my credentials quite so boldly. THat might be an actual introverted trait – hesitation to promote oneself to be something that s/he is not – or maybe you are right in asserting that we’re too busy trying to keep from looking like fools… In my case, though, if I made assertions like you have above I would be more concerned about advertising my academic affiliations and accomplishments because they would be immediately questioned; the statements you made reflect a lack of research, thoughtfulness and sociological awareness.

    There is a significant library of researched writing on introversion, and a good deal of recent writing suggesting that introverts are often equipped with vision, clarity and careful judgement. Just because introverts prefer to think before they speak rather than speak before they scrutinize does not mean that they do not like people, or don’t like to make decisions, or won’t provide/receive feedback. Quite the contrary: oftentimes introverts value others so much that they prefer to demonstrate respect by listening first and sharing later; they often like to weigh possibilities objectively before making decisions instead of responding reactively only to clean up after previous oversight; and finally, when you receive feedback from an introvert – which you will and probably have – shut your mouth and listen because I guarantee that the feedback is sincere. And when providing feedback? Don’t assume that introverts are all super-sensitive and can’t “handle the truth”. In truth, many introverts wish to receive MORE feedback – especially when something isn’t working in regards to whatever they are contributing.

    Here’s some recent literature and media about introverted leaders. I’m not sure this information will be engaging to you since extroverts never read and never listen, but I’m taking a chance.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      June 27, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      @Chanterelle: First of all, let me thank you for reading my article and providing me with your valuable and detailed feedback. Secondly, I am not a comedian by profession :). Obviously, you have seen my credentials, so you know that by now.
      Although I respect your opinion and the feedback, I don’t agree with all of it. After seeing this article, and arrogantly criticizing the writer, you have proven some part of my theory about the introvert people.
      Obviously, not all of the introvert people are same. And maybe, you are a different kind of an introvert, which explains your defensive behavior. But yeah! In this article, I was making a general argument on introverts. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling by doing so. And hence, I apologize for my generalization here, but I do stand by my perspective.
      In your comment, you make a really good point about the silence of an introvert. They don’t speak in public because they want to analyze all the facts before taking any decisions. This is certainly a valuable input, which I hadn’t thought about before writing this blog. So, I really appreciate your insight in to this.
      Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

  2. Belladonna

    June 27, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    @chanterelle, I’m not entirely sure why this was taken as some kind of affront to introversion. Can an introvert truly be offended if they don’t base their self worth on the opinion of another? Likely not. There are other forces at work here. I feel ashamed to know that rather than rising above a simplistic personality construct, you are ready and willing to be shackled and DEFINED by it. Often times, (as you yourself have put it), the most important fight is the one within yourself. Continue to look inward for your answers. You will not find them in a proverbial game of opinion chess. Take a criticism and make it your strength. Shaming someone else is a child’s game. You have fallen victim to an extrovert’s common fallacy.

    I am also puzzled by your willingness to take up an anonymous crusade to “violate” a writer’s perception of an abstract concept. Your lack of tolerance for divergent modes of thought is exhausting and I would likely be surprised by your list of academic credentials, especially given that none of that seemed to teach you the basic tenets of theory and the scientific method. Before you assume your opinion is seated upon some illustrious pillar of truth, ask yourself what truth is. I’m not sure either you or I would know what to do with the truth if we knew it.

    Some of your feedback was highly constructive; rather unfortunate that it was soiled by petty impudence. If I were you, I would use my skillset(vision, clarity and careful judgement) for propagating knowledge, rather than scorning someone for seeking it–although I’m not sure you will heed my advice given your militant position. After all, anger is like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die.

    Your lack of empathy endangers the solidity of your vision, your unbridled emotions distort your clarity, and your careful judgement is compromised by your rush to assert yourself.

    As a fellow avid reader and introvert, I would have expected far more from you. In part, I was rather surprised that you laid waste to your God-given skills an as introvert: vision, clarity and careful judgement. Instead, you traded them for a pedantic outburst which essentially proved the author’s point.

  3. chanterelle

    July 3, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    @belladonna & bhavin,
    THanks for your responsiveness. It’s striking to me to read that my commentary was understood to be offended and and intolerant. It’s true that I wrote my response tongue-in-cheek, and certainly in a voice different than my customary style; I was reflecting the tone that I understood in Bhavin’s generalized assertions. I’m unclear as to how my cheap-shot generalizations (which aren’t, in truth, perspectives that I actually believe) are any more arrogant than a writer that asserts that that all individuals that belong to a certain group of people “always” and “never” behave in specific ways.
    Belladonna, I feel neither shackled nor defined by the term “introvert.” My response, in fact, was in contest to the idea that an introvert might or should be “shackled” by this “weakness”. I’m surprised that you, also an avid reader and introvert, assume that I am intolerant to divergent thought when I have spoken up in a voice contrary to what the masses (70-75%) believe.

    Words have great power, and the written word is lasting. My response to someone’s written word, combined with both of your equally defensive responses to my response, demonstrate that we must be very careful about the statements we claim. Tone can be a difficult thing to communicate in writing, but if we aren’t able to clearly demonstrate the spirit in which we are writing we risk persistent miscommunications.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      July 16, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      @Chanterelle: Though your earlier response was not considered intolerant, since I welcome different opinions on my blog; it had some harsh words for no reason. You can disagree with someone, and still provide your feedback in a respectable form.
      Anyways, I am rethinking of changing the title of this post to something specific, so that Introverts like you don’t take an offense of my words, and feel the aggressive urge to defend themselves. I always welcome different view points on my blog, and (if found credible) I am willing to change my stand on certain topics depending on other facts.
      Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      July 16, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      @pkwconsulting: Thanks for providing your feedback and giving a different look at my article. Your article and references exposed me to a different mind-set about Introverts. I will rethink about changing my article’s title, after I review all of your references. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

  4. Tammy Murray

    July 19, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I think you need to learn a great deal more about introverts and the difference between the introversion/extroversion continuum and how it impacts differing temperaments. Such unabashed generalizations indicate glaring ignorance and misconceptions on your part, it is such a shame that uninformed individuals such as yourself can portray themselves as experts and promote further misconceptions – I would not recommend this article to anyone and suggest you catch up on some relevant reading – Quiet by Susan Cain – I am sure she would be happy to educate you and I hope your ego will allow you to act on this sincere feedback.

    All the best in your future learning as we all will continue to have something new to learn.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      July 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      @Tammy: Thanks for replying to my blog, and providing your valuable feedback. Just to clarify…… Though I have made some generalizations on Introverts, I am definitely not an expert on the subject. What I was sharing in my blog was my experiences with Introvert Boss, and how I handled those situations. Hopefully, this feedback helps other people in dealing with their Introvert Bosses. Obviously my readers will have their opinions on how to work with their Introvert Bosses (like you and many others). Again, this is just my opinion, and I am not saying that I am an expert on the subject either. These are some ways, which worked for me during my time of working with few Introvert Bosses.

      Anyways, thanks for your feedback, and your reading suggestions. I will definitely have a look at that. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

  5. Keith McCormick (@KMcCormickBlog)

    August 11, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    When I first read this I must admit I wasn’t sure there was any point in posting a reply. It looked like the discussion had run its course. And while I don’t think there is much to learn about introverts here, there is some wisdom, well concealed, about how an extraverted employee of an introvert can manage the relationship. I’ll try to reveal that wisdom in higher relief.

    Regarding the premise: I think if you use as a starting premise that your boss deserves their position you might have better luck than suspecting that they don’t. I would caution one against a rush to judgment just because one’s boss seems quiet or reserved. I’m not sure how an extravert would ‘diagnose’ introversion. If the major ‘symptom’ is a lack of ‘soft skills’ that might inspire another post as many introverts hold positions that require expert level soft skills such as counseling psychologists. I will take this post at its premise, however, and assume that the issue truly is the challenges of an extravert reporting to an introvert.

    Regarding ‘try not to put them on the spot’. This is good advice. I don’t recall ever being worried about being blamed for something at work, and I’ve never felt that my job was in danger, but I do dislike being ‘put on the spot’. Why? I like to research things carefully. I don’t like to detract a decision. I like brainstorming with friends, but I like to choose my words carefully when they have policy implications. I like stating things clearly. I like speaking only when an idea is mature and my words are not only thought out, but preferably when they are beautifully thought out. Something that is not well understood about introverts is that when asked about a specialty, we are always ready, and never feel “on the spot”. However, I do not like being asked to speculate in public unless it is well understood by everyone in the room that it is mere speculation. With all of this in mind one-on-one meetings, before or after group meetings, are a great idea. Also, I particularly like the ideas of: “doing your homework”, not being ‘vague’, not rambling, and being prepared for a meeting, I love that. I think my fellow introverts would like that too.

    Regarding ‘take decisions by yourself’. I can’t relate to the “remain safe” bit. Never felt that. Playing it safe is boring – at least to me. Introverts do like ideas to age in the wine cask substantially longer than extroverts. We like our ideas mature. In the army we were taught to make the opening sentence of a military briefing: “Here is plan A, B, and C. I recommend B”. I think that is good advice for anyone, but certainly for an extravert/introvert pair. It gets the extravert talking, and the introvert listening so you are already off to a good start. The listening boss will almost certainly notice something that the employee hasn’t thought of yet, and they can chose a course of action together. As long as the introvert knows that meeting will eventually occur the extravert can discuss plans A, B, and C with anyone they like, earning political capital as they go, and hopefully coming up with a great plan that everyone finds agreeable.

    Regarding feedback, I think the extraverted employee simply needs to ask for it. Introverts volunteer on what is on their mind less than extraverts do, but that doesn’t mean that they have no inner dialogue. If you need feedback merely ask for it. If your boss has a preference for both introversion and ‘thinking’ to use the MBTI jargon you might receive praise that is more cool and detached in nature. It might not be terribly effusive. It is dangerous to assume that you are correctly diagnosing silence on their part. It is just silence. It does not imply agreement, nor disagreement. It does not imply praise nor criticism. It certainly doesn’t imply fear. If they are truly afraid of people you potentially have a serious challenge on your hands, but your challenge is not an introverted boss. There is something else going on there. I suppose that the outward behavior of someone that was experiences fear might look like introversion to an extravert. I wouldn’t be likely to confuse the two. It is worth noting that there is nothing that I find more painful than “inventory control, ordering supplies, and detailed work”. I know that there may be some folks that can spend their day doing that kind of task, and they may be introverts more often than the general population, but one can not assume from a quiet exterior demeanor that an individual would have the patience for that kind of thing.

    Something to look out for – introverts are forced to learn how to extravert. After all, we all live in the outer world of people and relationships and obligations. It is sink or swim. They must learn. The reverse is not true. Extraverts sometimes reach midlife and not have developed much of an introverted side. Therefore, some extraverts don’t understand introverts very well. An extravert reporting to an introvert would be prudent to not assume too much. Only a small fraction of their mental life is being revealed to you. You, in contrast, have put all your cards on the table. They might understand you better than you think, and you might misunderstand them more than you think.

  6. JJ

    December 4, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Wow. I had laugh reading this article. I am an introvert and a manager, but I grew up in a family with very extroverted sisters and can see where the author is coming from. I can say right up front that most introverts would either laugh at this article or be highly offended. It is written from a very extroverted viewpoint and is at high risk for being considered arrogant in tone by an introvert. Having been around extroverts for a long time, I know that author is not actually being arrogant– just being honest. There are a few things I would add to the discussion. Number 1-Introverts are insecure and are genuinely afraid of hurting others. Surprisinlgy, introverts are far more concerned about being harsh than extraverts are–which makes many extraverts think introverts are sensitive. Actually, extraverts are more sensitive, and introverts have discovered that a long time ago and are often overfearful of hurting extravert feelings (which introvert traditionally do not understand). The strength of a comment is often directly related to how often you usually comment. One introvert comment can start a war–where one extravert comment causes everyone to laugh. Number 2–you should make decisions by yourself… if you want it done now. Introverts take two to three times as long to make decisions, but are known for being able to carry through incredible odds once the decision is made. An introvert boss is concerned with “being safe.” They will not act until they are convinced the benefits outway the risks, but they are definitely risk takers, and have created some of the most novel inventions of all time. Honestly, introverts don’t naturally care about anyone else’s opinion unless it is based in fact and has good reason or evidence to support it. Therefore, extraverts usually do not present themselves well to introvert bosses–as extraverts are more into making an idea happen than on how to actually get it done. For example, an extravert is in favor of painting a room because it looks terrible. However, they present the idea to their introverted boss as “there is an ugly wall that needs to be painted.” Now, the introvert has to do the extra work of finding out what the extravert means and how to fix the problem. To an introvert, it should be painted because it has been 1. ten years since it was painted, 2. all the customers say it is ugly, 3. the employees are embarrassed of the wall, and 4. the paint’s integrity has been disrupted–but none of these things mean anything to the extravert–to them it was all wrapped up in the original statement which meant nothing to the introvert. The introvert would also try to research all other projects that may be higher priority before they approve the painting as well. If you make anything high enough priority to an introvert boss, they will get it done if they have to do it themselves. However, introvert bosses can be a hard sell if you want them to approve things now, and you didn’t come with a 12 page report to explain why. Number 3–Don’t expect feedback–is actually right on for someone who is an introvert and has no communication training. Introverts communicate through a complex non-verbal language, and naturally do not feel most things need to be “said.” The best thing to do is to encourage your introvert boss to give you feedback by convincing them that you are not sensitive and really want to improve. If your introvert boss gives you feedback and blow-up or blow-it-off, an inexperienced introverted boss is going to write you off in terms of giving you any kind of “unnecessary” feedback. Introverts consider feedback a privilege and gift–rather than a chore or unpleasant circumstance. Many introverts give feedback only to their close friends as they have come to realize extraverts often take personal offense over feedback rather than analyzing and enjoying the experience the same way a introvert would.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      January 2, 2015 at 12:46 PM

      @JJ: Thanks for your feedback. Your comments were very thoughtful and insightful.

  7. Melanie

    March 31, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    Wow. What a terrible article on introversion. I am a Manager, and an introvert. I can only say that this article is short-sighted and not based on any real or in-depth knowledge of true introvert personality types. No doubt Bhavin considers himself an extrovert. Articles like this is why some people have difficult understanding introverts. Shame on you for perpetuating that introverts are basically insecure, don’t provide feedback and spend a good deal of their time not trying to look like fools. This is completely not the case. Introverts run deep and don’t feel the need to express every thought that happens to make its way into their brains, but think before they talk.I’m an excellent manager and value both my employees who are introverts and extroverts alike and value their unique strengths.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      October 22, 2015 at 7:47 PM

      @Melanie: Thanks for your valuable feedback. Even though I understand your side of the story, unfortunately I don’t agree with your opinion. I am not denying that introverts are intelligent. What I was arguing was that they have hard time expressing their opinions, and hence, they have more anxiety and hard time managing.

      • Keith McCormick

        October 23, 2015 at 7:14 AM

        @Bhavin, I don’t think that

        • Keith McCormick

          October 23, 2015 at 7:28 AM

          @Bhavin, I don’t think that @Melanie was merely arguing that some introverts are intelligent. She was arguing that a great many introverts are excellent managers, and in many cases are excellent managers precisely because they are introverts. While we need not always split hairs regarding terminology, the use of the word introversion to describe a social disorder (which seems to be your use of the term) appears to be what folks are reacting negatively to. Abraham Lincoln is a famous introvert, and a careful reading of his biography would indicate that his tremendous gifts with language, his quiet determination, and his persistence all grow out of his introversion. Introverts are frequently misunderstood and underestimated at first. Team of Rivals is a great case study of this. Some of those that greatly underestimated him at the start of his presidency developed a tremendous respect and even affection for him by the time of his death. His introversion was not an obstacle to be overcome, but rather the very reason that we still read about him 150 years later. There are many other famous introverts who lives and leadership greatness reveal the same patterns – too many to list.

  8. Susan

    August 17, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    Very helpful points–it’s hard as an employee to deal with a leader who doesn’t want to lead and is socially inept. Useful advice.

    • Bhavin Gandhi

      October 22, 2015 at 7:41 PM

      @Susan: I agree with you. Unfortunately, sometimes these kind of people are promoted to the management jobs, just because they are good at what they do. But not all introverts are same, some of these people try to change and become good at management.

  9. Mohamed

    December 14, 2015 at 3:17 AM

    “These kind of people”……My friend, I know you don’t mean it, or maybe you do, but you do not realize that you’re doing it, but you speak of introversion as a disease. I’m not going to bash you like some of the people here (which to be honest, I understand where they are coming from because some of the terms you use could be perceived as inconsiderate and offensive. Take for example the first sentence of this paragraph which I quoted from your last reply).

    My only concern is that you don’t listen or consider others’ points of view which is clear from your responses as well as your deliberate avoidance to reply back to Keith despite having made very articulate and good points. If you were really interested in understanding you would continue to discuss and understand and listen, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Now I could have misunderstood you and my words do indeed seem like judgment, but this is exactly the tone that you project through your writing (judgement, judgement, judgement). What’s even worse is that they’re not based on any research or hard facts, but merely your opinion and hence the similarity to this post (although I’d say I did a better job by providing some examples/evidences for my claims).

    Anyhow, if you’re interested in understanding introverts better, the book that was recommended: Quiet by Susan Cain is a great start. If you’re only concerned with labeling introverts and judging them with no understanding, you miss on the opportunity to expand on your knowledge and to connect with so many awesome people (at least 1 out of 3 people are introverted, if not more).

    P.S. Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barrack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Steve Wozniak, Isaac Newton, Darwin, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg…etc are all introverts. Would you say they don’t make great managers? pshhht…some of them changed the world.


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