Should I be less gregarious around my boss?
January 29, 2009 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Should I be less gregarious around my boss?

I'm quite outgoing; my boss is more introverted and quiet. As a result, I naturally find myself participating in conversations much more than he does when we're in social settings with colleagues (e.g. group lunches/outings). I am concerned about the possibility of his being uneasy about having an employee who frequently draws more attention in conversation than he does (especially since I'm a fairly recent hire at the beginning of my career). However, I haven't noticed any visible signs of his being uneasy; he often laughs at my jokes and even sides with me in discussions. Nevertheless, I know that upstaging one's boss can lead to trouble, and I don't want to put myself in that situation.

Any advice on whether I should tone it down in conversation? For context, I work at a tech company in the US, and I'm in a job where being outgoing is seen as an asset.

(Anonymous so my boss doesn't trace this back.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ask your boss straight up.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:43 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

In my experience, your boss will let you know if such behaviour is annoying or problematic, so you shouldn't worry about it.

There is a difference between social situations at work, and "work" situations. If you're eating lunch or whatever, it's time to relax and have some fun. However, if you are dominating work meetings, it could be a problem, but, then again, there are lots of different workplace dynamics. If your behaviour in work meetings and interactions leads to getting thing done, then it's an asset.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:51 PM on January 29, 2009

You're fine. Social settings are not competitions to see who can come up with the wittiest bon mot. Assuming your boss is a decent person who understands this (and it sounds like he is), it's not a problem.

I'm not anyone's boss, but if I were, I wouldn't expect my subordinates to all be introverted and quiet just because I was introverted and quiet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:54 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're probably OK, as long as it's in a social setting. Keep an eye out for his reactions to you - if he stops laughing at your jokes, or starts disagreeing with you more than is "normal" then maybe tone it down, and agree with him on something he says once in a while instead of always giving your opinion.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:58 PM on January 29, 2009

If he wasn't comfortable with you, he wouldn't want to share social time with you. Don't worry.
This isn't advice for you to interrupt him during important meeting with witty comments, though. That way lies unemployment.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:59 PM on January 29, 2009

If your boss is more introverted, he might prefer you as you are in social situations. Takes the pressure off him. But as with anyone, take note of his reactions and don't alienate him.
posted by katillathehun at 1:00 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

If it's in social situations, I wouldn't worry. Your boss is your boss for a reason - his work obviously speaks for itself. He's unlikely to be feeling threatened by your outgoing nature, and as katillathehun says, he might find it helpful to have you around to keep conversation going in social situations.

As long as you're not upstaging him in work meetings and taking credit for things that he is responsible for, then I think you're doing fine.

Every good team needs a mix of personalities to deliver the best results, so just continue being you. Just be aware of your behaviour and notice his reactions.
posted by finding.perdita at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2009

You sound fine, but make sure you're extra attentive to details in your work. Whether they like them socially or not, introverts often don't take extroverts 100% seriously. Not to the point they'd ever say anything about it, but when it comes promotion time, you might see the bias.
posted by aquafortis at 1:10 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're fine. Social settings are not competitions to see who can come up with the wittiest bon mot.

Really? This seems to me to be the crushing truth of most social situations, especially the ones involving professional colleagues.
posted by xmutex at 1:17 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

this can be a very good thing. (before you read what i'm about to write, know that what i'm about to say in no means can be taken as anything other than a very small survey of 5-7 people)

recently i've had to console many of my quieter, introverted friends who truly are brilliant and great at their jobs but got laid off in early rounds in favor of more extroverted people, who would be more 'missable' at the office. though layoffs are being forced upon EVERYONE, and this by no means is a legit way of explaining away all choices, and in most cases the extroverts got laid off a few months later, each of my quiet friends are annoyed to different degrees that they got the can and missed out on a few months extra pay based off of their lack of charisma and not on the quality of their work. i cannot speak to the quality of the work of all of the extroverts, so i don't know if things are even or not.

clearly personality isn't EVERYTHING, but if you've got your boss laughing and siding with you, in times like these, play it up as much as you can without being unprofessional or fake. just be you!

also as a fellow natural-can't-help-it-in-public-am-so-excited-to-be-here extrovert who has personally and somewhat unfairly gotten away with things because of my attitude but who also has lost a lot of really cool opportunities because of classmates/judges/bosses who thought I was annoying/fake/overwhelming, as katehasquestions says, the minute he starts to give you the queer eye or anything else wonky that might pertain to your personality, ease back, cowboy.

also do be careful that you don't manipulate the ENTIRE conversation. the best piece of advice i got from an exit conversation with a friend just as she stopped being my friend was that i tended to only join the conversation when i could insert MY opinion or say something about ME and MY experiences, interests, etc. Not saying that you do, but just make sure to ask a few questions of others, or to perhaps include your boss by point blank asking him "what do YOU think" which will give him a buffer and an opportunity to communicate. this will make him love you even more.

also in a separate but somewhat related vein do NOT let Eeyore-ish jobmates try to make you feel bad about being so social and perky. If they start making fun of you (behind their back or to their face) remember that this is NOT a reflection on you but on them. Do not try to make them happy by easing up or offering them choice assignments, etc. It will not work as I learned from experience. :)
posted by citystalk at 1:21 PM on January 29, 2009

Since everybody is saying "You're fine, don't worry," I'm going to take the contrary tack. I'm not saying you're not fine, you may well be, but it's a useful thing to worry about. It's entirely possible your introverted boss seems fine with it because he's, well, introverted and doesn't want to rock the social boat, but inwardly he wishes you'd ease back. You can ask him straight out if you think that will work (based on what you know of his personality and your relationship) or you can just remind yourself to be very attentive to his body language, but I don't think it's a good idea to just take his laughing at your jokes at face value.
posted by languagehat at 1:44 PM on January 29, 2009

It really depends on if your boss is secretly sick of your punk-face and all your mincing about.

And how are you going to know that?

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
posted by wfrgms at 1:53 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Talk to your boss about this.

"I know I talk too much sometimes... should I shut up more when we're out with the staff?"

If he corrects you, and explains that no you don't talk to much... you're golden. Either way he'll be impressed or flattered that you thought to ask him.
posted by rokusan at 2:13 PM on January 29, 2009

Not an issue. Bosses aren't bosses because they don't STFU in front of powerful people.
posted by spamguy at 2:17 PM on January 29, 2009

A rule of thumb I have been told: if you routinely talk for more than one minute at a time in the course of a regular back-and-forth conversation, you're talking too much. YMMV.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:43 PM on January 29, 2009

Seriously though, I wouldn't ask, I would phrase it more in a sort of future tense after the fact on the way back from lunch or something. E.g., "Gosh, I've gotta quit hogging the conversation, boss, my apologies."

If he says "no worries" then you're golden, otherwise just go with what he says.
posted by resurrexit at 3:40 PM on January 29, 2009

Right after the meeting is over, when you're alone, ask for his opinion about what you said, how you said it, and how much talking you did. Do this every time, such that he starts volunteering his opinion unasked or you're able to do a "how'd I do?" "great" "thanks!" and move on.

I do this with my boss. We have a great relationship. I ferret out the small problems, and work through them with people in the meetings while he sits back and thinks through the big epic problem nobody else has seen yet. Then, when I'm done, he drops the bomb. It's a great way to work once you get into the rhythm of it.
posted by davejay at 4:02 PM on January 29, 2009

« Older Drowsy all the time even after I sleep well....   |   Where will the idiots be? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.