- One of three people is an introvert says Susan Cain's research. Yet, we often ignore and fail to leverage the power of the introverts. This book is really about understanding the almost silent ways in which introverts operate. Even in organizations, we idolize people who can speak spontaneously, backslap strangers and who visibly demonstrate action. That really puts the introverts at a disadvantage. Introverts are uncomfortable in offices without walls, unabashed self promoting behavior and visibly appearing confident by monopolizing the conversation.
By || Founder Associates & ex CLO WIPRO Ltd
Unconscious bias is about the feelings we have in favor of or against certain people or groups. The invisible barriers are harder to manage.
We all have very inflated opinions about our capabilities. When it comes to our biases we believe that we are extremely self-aware and hence our choices, decisions and judgements are all ethical and fair. More than two decades of research show that none of us are above it.
Gender bias is probably one of the most well researched aspects of unconscious bias. The babies’ world is shaped greatly by the people who are around when they grow up. If one parent is doing all the work at home, we may grow up generalizing this about gender roles. The way media projects men, women and other genders shapes how people interact with them when they grow up. When we take decisions about people, these filters impact our choices. Organizations rarely show gender balance in the board compositions. In every country, some functions are seen as “masculine” or “feminine” functions. Some organizations have taken steps to build awareness of unconscious biases. But changes are slow to happen because often years of socialization have conditioned us to have those beliefs.
Visible differences are easy to legislate. It is the invisible ones that linger on.
People with disability face challenges in recruitment. Organizations talk about hiring only “pedigreed people” (whatever that means). These are all examples of unconscious bias that can no longer be challenged. We like to work with people who are “like us”. The similarity could be in gender, language, place of origin, sharing an alma mater or even similar hobbies. How many talent management decisions get taken between golfing buddies is anyone’s guess. If everyone in the decision making group is of a similar type, the challenge is magnified. Many organizations have an “in-group” of people who share some common characteristics. In startups it is often the group that were the first set of hires. They continue to have invisible authority even when other specialists have been brought in.
Extroverts gain their energy from others. The more they interact and speak, the more they get clarity of their own thoughts. The introverts on the other hand go within themselves to get their thoughts sorted out. They will think for a while before articulating. In interviews, this can be viewed as being unsure. The extroverts speak better. That is often mistaken as a sign of leadership. Introverts are often less bothered about other’s opinions and views than extroverts. If the task needs to be executed as per plan then extroverts do better. But in situations where the team members have to find their own independent views and ideas, introvert leaders do better. Organizational processes are often biased against introverts.
Here is Susan Cain, the most well-known advocate for introverts. My review of her book Quiet is here <click to read>
One of three people is an introvert says Susan’s research. Yet, we often ignore and fail to leverage the power of the introverts. This book is really about understanding the almost silent ways in which introverts operate. Even in organizations, we idolize people who can speak spontaneously, backslap strangers and who visibly demonstrate action. That really puts the introverts at a disadvantage. Introverts are uncomfortable in offices without walls, unabashed self promoting behavior and visibly appearing confident by monopolizing the conversation.
Here are scenarios where introverts are at a disadvantage and what you can do about it:
- Meetings where a few garrulous people monopolize air time. Track the air-time hoggers and draw out the introverts. Don’t judge ideas on the basis of the ones who put in a passionate speech in support of their ideas.
- When people look for passion and fire-in-the-belly in an interview, introverts may find it hard to convey this in words.
- The bosses who believe “thinking is a sign of poor action.” They value jumping into action (without thinking) as a sign of leadership.
- Explaining ideas through presentations. Introverts are better at reading a document, reflecting and then discussing it. Amazon has no presentations. Read what Bezos has been doing <click here>
- Group activities are harder on introverts. Boisterous team-bonding events are a drain on them. Give them time off the next day, please.
- Make sure your leadership rungs have enough introverts. Some of the biggest tech companies are led by introverts eg Zuckerberg, Nadella, Pichai …
- Charismatic extroverted leaders often put the spotlight on themselves even when they say, “But it is really my team that did it…” and then proceeds to take all credit on stage.
An organization needs both extroverts as well as introverts. Most of us are not one or the other. Ambiverts is probably a better description of our preferences. Being aware of preferences that are different from our own – especially when they are introverts can go a long way in reducing unconscious bias.