A useful label

On the heels of my post on labeling, I saw a WSJ article on a label –“introverted”– that applies to me. In my case I’ve found the “introverted” label helpful in organizing my work environment and learning how to work well with extroverts. However, the label also has drawbacks. The fact that “introvert” and “loner” are often used interchangeably, as in this article, is somewhat insulting and could be hazardous to one’s career. “Loners” don’t tend to get promoted!

Loners don’t necessarily fear the company of others. They appear to require solitude to process thoughts and events because those stimuli register more strongly with them than in outgoing people.

[I]ntroverts have stronger responses to some experiences than the three-fourths of the world’s population that can be considered extroverted. Amanda Guyer, a psychologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., has found that individuals who withdraw from other people’s company are more sensitive than extroverts to a wide range of positive emotional cues. Situations rife with emotional triggers, such as parties, can be wearying for such people, while solitude serves as a refreshing balm… [S]tudies have shown that creative activities provoke more pleasure in introverts than extroverts. This, along with a more acute observation of subtleties, might explain the stereotypical lifestyles of loner artists.

Early in my career, before I had my own office, I found it especially hard to work in an open environment. I never thought of asking for a special accommodation (i.e., my own office) as an introvert. (or loner!) but I wonder if the new labeled generation will. In my opinion they’d be better off putting their head down and working their way up instead.

March 1, 2007

2 thoughts on “A useful label”

  1. Do people really care about labels once you’re in an office? I’m inclined to say they don’t, and that your success depends on a mix of your talent and your ability to endear yourself to your superiors. The latter is a multifaceted issue that includes your own experience with introversion in a work environment.

    You bring up a valid point, namely whether labels will be accomodated past youth/school and into the working world. Personally, I doubt anti-discrimination laws and sentiments will go THAT far. The opposite, in fact, is true: if the trait/problem you have is diagnosed and there are treatments for it, it is the individual’s responsibility to seek them out, not the job’s responsibility to accomodate.

    Note that I do share your skepticism for categorization, I just don’t see it manifesting in the future the way you are pondering.

  2. I’m sure it varies by company and profession. When I worked at a large consulting firm they were quite into labels, including the Myers-Briggs classification. Certain “types” were considered more suitable for advancement than others.

    I wrote what I did about accommodation based on reading about “helicopter parents” in the WSJ awhile back. Some parents were expecting to be cc’d on offer letters from hiring companies, and some companies were actually going out of their way to bring the parents into the picture. It’s something alien to me but does seem to be a phenomenon out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *