A Call to Shy Engineers: Yell if you have to!

Boy looking around a corner because he's shyI have interacted with many an engineer in my four years working as one.  And one of the most fascinating aspects of meeting and seeing how they work is how incredibly different those engineers’ personalities are!  I’m not speaking of extra-work interests, but rather how different people respond to similar situations based on prior experiences and learning.  Communication is something I always spout a need to improve, and responses to stimuli show that it is definitely something that needs to be undertaken in order to gain advantage and respect in the workplace.

This is going to be a multi-part blog to discuss different personality types and their effects on perception by management.

The first personality type I’m going to discuss is those who are shy.  These are the ones who have a very hard time voicing their opinion, and in many cases don’t like leaving the comfort of their cubicle to meet new people unless it is absolutely necessary.  There are a few things that arise out of this type of personality.  First, upward mobility is severely diminished.  If this is you, think to yourself how you would respond to a subordinate who behaved in an introverted and anti-social way?  Would YOU, as a manager, raise them to new levels of success if they can’t seem to interact with other departments in a meaningful way?

I’m not sure I could justify such a move, myself.  When I look at who deserves to be pushed up into the higher ranks in the organization, I am looking at those who are outgoing, can talk to people successfully, and voice their opinion even when it happens to be less than shared by coworkers.  I also wonder, if you don’t want to talk to people, is this a personal insecurity that you feel your opinion doesn’t matter?  That would be an organizational issue more than an individual issue due to the fact that everyone in the company should have an appropriate level of self-efficacy.

Beyond that, however, some individuals have issue confronting others who have different beliefs.  A cowardly view to say the least, and something that upper levels cannot allow to show, even if they feel it themselves.  If you have received your position, received appropriate levels of praise in the past for your prior successes, you should KNOW that you are adding value to the organization, and therefore, your experience DOES matter to the group.  After all, if everyone believed the same thing (groupthink?), how would companies dominate markets when they had no true competitive advantage, based primarily on their effective use of resources… or…. people (like you)!

So I implore any of you shy engineers, change is possible, and to that extent, you need to work to change yourself to become more outgoing! Yell if you have to! When people beyond you, especially managers, see that you have the courage of your convictions enough to voice an opinion and defend it until proven not the best, they see someone who DOES have leadership potential, whether you plan to be a manager or not.  After all, moving up as an engineer tends to mean that you will at some point, be put in a leadership position over others in a team setting.  How can you hope to manage those people if you’re afraid to talk to them?

What other problems do you see with being too shy as an engineer in your organization?  Are there positive sides to being shy?  Leave them in the comments and join the discussion!