The workplace will always be a collection of diverse personalities and interaction styles. From small talk about the latest trends to lasting friendships, the office can make for a great social environment. This week, we hear from a self-described introvert who found inspiration in an unlikely place: the lunch table.
According to the research and work conducted by The Myers & Briggs Foundation, I’m very much an introvert. This confession isn’t the first step in a 12-step program. It’s a statement that is neither positive nor negative. It’s simply a description of a part of my overall personality.
Introversion is a term that describes where someone places their attention and gets their energy. Introverts place their attention and get their energy from inside themselves. The opposite is true for extroverts. And, no one in the workforce is either entirely introverted or extroverted. We all exist on an introvert-extrovert continuum.
Introverts Are Everywhere
It’s been estimated that anywhere from one-third to one-half of the population are introverts to some degree. But you wouldn’t guess that based on our dominant value systems.
“[We] make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.” Those are the words of Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Her point says a great deal about how introverts are managed and treated in the workplace.
Society’s hyper-valuation of extroversion has resulted in the unfortunate reality that most managers have difficulty managing introverts. Viewing us as shy and reclusive, managers tend to underestimate our contribution to the team. To make matters worse, they don’t know how to manage us to get the best out of us.
Let me share a little bit about my kind.
As an introvert, I get my energy from dealing with the ideas that are inside my head. I thrive in my inner world. That’s why I often prefer doing things alone, or with someone with whom I feel comfortable. In essence, I prefer less stimulating environments. When I am in spaces where there are lots of people, I can feel my energy draining from me. Sure, I can withstand the drain. But, I need some time alone to recover.
I’m thoughtful. So, I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what my plan is before I decide to act. I feel comfortable being alone. And, I like things I can do on my own. Consequently, I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
When it comes right down to it, my personality trait of introversion only means that I have different work preferences than most of my coworkers.
Introverts Eat Lunch Too
Introverts eat lunch just like everyone else. Since I’m very introverted, the thing about lunch is that I don’t mind at all eating alone at my desk, or going out for a solitary lunch.
I know that my preference to eat alone doesn’t always jive with management’s efforts to foster teamwork and collaboration. They know research says groups that eat together perform better together. And, they want to put that research into practice. I support their efforts. I really do.
That’s why a service like EAT Club brings real value to the workplace. When my employer provides me with lunch each day, I have a huge incentive to leave my desk for lunch. I get to stretch my legs and go to the common area to retrieve my fresh lunch when it arrives.
Sure, I could take my lunch back to my desk and eat alone. But, why would I do that when my employer has so graciously bought me lunch? To the contrary, I’m more likely to do one of two things that accomplishes the goals of management.
I might connect with coworker within my team with whom I’m particularly comfortable and have lunch with them. According to the research, our social bond will benefit from this regular casual contact and the benefit will extend throughout the team.
Or, since I’m not necessarily a shy person, I might strike up a conversation with someone outside of my immediate working team and sit down to eat with them. And here, according to the research, is where even more magic happens. Again, it’s the casual nature of our interaction that fosters collaboration between teams. Just by sitting down together we have broken through our team silos. We are apt to have work-related conversations that would never have occurred without the lure of free food.
Even when managing introverts seems challenging, there’s one tool that any manager can try—lunch.
Find out how providing an office lunch can bring introverts out of their shell and fostering a collaborative workplace. Visit EATClub.com to learn more today.