"You must like dealing with people to be great at management"
April 6, 2016 11:36 AM   Subscribe

From an article that got some views on reddit etc:
Imagine you spend a full day in back-to-back 1:1s talking to people. Does that sound awful or awesome?
It sounds pretty awful to me. The post then goes on to say that if this is a problem, you're not cut out to be a manager. Since I'm moving into a position that involves managing people -- is this true or false? Are you a successful introvert manager? If so how did you do it?
posted by aeighty to Human Relations (29 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
The bad news is that it's true, you will be talking to a lot of people. The good news is that introverts can talk to people, too, and thus be managers.

For me, my introversion translates into needing solitary downtime between meetings ("I need to deal with some emails, I'll be in my office") -- as long as I've got that, I'm okay. You should be able to arrange this the same way I did, if your new job uses computers at all. Sometimes I can't avoid back-to-back meetings, but I just grit my teeth and get through them.

A paradox of introversion that also works for me, but might not for you -- like some introverts, I'm actually pretty comfortable making speeches and presentations, anything that is scripted, and there's lots of that in management, too.
posted by Mogur at 11:43 AM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


I was an introvert manager. I liked managing people and am good at it. I would never structure my day with 1:1s from start to finish, that would be hell. I would work in blocks of alone time so I could get stuff done and be somewhat by myself (always with interruptions, but that's life). Being an introvert doesn't mean not liking people, it just means needing time alone to recharge. You can be an introvert and be a great manager.
posted by cecic at 11:44 AM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't really agree with it, though some of this stuff depends a lot on the specific job. I enjoy managing people, and I'm definitely an introvert. I do try to schedule my meetings in ways that give me a break every so often, and when I have a full day of 1:1s or similar meetings, it's pretty exhausting. Not my favorite days at work. But that doesn't happen very often.

I mean, if you don't like talking to people at all, or if you can't handle the occasional day that's packed with meetings, management might not be the right career for you. But I think I'm a pretty successful manager despite being an introvert.

That said, there have been times when I've taken a break from managing people (e.g. during a job transition), and it was pretty nice...
posted by primethyme at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2016


I work with a bunch of engineers. The managers are engineers who are only a little bit better at dealing with people. It can happen, but it depends on the company culture.

Having said that, I would never in a million years be a manager for a place like McDonald's where one deals with idiots every day, all day.
posted by Melismata at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, to address the headline of this question: I DO agree that you must like dealing with people, or at least be pretty good at it, to be a good manager. Management IS dealing with people. The part I disagree with is that a day packed with back-to-back 1:1s has to sound awesome to you. Even my extrovert wife dreads those days.
posted by primethyme at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2016 [18 favorites]


It depends on the work, the culture, and the workers. My current boss is in meetings almost nonstop. My previous boss managed people maybe 20% of the time and was mostly able to turn people loose and trust they'd self manage and spent the rest of the time doing fun technical work. Different companies, related fields.
posted by Candleman at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


awful or awesome

The article makes a point of really harping on "Awful" and I'd agree. I'm management and I would enjoy a day of 1-on-1s but I don't think that's required, I think at the very least your answer to that question should be "Tolerable".

This is so dependent on industry and workplace. The amount of emotional or interpersonal involvement it takes to be in management varies. But it's always going to be SOME, at least a couple hours a day.
posted by French Fry at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Meh. I'm a quasi-manager, quasi-executive, quasi-employee, quasi-everything at my small company. I hate dealing with people, even though most stuff comes to me, regardless of what it is. I think the best way to deal with things is to just handle everything through email and other methods where you have a written record of things.

Know what you need from people, let them know, have them draw up good questions to send to you in an email, and respond when you have the right answers. I absolutely loathe the face-to-face nature of offices. LOATHE IT. It's not just because I think it's a fallacy that you need to go meet with people in person to buoy their confidence and trust in you as their manager; in fact, I think the best way to do that is with clear communication. And clear communication doesn't come from face-to-face conversations. Improvised answers and instructions that vanish into thin air come from face-to-face conversations. I can communicate better with my employees/coworkers over email and instant messenger than I can by taking a few steps to go out to their office.

Also, written instructions and discussions mean that NOBODY can ever claim they weren't told something. It's in writing. And it's probably quite understandable, because you didn't have to come up with it on the spot.

People who actually need their egos stroked and their confidence maintained by personal interaction are just going to be problems all over the place. If they can't or won't give you clear answers without having to talk to you face-to-face...red flag. That's my 8 years of experience, anyway. Value the person that can communicate everything you need from them clearly in an email.

That's how I approach the introvert manager AND information chaos problem simultaneously. Give that a thought. What matters most is that stuff gets done.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 11:54 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is nuts. I'm an extrovert, and can tell you that introverts who are motivated to create good management structures make fabulous managers. Schmoozing all day is not a sign of effectiveness and it isn't required at all to manage well.
posted by bearwife at 11:57 AM on April 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'm an introvert, and I don't agree with your success or failure hinging on whether you like to interact with other people. Yes, you have to interact with people on a regular basis, and how much depends on how many people you're responsible for -- but a large part of management is making sure others are doing their jobs, and if they require your attention constantly, all day long, then there's either an issue with the employee or their training.

Some bad examples of managers:

#1 is an extrovert, moved up from sales to management -- yes, we compare to The Office's Michael Scott quite often -- who is wrapped up in those 1:1 interactions from a "everything must be positive" standpoint, because those are the interpersonal interactions that energizes him.

When things are a problem, however, he crumbles; it takes a looooong time to get him to address problems, and when he does his goal is making people happy, not fixing the problem. So, simply liking 1:1 interactions isn't enough to make a good manager.

#2 is a hands-off boss; I had a problem with how a fellow employee, same pay-grade, same job, was treating customers -- boss told me to deal with it myself. She never checked on my work, or had departmental meetings to see how things were going, or advised us of future plans or anything. She was merely the person who accepted time-off requests. I have no idea whether she liked or disliked 1:1 interaction, but she clearly had no intention of doing so.

I'm an introvert, and interacting with people is exhausting for me -- but I'm manager, and I went to business school and learned the skills needed to be a manager, and I do pretty well. On the white board next to me, I have written "WHAT'S EVERYONE WORKING ON TODAY" to remind myself to not get wrapped up in my projects and do managerial stuff. So, I stop at everyone's desks, or send them emails, or whatever I need to do to make a little personal connection, make sure things are on-task, and then I go back to my other stuff. It's all learned skills, but it doesn't hinge on my desire for 1:1 interaction with other people.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:58 AM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


My worst manager ever had the same philosophy as KinoAndHermes. And maybe that style works for the manager, but from an employee's perspective, it was pretty terrible. I'm typically a high performer, but working for this manager was soul-crushing. I made a decision to leave within six months.

This manager only talked to staff during scheduled 1:1 time, sent emails instead of having conversations, focused only on getting stuff done their way without any real guidance or expectation-setting, and viewed any followup questions asked in person as a challenge to their authority. We were treated like automatons instead of a team of thinking, contributing individuals who played a part in the success of the business. In short: Meh.

My best manager didn't have any scheduled 1:1s at all. We'd have them maybe quarterly, but we'd spend maybe 3-5 minutes a day together (cumulative) when she'd stop by my desk. Topics:

1. Hey, how's the project going?
2. Are the resources/client cooperating?
3. Anything I can do to help?
4. Carry on!

It was kind of like the Tim Gunn approach to management, come to think of it. She was also great because she seemed to value me as a person. She genuinely cared if I had a new idea about a process and gave it honest consideration. She recommended a professional book she thought might be interesting to me. She saw the things I did best and made an effort to put me on the types of projects I enjoyed most.

There wasn't a ton of conversation, but based on her consistency and confidence, I had a clear idea of her expectations as well as feedback on the impact I had on the company.
posted by mochapickle at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


Another introvert manager here, and for me it's a huge part of my effectiveness. As others have said, pretty much anyone needs some down time anyway. Also, taking breaks is an integral part of good time management, so introversion basically hardwires you to do that. That being said, you do need to respect the need for that. I know a few young introverts who were moved into management and who drank the extravert Kool-Aid sold to them. They saw their introversion as a weakness and forced themselves into behaviors that simply didn't fit their personalities. Burnout happened quickly. Very quickly. They had a terrible time gaining the trust of their teams.

Which brings up another point – whichever personality trait you identify with (it can be anything), a key to being a good manager is being true to yourself. Not the immature, imbalanced "true to myself" that people use as an excuse to be irresponsible, but a wise truth to yourself. When you're true to yourself, it encourages others to be the same. People who are true to themselves are happier, more relaxed, and work better. Boom. Effective leadership.

Back to introversion. It's also helpful on keeping a proper distance with reports. Extraverts tend to be buddy-buddy; I'm sure plenty of us here have experienced the super-outgoing boss who's all "we are awesome!!! you are awesome!!! we are going to do awesome things together and succeed and woohoo let's go out for beer!" and at first, it's great! If you like socializing. If not, it's torture. After a few weeks, okay, great... a few months later it's like cripes, can I just be less awesome? I'm human, I make mistakes, and here's this dude I've had all this beer with who can't take anything that's not postivity squared. Whereas introverts kind of naturally keep a distance, and that is very healthy so long as you're still talking with people. Talking face to face is a must: people can tell you what you want to hear by email. Sure you've got a written trace. How do you know the person understood and implemented it? How do you know they're not looking for a job elsewhere because they feel like a cog instead of the human they are? You want people to trust you with the good and the bad, professionally. I give people space to grow and work independently, while still providing the necessary framework, and of course support when needed (doesn't necessarily have to be requested, sometimes you have to know when to step in and how to do that wrt the individual in question).

Talking to people is definitely required. But it's not socialization talking; it's professional discussions with a bit of personal. I know a lot about my reports, but it's all stuff they volunteer. You can get a very good sense of people's personality and work styles from, well, how they work, but you have to experience it first-hand. There are days I'm stuck dealing with client crises and have zero time to check in with my teams, half of whom are on the other side of France. Because we know and trust each other, I know they're not going to panic at a lack of email or phone contact; I know they'll proactively figure out what they need (also because I've planned ahead and shared guidelines) and keep issues on a backburner for when I can talk with them. They always do, and it's a really neat experience when that happens. Entirely personal discussions are very rarely necessary. You also don't always need to ask people how things are going with others, if you're keeping a good pulse on your team. In two years and a team of twelve I've only ever had to deal with one interpersonal conflict, and it all turned out fine. (So fine that both of the people involved spontaneously and individually thanked me for showing them aspects of the other person they'd been overlooking in their "OMG HATE" initial response, hehe.) Same deal: if you model a professional, respectful distance, with genuine interest and reasonable intervention, your reports will learn that too.
posted by fraula at 1:07 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


People who actually need their egos stroked and their confidence maintained by personal interaction are just going to be problems all over the place. If they can't or won't give you clear answers without having to talk to you face-to-face...red flag. That's my 8 years of experience, anyway. Value the person that can communicate everything you need from them clearly in an email.

I pulled this out of the thread because I think it demonstrates the same fallacy as your original post.

Introverts can be great managers and do not have to love meetings all day long. But just as extrovert managers need to learn how to manage introverts effectively -- give them time to think and respond, don't create situations where the loudest idea wins as opposed to the best, ensure their space supports their needs -- so too an introvert manager needs to understand that talking is not just "ego stroking" for staff who value non-verbal cues and process information aurally.

Basically, a manager has to enjoy working people issues out with people, which can mean meetings or not. Being self-aware enough to schedule breaks, keep meetings focused, and flex to others' needs will encourage staff to do the same.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:11 PM on April 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


Introvert manager here. One strength of introvert managers I think is that we tend to not be micro-managers - because that just ups the amount of contact with people we have to have. If you set up good accountability structures in your team, and give clear directions about what you want and whiny want it and how you expect it to be done, then you can leave people alone to get on with things.

This does fall down if you have a team member who likes to be spoon-fed and doesn't take much initiative. I've usually handled this by encouraging people to problem-solve amongst themselves before coming to me (i.e., pass some of that babying off to everyone else).

One thing that's important to remember to do is to communicate what you're doing with your day. Introversion can be mistaken for withholding information. I've noticed several of my teams over the years developing this intense curiosity about why I'm in my office so much rather than out talking to them - "there must be something going on, and it must be really important or secret" - there's no secret, I'm just doing emails and making phone calls and looking at cat videos just like any other person.
posted by girlgenius at 1:54 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


A friend who switched from academia to industry once described managing people as being like the one-on-one, tutoring elements of teaching. This is probably the most attractive description of management I've ever heard.
posted by yarntheory at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


+1 for that dichotomy not being a valid way to assess whether you can be a manager. I am a more introverted person and manage people successfully. I would not enjoy a day of 1 on 1s.

The main advice I would give is that whoever you are you need to treat effective management as a skill that needs to be acquired. Just becuase you do X well yourself does not mean you can automatically manage a team of people doing X. Research it, discuss it with others, reflect on you do that has gone well and not well, ask your manager for their insight, see if there are any courses your firm will send you on etc.

I really like the Manager Tools podcasts and would recommend them as a good starting point.
posted by Albondiga at 2:19 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is one of those things that depends a lot on what level of management you aspire to reach. High-level managers rarely if ever have time to work intensively with people below them, let alone do actual "work". They instead spend all their time coordinating with other high-level managers (peers or people above them) to get things done and maybe do some strategic planning on the side. So there's an extraordinary level of getting along with others in different areas who have their own agendas.

First-line supervisory roles aren't like that. However, there is naturally a tendency from upper-level managers to look for and encourage the characteristics that make a high-level manager. This is how we get the Peter principle. So I would say that as long as you are intending to stay in a line capacity and not interested in moving up, don't worry about it. Don't reflexively sell yourself short (plenty of incompetents with a surplus of confidence won't show the consideration of accurately assessing their skills) but there is no shame in recognizing your own personality type and staying at a level that suits it.
posted by wnissen at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was a manager for a year or so and went back to being a not-manager because it was too stressful. But it depends on what you mean by introvert. Some people (like many posting here) are introverts in the sense that they need downtime, or just prefer being alone, or whatever.

If, on the other hand, you have actual social anxiety in addition to introversion like me, then I think it is much harder. It takes me forever to work up to a social interaction, and then I have to spend time and energy recovering from it. I can get by with the amount needed as an engineer, but as a manager it was just too much. So if social interactions actually stress you out, if you spend time worrying/being anxious about them ahead of time, if you spend lots of time ruminating on what you might have done wrong afterwards --- in my experience as someone who does all those things being a manager was hell.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:31 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have never heard of a manager scheduling a full day of back-to-back 1:1 meetings. As a manager you have more control over your calendar than those reporting to you, and you can schedule meetings in such a way that you have downtime in between meetings if you need to.

If your problem is social anxiety rather than introversion, I will just throw this out there: I feel much, MUCH more comfortable now with long, busy days at work and lots of meetings since I've gotten treated for my anxiety. Whereas before I would agonize over scheduled meetings days ahead of time, worrying about all kinds of insane things (being on time, not knowing what to say, looking stupid, fear of dealing with conflict, wondering if the meeting would run long, etc.) -- today, I usually forget I even have a meeting on my calendar until I get the reminder from Outlook. Get treatment for your anxiety if that's what's causing your stress.
posted by a strong female character at 3:42 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


The way being an introverted manager can fail is if you let your personal biases about how you like to interact with people limit your managerial toolbox or shift your prioritization.

Like, I'm not a "schedule team events" type of manager because I hate that stuff. But there are people on my team that like and value that kind of time. Organizing outings or dinners or whatever fall to the bottom of my list every time because it gives me anxiety to do that kind of organization. But a combination of delegating that to people on the team that do like that has helped, plus recognizing that my personal values aren't actually what's important here and finding ways to motivate myself to push myself out of my comfort zone.

The other piece I struggle with is recognizing that other people have different ways of communicating and it's my job to complement their preferences. Some people like to emote in 1:1s which can make me uncomfortable. Some people HATE emoting and just want to do status reports and problem solve. Some people are conflict averse, some people hate politics, some people prefer to write than talk, etc. For people whose defaults line up with mine, it's important not to just fall into a comfortable rut when there actually are conflicts you need to have or emotions you need to share even if that's neither of your preferences.
posted by heresiarch at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


From what I've seen, managers aren't normally having tons of 1 on 1 meetings all the time. Mine probably schedules ours every 2-3 months. However, mine probably has 2-3 days a week where she has nothing but back to back to back to back meetings with various committees and groups all day (she MIGHT get lunch if she doesn't have to meet with higher-ups who disdain lunch). I needed to talk to her today about some things and just straight up could not do it. She also tells me she doesn't have the time to get all that much of her work done because of all the meetings. Plus if she's not in a meeting she is always on call for customers coming in. It's an onslaught of people.

I am usually an ambivert and find all the onslaughts of people draining. I don't think I'd recommend an introvert become a manager unless they work somewhere where they won't always have to be in many group meetings.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:40 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd really ignore issues of introversions vs extraversion and focus on how you feel about banking your success on other people and dealing with people as they are.

I've never had a full day of 1 on 1s, but I have had days with one, then and interview and then needing to deal with other random stuff that pops up because your job really boils down to doing everything so that everyone else can do their jobs.

I wouldn't call myself a people person but I really enjoy managing.
posted by KernalM at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I skimmed the article and agree with most of it. Having successful 1:1s is just a tiny part of the equation though. As a manager a large part of your job is essentially to connect with others: your team, your managers (of whom there are always MANY, rarely just 1), your customers, your vendors. This is especially true when working in large organizations.

Soft skills/social skills/EQ are also a huge part of the job. I definitely had to adapt and improve my EQ and it is still a work in progress.

Instead of thinking about back to back 1:1s, think about spending most of your day communicating in some form (I would guess around 50% to 98% in managers I work with). If that sounds terrible, then managing may be difficult for you. Or, you could be surprised and really like it.

fwiw I am an introvert and a manager.
posted by seesom at 6:32 PM on April 6, 2016


I feel like the premise of the question commits the usual fallacy that introverts are misanthropes and dislike dealing with people, when in reality, introverts can be just as interested in human beings as extroverts or ambiverts, but it's just that, as others have pointed out, interaction can be taxing in different ways.

I'm an introvert, and as a manager I've had to direct teams of as many as 25 software developers at different points in their career curve. There have definitely been days where back-to-back-to-back meetings have left me weary and dissipated, but that feeling is no different from when I was an individual contributor and would burn a 12 hours day fixing bugs on a project with a fast approaching deadline. The things that I do genuinely enjoy with my job is being someone who can help make people successful by giving them perspective and focus, and by, essentially giving people the space to do things that they want to do, and couldn't do because it often requires coordinating with others. I look at it as a well tuned machine made of individuals, and like a good software project that can run for months with little operational support, my best teams are ones that need some upfront management time to set themselves up, but once running, don't need a lot of regular intervention from me.

As some people said, an important skill to have as a manager, regardless of your Myers-Brigg classification, is understanding the types and personalities of your other colleagues. Some people just like to think out loud, and you need to let them do that. Some other people are super internal, and won't be very chatty, and you ought not to force that. The ideal manager is flexible when it comes to meeting another person's interaction style.

Over the last year, I've also been in the process of coaching up two members of my staff to take on some managerial duties, and that's been an interesting lesson in itself, since I've never managed people who manage others. In the same way that one understands a discipline in a different way when you're teaching it rather than simply implementing, the thing that I came to really appreciate is some of the stuff mentioned in the article, particularly:

- a manager is an anxiety buffer, who ften has to absorb the stresses of both leadership and staff in a way that smooths out the potential chaos that would exist in their absence. Leadership comes to managers with business problems that need to be solved by staff, and staff come to their manager with career ambitions that the manager needs to facilitate, and a good manager can solve those problems without transferring some of that anxiety further up and down the chain. Regardless of your temperament, that has to be something that you're capable of.

- managers have to be ok with not being everyone's friend. I've had lead devs who were opting in to being protege managers but then reneged on their track when they realized that somebody on their team was failing at their job, and they couldn't bear to give them negative feedback. There are managers who can't bear to fire someone and will instead let someone linger around and poison a team because they can't find another place to put them.

I think in that above regard, it's almost irrelevant whether you're an introvert or an extrovert; and arguably that latter piece is more of a liability for extroverts. Regardless, this sort of stuff is hard, and it isn't something that any of us would necessarily enjoy, but it's part of the job.

But, you know, when you see your teams kicking ass, doing well, and enjoying their work ... when you see that one junior staff member mature into a totally essential colleague and you realize that you gave them their first break ... when you're able to give a raise to someone that enables them to buy their first house ... all of that makes the stress worthwhile.
posted by bl1nk at 7:44 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Eh, I think the quote puts it a little strongly. I'm an introvert manager and get good feedback. I don't love 1:1 meetings and rarely do that unless I need to do that. I have to keep a close eye on my own behavior, to see if I'm avoiding it because it's not necessary, or because I don't like it - it's easy to convince myself of the former if I'm not paying attention.

But, it's a tool in the toolbox, and sometimes it's the right tool. As a manager, you have to be able to do it competently when it's the right thing to do. That means practice.

I rarely, in fact I don't think I have ever, had formal 1:1s all day long. That's ridiculous. Closest is hiring interviews, and I can bring a co-interviewer if I want. Some days around performance eval time I schedule a few in a day, for several days. Almost every day is a mix of the occasional 1:1, informal "hey can I see you for a minute" walk-talks, meetings I lead, meetings I don't lead, meetings I'm not interested in and wonder why they wanted me there, solo work, and just wandering around seeing what I see and spot-checking what people have told me. As an introvert, I struggle with being so exhausted with people when I get home I just want to metafilter all night by myself instead of doing one single more productive thing. That's not 1:1 meetings specifically though, just human contact in general.
posted by ctmf at 8:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm an extrovert, I'm a (good I think) manager of many years, I manage social workers so lots of intense one on one time-and I would die if I had to do it all day every day. It's exhausting to pay such close attention to folks, and it's not really what management is. I do lots of things every day and only some of them are significant one on ones-I have meetings, I manage data, I write things, I call people, I meet with people....you will be fine!
posted by purenitrous at 8:59 PM on April 6, 2016


Establishing policies and systems helps immensely if you're an introvert who is also a manager. Having an agenda for every meeting and standard formats for agendas and notes, for instance, helps tee things up if you're facing an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. Having set times to check in with your team members and/or clients on a weekly basis helps set expectations and establish the narrative arc of your days and weeks. Then you can play it by ear when it comes to additional check-ins. The phrase that comes to mind here is "Don't make me think," like the Web usability book of the same name—you want to ideally remove the friction from having meetings in the first place so you can think about the structure of things and what you need to say as little as possible and focus on the content and results of meetings as much as possible. Being prepared and making sure you have the information you need in mind or readily at hand really helps in terms of confidence when you have to be communicating with people all the time. I feel so much calmer and in control when I have an agenda prepared for any meeting, even if it means I stayed up late putting it together.

One of the best things you can do as an introvert and a manager is set up systems that provide you with status information in an ambient way—e.g., automatic emails when files are updated or the status of items changes. Chat systems for communication like Slack that keep everything in writing are also great, so even people in the same office are less distracted by drop-in chats and you can be notified if certain terms come up in conversation. It takes people like 15 minutes to recover from getting interrupted by a request for a status report or other update on something, and daily meetings can also be stressful; I try to spare my teams that sort of intervention as much as possible. When you have to look for information, having everything searchable in email, in chat, or in a document in the cloud also helps cut down on the need to bother someone. The ideal situation for me is one where you're working with people who own their work like adults and appreciate having the space to do what needs to be done in its own time—and collaborate and do their own research when they have questions. Encourage this.

Like mochapickle's worst manager, my worst manager got to a point where they weren't communicating directly with anyone who wasn't their buddy anymore, except in meetings where they cherry-picked suggestions from favored colleagues. Otherwise, almost all decisions or requests for information were made in passive-aggressive (or sometimes just plain aggressive) emails. Every email felt like a gotcha. It was terrible. But the medium wasn't the problem; the problem was an avoidant, paranoid sexist who actually believed they were a nice person and that an inherently unrealistic schedule could be made realistic by endless recitations of status and discussions of process. And introversion wasn't the problem; this person was an extrovert to the point of complete negation of self, the kind of person who got offended when someone was heads-down on work and wanted to schedule time to talk, rather than going over it right then, the kind of person whose days never ended and when they sent that 2 a.m. email, you could tell they were annoyed you weren't up to respond. That's a whole other thing entirely. Ambient communication is a great way of working if you're reasonable and don't expect the impossible, like that more than one thing can be at the top of someone's work queue at once.


As a manager you have more control over your calendar than those reporting to you, and you can schedule meetings in such a way that you have downtime in between meetings if you need to.

I'd say this depends on your field and whether you're client-facing. In client work, it is definitely not always the case that you can set the terms of every meeting and ensure recovery time between check-ins. You can control the timing of internal meetings to some degree, but when people on your team work with multiple stakeholders whose respective meetings can't be moved, it can make it difficult to schedule your meetings when you want. You have to be OK with that.
posted by limeonaire at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2016


I will also say this: I was a manager in a content-producing role that kept me heads-down all the time and reticent when it came to breaking up my time with meetings, where I guarded my boundaries fiercely and revolted against the idea of multitasking. Actually managing people was exhausting and difficult in that environment. Now I'm in a management role where I bounce from one chat, email, or call to another multiple times an hour, and my days are exceedingly flexible. I'm so much happier in my new role, which might surprise those who previously saw me only as an extreme introvert. The difference?
  1. I feel supported by management and that I have the tools I need to succeed.
  2. Outside of client meetings, I have a lot of choice about what I work on next.
  3. Ambient, asynchronous communication is the norm in my distributed workplace.
  4. Most discussions outside of scheduled meetings occur in chat or by email.
  5. Taking ownership of tasks and taking initiative are not viewed as threats.
  6. I work remotely, so I literally don't have anyone looking over my shoulder.
  7. I work with devs, so I don't feel like I need to dumb down my explanations.
  8. I'm almost never doing the exact same type of drudgery two days in a row.
  9. While I internalized "Keep your head down" in my previous role, here I feel celebrated for piping up, rather than discouraged from contributing.
  10. I'm actively encouraged to do research and learn new things—something I hilariously didn't even have as a practicing journalist and editor.
Long story short: To me, the environment makes all the difference in how you will fare as an introvert and a manager. The right environment for you will prize your approach.
posted by limeonaire at 10:17 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


First off: selection bias. You're not about to receive a tidal wave of introverts claiming they were promoted to management, and then hated every minute of it until they were fired. Possibly because it doesn't happen, but also possibly because people generally rate themselves above average, and also possibly because they wouldn't admit it publicly.

That said, you probably won't be in 1:1s all day, on a regular basis. But it's not a bad benchmark to give you an idea of what management is like. You will be in more meetings, and you may very well have days where all you do is attend meetings. And not the kind of meetings that you can check out of while you check email, or reddit or whatever; as a manager you'll pretty much be leading these, hence the 1:1 analogy. Even extroverts hate the meeting heavy days, but it's seen as a cost of doing management business.

You will be interrupted with your team's problems; random things that aren't on your job description, but aren't theirs either, like finance stealing chairs from the bullpen for their meetings, or a client is upset with your staff's service latency. This is actually why people suggest you schedule weekly 1:1s with all your directs. Anything that can wait till the next 1:1 will, and sometimes gets solved or invalidated before then anyways without your help.

So you schedule those, and you have less interrupt driven interpersonal drama. But more meetings. Whoops. Here's what you need to do: schedule time in your calendar for Actually Working. Mark it as busy, so nobody can waste your time with a courtesy invite, or Another Pointless Meeting That Should Have Been An Email. Start practicing this now, before your promotion. At the start of the day, think about what you're going to accomplish that day, and schedule time in your calendar for it. Then think about your annual / quarterly / whatever performance / review goals, and how you're going to accomplish them, and schedule recurring appointments with yourself to do the deskwork required to accomplish those goals.

This has the dual effect of Getting Shit Done, and giving you some alone time. Treasure it.
posted by pwnguin at 12:10 AM on April 7, 2016


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