Thursday, September 22, 2016

Onward, Introverts!

I was going to use “Onward, INTJ’s” as my title, but then somehow I came across an online argument about whether NPD’s (i.e, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder) were more likely to be INTJ’s than they were to be other personality types. And then I tripped on whether INTJ is the perfect personality type for someone with Asperger’s. So I said, why advertise my INTJ-ness. Let’s just go with the Introvert part.

But by way of context:

Anyone who has worked in corporate America has no doubt taken a personality test at one point or another. In one company I worked for, they gave us a quick and dirty test as part of a sales kickoff. As it turned out, all the sales people were Reds (or, as we called them, Flaming Reds), while everyone who was at the sales meeting who worked in a corporate function was an Orange, Blue, or Green. If they’d been a bit more Myers-Briggs-y, they’d have told us the Blue and Greens were the introverts, but, as we were the hold back, observe and analyze types, us Blues figured this out for ourselves.

I’ve also done the Enneagram, but I lent my really good Enneagram book to someone and never got it back, and I don’t remember what I was.

But I do remember when I was Myers-Briggsed.

I was at Wang, where entire swaths of the workforce took the test, and then went in their groups to off-sites to figure out what to do with it.

I was an INTJ.

Which stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.

Attention, Mr. Spock!

While I am certainly a well-compensated Introvert, and I’m not on the extreme end of that scale, this was the first I’d heard about being one. (The Red-Blue-Green-Orange scheme must have come later.)

I’d always known I was an oddball. It was good to have confirmation.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Myers-Briggs is a personality inventory that puts the theories of Carl Jung, all those archtypes, into practical, everyday practice.

You’re either an Introvert or an Extrovert. Intuitive or Sensing. Thinking or Feeling. Judging or Perceiving. (And, yes, you’re right, some of these words and categories don’t seem to make sense.)

I’m an INTJ. We’re the “Architect”. Our opposite numbers, ESFPs, are the “Entertainer.” While I actually find myself plenty entertaining, being an entertainer is my idea of a nightmare.

Anyway, according to 16 Personalities – which, by the way, has changed Perceiving to Prospecting, for some reason - here’s what INTJ-ness is all about:

It’s lonely at the top, and being one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types, INTJs know this all too well. INTJs form just two percent of the population, and women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population – it is often a challenge for them to find like-minded individuals who are able to keep up with their relentless intellectualism and chess-like maneuvering. People with the INTJ personality type are imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet private, amazingly curious, but they do not squander their energy.

Yep. Mostly.

With a natural thirst for knowledge that shows itself .early in life, INTJs are often given the title of “bookworm” as children. While this may be intended as an insult by their peers, they more than likely identify with it and are even proud of it, greatly enjoying their broad and deep body of knowledge. INTJs enjoy sharing what they know as well, confident in their mastery of their chosen subjects.

Yep. Entirely.

A paradox to most observers, INTJs are able to live by glaring contradictions that nonetheless make perfect sense – at least from a purely rational perspective. For example, INTJs are simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics, a seemingly impossible conflict. But this is because INTJ types tend to believe that with effort, intelligence and consideration, nothing is impossible, while at the same time they believe that people are too lazy, short-sighted or self-serving to actually achieve those fantastic results. Yet that cynical view of reality is unlikely to stop an interested INTJ from achieving a result they believe to be relevant.

That’s about right.

I was wondering just how much ethnicity (my antecedents being Irish and German) factored in here. 16 Personalities handily lets you find out. As the world turns out, the Irish are more apt to be Introverts, Intuitive, and Thinking than are the average persons in Europe. And Germans are more likely to be Introverts, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. Achtung, baby: ve have a vinner!

But enough about me putting the “my” in Myers-Briggs by running on about my personality inventory. (Jeez, am I really an NPD?) What triggered this post was an article in a recent Economist on the unfortunate, shabby (as they have it) approach that the corporate world takes to us introverts:

The biggest culprit is the fashion for open-plan offices and so-called “group work”. Companies rightly think that the elixir of growth in a world where computers can do much of the grunt work is innovation. But they wrongly conclude that the best way to encourage creativity is to knock down office walls and to hold incessant meetings. This is ill-judged for a number of reasons. It rests on a trite analogy between intellectual and physical barriers between people. It ignores the fact that noise and interruptions make it harder to concentrate. And  companies too often forget that whereas extroverts gain energy from other people, introverts need time on their own to recharge. (Source: The Economist)

Italics mine!

The other day, I had an on-site meeting with an open-office client. Although I don’t go into meet in person with my clients very often, I have a few that I occasionally drift in to see. This company is not my only open-office client, but it has embraced the concept with a vengeance. It gives me the willies.

The recent fashion for hyper-connectedness also reinforces an ancient prejudice against introverts when it comes to promotion. Many companies unconsciously identify leadership skills with extroversion—that is, a willingness to project the ego, press the flesh and prattle on in public. This suggests that Donald Trump is the beau idéal of a great manager.

Italics again mine. Beau idéal my royal, INTJ arse.

Yet in his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, a management guru, suggests that the chief executives who stay longest at the top of their industries tend to be quiet and self-effacing types. They are people who put their companies above their egos and frequently blend into the background.

“Good to Great” is one of those business books I have around somewhere. I think I read it. Part of it, anyway. (I think I had to for a client, for some reason. I don’t feel I’ve read it. I’m such a thinker!)

The article goes on that companies need to do something to make the workplace a happier milieu for their introverts: quiet areas, offices. I’d add not promoting all those self-aggrandizing blowhards to the mix. Unless those self-aggrandizing blowhards are managing robots:

One study that looked at operations lower down an organisation shows that extroverts are better at managing workers if the employees are just expected to carry out orders, but those who tend towards introversion are better if the workers are expected to think for themselves.

Fortunately, my career has been in technology – albeit in marketing – where it’s mostly okay to be an introvert.

Extraversion and introversion aren’t black and white, they aren’t binary. Most folks are on a continuum.

But I’m happy to see my peeps get their day. Onward, Introverts!

1 comment:

valerie said...

I too am an INTJ -- no wonder we get along so well. People often take issue with the notion of my being an introvert because I am not shy -- nor are you. (And you are definitely wildly entertaining). They don't get it. I remember in a sales class at Wang Terry was upset because she was determined to be the equivalent of "driver, driver, hatehead." Laughter still ensues.