Ruth Groll used to think there was something wrong with her. In her job in a car dealership she felt uncomfortable – the constant hustle and bustle and the contact with customers overtaxed the 52-year-old today. “At some point I was so burnt out that I quit,” says Groll. Even today, when working in a company’s accounting department, she has a hard time dealing with her place in an open-plan office.
The constant buzzing of voices, slamming doors and ringing of the telephone rings are all stressful for her. During the lunch break, Groll prefers to eat alone. She needs this time to recharge her batteries.
Ruth Groll is introverted – about 30 to 50 percent of the population, according to estimates. “Introverts are turned inwards and need a lot of rest. A large part of their energy flows into reflection and information processing,” says Sylvia Löhken, who has studied this trait. They enjoy working on a project in a concentrated manner for long periods of time and are good at analytical thinking. “Nevertheless, they are often underestimated because they do not communicate their achievements convincingly enough.
Simply not perceived
Also, introverted people have problems speaking at meetings or speaking spontaneously in front of a larger group, says Ute Bölke, career counselor in Wiesbaden. “It is very difficult for them to find themselves in public in situations for which they cannot prepare. This also includes small talk at events and company parties. Many of her clients complain because they are not noticed.
“Because the extroverted employees are usually in the foreground, a huge potential of good ideas and substantial contributions is wasted,” says Löhken. The culture in many companies is also to blame for the fact that louder people are listened to more. But until something changes, introverts can also do a lot themselves to draw more attention to themselves on the job.
Above all, non-verbal communication is important for quieter people in order not to be dismissed as disinterested or arrogant, explains Stephanie Hollstein, career consultant from Düsseldorf. “A friendly smile, an attentive nod or an open body language – all this can have a great effect on the other person”. In meetings it is also beneficial to sit upright and visibly and thus signal interest.
In addition, introverts should set targets for such meetings. “For example, you can decide to make at least one speech,” advises Bölke. This is best prepared by quiet employees with a few notes. Those who are afraid not to speak should write an e-mail to the boss in advance and ask for the item to be included in the agenda. “Then one cannot press oneself no more before a request to speak , so B?lke.
Googling and thinking about common themes
Good preparation is also important for events at which networks are to be established, says Hollstein. “If you want to get to know certain people there, you can google them beforehand and think about common topics. Such goals create a structure and that is a great help for introverted people, explains Löhken. In addition, you can arrange to meet the people you want to meet by e-mail or have them introduce you.
In order to perform at their best on the job, introverted people need a quiet environment. Open-plan offices are basically unsuitable. Since introverts constantly analyse their environment, they are quickly over-stimulated, explains Löhken.
Hollstein therefore advises either to explain the problem to the boss and to look for a quieter niche in the open-plan office or occasionally to retreat to an unused conference room. “Working in the home office from time to time is also a possibility,” says Hollstein. For companies, introverted employees are a win-win situation. They have a calm, concentrated way of working and the ability to acquire a great deal of expert knowledge, explains Bölke.
Mastering even unusual situations
Many are also suitable for management positions. “Introverted people are good bosses precisely because they don’t have to be the centre of attention all the time, can listen well and have great empathy. According to Löhken, famous personalities who are considered introverted include Chancellor Angela Merkel and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “If something is important enough for them, introverts can do anything,” she says.
She has worked hard on her body language and tries to approach other people more often. She is now practicing this in her new part-time job as a jewellery saleswoman.
There she has to cope with unfamiliar situations when dealing with customers: “I need the constant challenge not to fall back into old patterns of behaviour”.