Workplace Power and Introverts
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
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Oh my. Have you been in a situation where you’d just love to recite this to someone who is only interested in their pay grade, what’s in someone else’s signature line in their email or if they have “VP” behind their name?
To this I say, “ugh.”
The reality is though, very few existing corporate structures are also in favor of this opinion.
Most of them are extremely political (even if they try to not “act” like it) and they say they’re trying to foster one kind of environment, but they never reprimand the right folks who are fueling an opposing kind of environment.
You know who I mean too – the person who mentions in EVERY SINGLE MEETING that of a position of a person he/she just spoke with or is constantly reciting that “that decision is above my paygrade.”
Can we altogether say “annoying?” It is. BIG time.
This is why I love the opening quote by Margaret Thatcher. And who better to remind us than a woman who changed history in so many ways and was powerful in her own right, yet she never had to say it?!
She exemplified what power really is – it’s influence and action, not flexing your muscles and flaunting your position in everyone’s face.
So….as an introvert, how have you dealt with the power hungry at work?
First, let’s look at some ways ‘power-hungry’ shows up in the workplace (corporate or not). (These are ALL experiences I’ve personally seen in my 15+ years in corporate America – yes, for real)
- Manipulating a co-worker to make themselves look good
- Constantly mentioning pay grades, positions of people they’re in meetings with, and complaining about someone else having a title they don’t like
- Finding minute and petty things to complain about in order to establish their “order” in the system
- Not responding to certain people’s emails because it’s “not in their scope or area” when they could actually help
- Making someone else look bad in front of other employees or constituents
- Constantly copying someone’s boss instead of dealing with the problem employee/co-worker directly first (then going that route, if needed)
- Giving purposeful wrong information so as to embarrass another person in front of their peers
- Pushing an agenda they know doesn’t serve the timeline or the greater good and actually puts strain on another person, the department, or the company
- Purposely trying to form “allies” in the office and set a group or one person against another
There are SO many other signs, but these are a great starting point for traits to look for.
As an introvert, regardless of the sex of your boss or co-workers, there’s some important tips to keep in mind that can aid you in dealing with these types of people. And trust me, it’s not always easy.
None of us are perfect, and we all make that one or few bad choices to react out of a sense of ego rather than self. We’ve all been there.
I have to say this too – introverts don’t tend to look for the approval or the acceptance/friendship of the power-hungry at all. In fact, we’re probably repulsed by it because we see it as shallow behavior.
Also because we’re introspective, we know there’s an immense amount of insecurity beneath the person’s behavior that helps us deal with them.
But we’re less interested in winning the approval of everyone in our departments, environment, or floor and more interested in having the attention and affirmation of the one or two people who, at the end of the day, we all know really matter (or, at least, matter to us).
Also, we tend to not care as much about being liked as much as respected, although we’d ideally love both like the next person.
This is often frustrating to the power-hungry person because we’re not giving them what they want or need to feel more secure.
As an introverted woman who has reported to both males & females over my career, been in management, and experienced power-hungry co-workers in numerous fields, I can say that ‘power-hungry’ syndrome is no respecter of persons. It will target anyone at any time who appears vulnerable or when there’s an opportunity that two people can both see to advance.
Here are the top tips I can give you on dealing with ‘power-hungry’ egos in the workplace:
Know Yourself & Your Specific Assets & Advantages
Many introverts think they understand their own strengths, but wonder why nothing seems to change in their relationships, their work environments, or their life. I find, in my work with introverts, that many of them do not know how to capitalize on their own strengths. One reason is because we live in a chaotic, hyper-media, overwhelming society. We’re reading, researching, catching here & there, and attempting to find out who we are in a million different places. When we focus in on who we really are, we become unstoppable.
At work, this is the difference in an employee who is showing up and being seen (eek) and one who continues to hide behind a barrage of co-workers and cubicles.
KNOW yourself and YOUR specific assets – what are you giving in a way no one else is? How is that challenging the environment you’re in toward change in a positive way? How can you help that asset grow?
Find Solitude in Doing Great Work
Ah, the power of introverts! And, as Susan Cain so eloquently put it, “in a world that can’t stop talking!”
This is why I thrive in my corporate job as an IT Business Analyst & Project Manager for the healthcare company I work for. I’m able to work at home 3 days a week, and my productivity has sky-rocketed. I have been able to find solitude in doing great work. I knew it’s what I needed – I’ve never done well going into an office 5 days a week – it drains the life out of me – literally.
Up until last year, I never understood why I would get burnt out w/ jobs so quickly, and job-hop, get bored, or frustrated to the point of no return. Part of it was routine, and part of it was my introversion and energy management.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have this as an option, here’s some things I’d like you to do:
- Take your lunch. For reals. Go OUT somewhere – a park, a lobby, a restaurant, a cafe, and find some solitude to think.
- Take notes. Use Evernote, Outlook, or OneNote when it’s quiet to record all the millions of things going around in your head to keep them organized and ready for action later.
- Take breaks. I read a stat recently that said that some 80% of American companies would fail a labor audit if audited by the government. This isn’t because they necessarily chain you to your desk – it’s because you sit there, and sit there, and sit there, and never take a break. A lot of companies don’t care. Get up and take your allotted breaks. Start today!
- Take your vacations. (Ahum-hu-hu-hummm)!
Perform at A Stellar Level
Someone else’s insecurity is NOT a reason for you to back down off of your strengths. EVER. Period. End of story.
Please don’t do this. You give away your power when you don’t show up and let someone see your work ethic. Do your job the best you can possibly do it, and know that the universe is supporting you. I always say “I’m working as unto God, not man.” This gets me through some tough days.
Perform at a stellar level – give no room for anyone to say bad things about your work, even if they tried.
Never Do or Act in Any Way That Disrespects Yourself
I put it this way because, we can say all day we shouldn’t disrespect others, but the truth of the matter is that we’re human beings – we’re going to mess up and disrespect people. But if we commit to respecting ourselves? That paves the way for our respect for others to follow, because we are growing more secure & have no need to act out of a sense of insecurity. When you constantly choose to respect yourself, your disrespect of others decreases. Isn’t that a beautiful point of view?
I decrease my ego so that my self can increase – and ultimately, my respectful treatment of others.
Only Compete With Yourself
This is so important, and advice I give to any introvert in the workplace. Don’t even try to compete with others – it will drain you because of the way you derive and excrete energy.
Compete with you. Every day when you get up, your day should be about showing up better for the person looking back at you in that mirror, not someone else. You’ll feel energized by this healthy form of competition because it’s more natural for you to go inward.
It’s not advice I would give all people, although I feel it’s such a healthy outlook, but for the introvert, and especially the introverted woman, this is key to thriving in your work environment.
When you only compete with yourself, you eliminate what a ‘power-hungry’ person is counting on you having – insecurity.
Before I wrap up. I want to make an important distinction really quick between the power-hungry vibes I’m talking about here and the power expression we talk about in this community as a form of self-expression.
Power as an expression is gorgeous because it doesn’t need approval. Power as a form of self-expression comes naturally – you don’t have to flaunt it, and the person with this expressive gift only sees power in the form of influence, change, and love first – there’s no sign of ego, and if they sense it, they’re liable to be annoyed with themselves. If they can’t first have love and respect, they reject that negative form of power. It may say “don’t come too close” but it’s never haughty about it.
This person differs greatly from the individual we’ve discussed today we often find in the workplace. One operates out of expression, love, and influence, while the other operates out of the ego, materialism, and control.
I hope you can see the difference in the two.
Have you struggled with any of these ‘power-hungry’ traits at work or in yourself before? Please share your experience in the comments below, and I look forward to hearing your story – it could really help someone else.
Thank you for reading & contributing!
Want more on assertiveness? Check out my signature eCourse, Assurance, here.