One of best things you can do to work well with your boss is to understand whether she is an introvert or an extrovert and then adapt your communication and interaction style accordingly.
Why is this important? Because extroversion and introversion are core personality preferences connected to two important interpersonal dynamics: Source of energy and preferred communication style. Building and maintaining a successful working relationship with your boss requires communicating effectively and making sure you are working with their source of energy and not against it. In other words, are you a boon or a bust to your boss’ energy?
The Introvert Boss. Introverts get energized from within (their internal world of ideas and thoughts) and prefer environments with less external stimulation (like interacting with you). This means they often prefer working alone (with their doors closed) and tend to interact less with staff and colleagues. Being less externally oriented, they may be less forthcoming with information, hold fewer meetings, check in less frequently and engage in less social chit-chat.
The Extrovert Boss. Extroverts, on the other hand, get energized from the outside world of people and activity and have a higher set point and preference for more external stimulation (like interacting with you). Extroverts tend to enjoy more verbal communication and engaging with others. Because external engagement energizes them, they tend to readily share information, hold regular meetings, frequently “pop-in” to share ideas, and like to brainstorm or think through ideas with others.
While both these preferences are normal and effective, introverts are often drained by extroverts and vice versa. Try using these strategies to keep your boss’ energy tank on full:
Energizing strategies for the introvert bosses
Don’t take their silence personally. Just because your introvert boss doesn’t heartily engage you in conversation or walk about the office checking in and saying hello, doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. It just means that they are introverts and don’t have the same need for external interactions that extroverts do. Don’t make up stories about their behavior—they probably like you just fine.
Get on their calendar. Be proactive about getting face time with them. Don’t wait for them to come to you—if you do, you may be waiting a long time. Instead, take the initiative to schedule time with them. It’s up to you to get on their calendar. They may cancel half of your meetings, but you will still have the other half.
Give advance warning. Let them know ahead of time what you want to discuss. Prior to meeting, send an advance email with the topics you’d like to discuss or the questions you need answered. Introverts appreciate time to process information and formulate thoughts before discussing them—even if it is only a five-minute warning!
Control the chatter. When you get time with your introverted manager, use it wisely. Organize your thoughts and get to the point. A little friendly conversation is fine, but too much chatter will quickly drain (and annoy) this boss. And if you are talking just to fill the silence, stop it. Introverts appreciate silence.
Energizing strategies for the extroverted bosses
Engage them. Extroverts are energized through external interaction so take the time to engage with them as often as possible—even if it is only five minutes a day. Get to know them as a person. A little positive face time and chit-chat goes a long way with this type of boss!
Listen to them talk. Extroverts value information sharing. They enjoy communicating and will notice if you are tuning them out. Actively listen to your extrovert and show enthusiasm for their ideas. It may cost you a little time and energy, but it is so worth it!
Speak up! Extroverts are energized by other people so be ready to share your thoughts and participate in meetings—even if you prefer to process information and ideas on your own. Your extroverted boss doesn’t expect communication perfection, just involvement and contribution. If they feel like getting you to participate is like pulling teeth, you are going to be an energy drain. Be an active part of the conversation.
Clarify and recap. Not everything your extroverted boss says is an action item. Extroverts tend to think out loud as they process their ideas externally. They will often move on to new thoughts before the old ones are completed. Spend a minute or two at the end of meetings to summarize, recap and clarify action items and next steps.
Mary Abbajay is the author of Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss, and is president and CEO of Careerstone Group, LLC.