I'm gregarious and my boss is an introvert. Help me not piss him off.
May 13, 2016 2:44 AM   Subscribe

The title says it all. I am the "fuck it, let's go, get it done and be awesome" type at work and my new boss is shy, quiet and exactly the type I usually piss off. I want to make this work. Give me some pointers? I've seen all the "how to care for an introvert" memes. I don't want to care for him. I want him to pull his weight. In a right way, not in a everyone is on pins and needles or reading the oracle way. (waaay more details inside)

So I am a creative director at an ad agency. I was freelancing and they originally hired me to fix a huge fire in two weeks. I turned the new business pitch, which they thought they didn't have a snowflakes chance in hell, into a new business for us. They wanted to marry me starting day two and because the offer was good I just said "let's try" and took it. That was six months ago.

These six months I have been running the creative department. I have let go of people, hired a boatload of new guys and girls (I call them my kids because they are younger than me). Together, we went up for eight pitches and won six with the other two still to be decided. In all seriousness we, this being my team and I, turned a failing ad agency into a kicking business that just got approached by a huge car company to do all their business in the country. Winning this would double the size of the agency - and I know I can.

And now they hired a new bosses to sit on top of me. I am the creative director, he is the executive creative director and at that a partner in the company (a huge international agency), which I am not (yet, I hope). I know what you are thinking. Such a huge ego, perhaps he is actually doing well, so why are they hiring someone to supervise him? Is he pissed? No, I am not angry. I love having him.

See, I am in China and while I have been here for four years and have been learning enough Mandarin to charm the pants of clients I still can't read and write. If this were english I would be totally good enough to say "hey, nice to meet you, I'm this dude and I heard you like that" and have a free-form conversation like that at a party but that's a far cry from talking about business problems that need to be solved or telling a doctor what exactly the issue is when I am in the hospital. He's a native speaker, he has 5 years more experience than me. To me, the hope is that I don't have to do the job of 4 people alone anymore and that I get to learn a few tricks that only more experience will teach you (I have 13 years, so this is getting to be strategic stuff you don't learn in school).

My problem is that he is quiet and I am bombastic. Look at the length of this post! But he doesn't spitball ideas with me. When I think of it, he sits quietly listening and says "yeah" or "hey, not really. try something else." He only says more when he wants me to do something. I feel like I am still alone. I fear it's because he is shy and not trusting.

So how can I get him to warm up? How do I make him comfortable talking? How do we get to the point where it's not me seeking info but him being relaxed enough to suggest drinks on his own?

It's been a week but we just did a client presentation and the dude literally said You talk, I will back you up and then said nothing for three hours. nothing. That made me feel like the owner of a sick goldfish — deeply alone and unclear on what to do.
posted by krautland to Human Relations (56 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're so fantastic, why don't you move on and start your own thing? If you're so amazing, why are you still working for this boss? It sounds like this place is a dreadful fit for you and you'd be much happier elsewhere.
posted by winterhill at 3:02 AM on May 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


It's only been a week! I think it's too much to expect a good relationship already, regardless of introversion. Getting to know him (or, hell, anyone) takes time; this isn't something you can force. Give it a few more weeks before you go into full-on problem-solving mode. I say this as someone who would totally try to problem-solve this on day one.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:04 AM on May 13, 2016 [27 favorites]


To not piss him off, it's probably best not to secretly think "boy, I hope he pulls his weight!"

You're coming across as really dismissive of him (because he's an introvert?), and that attitude is pretty hard to hide. If you don't genuinely respect him, your days at the agency are likely numbered. I'd start saving money and update your resume, rather than trying to "manage up" by converting an introvert into an extrovert. Pro tip: that won't work.

If you really do want to make the work relationship work, and you can get to a place of respectful collaboration, take a look at this article on running meetings that are friendly to different types of people (introverts, women, telecommuters). When you learn to work productively with people who are different from you, you will be a much stronger worker (and more likely to be promoted).

If your problem is not that he is an introvert, but that your workload is too high, address that part with him directly and specifically. "I can do X, Y, and Z on the next pitch, but I'll need somebody else to run with A and B. Is someone available to work on that part and finish it up by Tuesday?"
posted by instamatic at 3:35 AM on May 13, 2016 [68 favorites]


First, take a look at the book and Ted talk by Susan Cain.

Secondly, you're an expat in China and he's a native speaker so.... He's Chinese and you're not? Could part of this not be cultural?

If you need more support, resources, or direction just ask for it.

But no... He's never going to be like you, and they gave him the job for a reason. You probably need to find a way to respect him or find a new job.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:01 AM on May 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


Okay, so he's your boss - he's not there to lighten your workload unless you tell him you need an assistant.

He's also not there to spitball ideas - you're there to come up with the ideas and he'll tell you whether they're okay or whether you need to develop them more.

If you want more colleagues at your level, you might need to work somewhere else.

They have put someone calm and level headed above you precisely because that's what is needed at an executive/partner level - you are exactly what is needed at a creative level.

The most important thing is though that he really does trust you - it's your own insecurity that can't see that. Don't shoot yourself in foot here trying to create problems where there are none.
posted by heyjude at 4:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [63 favorites]


By 'pull his weight' you seem to mean 'act in the way that I want him to'. Which you can address to an extent by actually articulating to him the things that you need from him (in terms of more obvious backup, direction, more help etc.) but even if he does all that he's still going to be a dude of few words. You'll need to live with that, or look for a new job, but you'd really be better off learning how to work with different types of people than expecting to mould them to your specifications.
posted by daisysteiner at 4:29 AM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm an advertising CD and I've been where you are (though never in China). There are lots of reasons they bring in a new ECD to put over a successful CD:

1) Politics - he/she has connections in the business world or with the parent company that the agency partners feel they need in order to sell edgy work through corporate or make connections with new potential clients. In that case, this guy is your friend - it is his job to be your friend - and the way to not fuck it up is to realize that he brings strengths to the table that you don't even know you don't know. Keep doing what you're doing creatively and managerially with your teams, report back to him regularly, ask his advice whenever you can. Don't see him as the enemy but as a mentor in how to do the higher-level stuff they currently don't let you into the room for.

2) Culture - The fact that you're not 100% fluent in Chinese and he is could be huge when it comes to clients really trusting you -- or the partners could believe it might be as the company grows. If you can take classes and really work on your written / reading in Chinese, you can possibly make this one go away in time. But right now you should accept that no matter how good you are at what you do, you might not fit - and he does. Ask questions about "how do you do ___ in Chinese agencies." Watch how he interacts with clients in social gatherings. Ask to sit in on meetings to see how he interacts with your bosses. This is a learning opportunity for you - and if you show you're willing to do the work, your bosses may trust you more.

3) Balance - If you're a hotshot CD and doing edgy or flashy work, the company can get a reputation as not "safe" among more corporate clients. A calm, thoughtful, think-first-act-second leader is not always an introvert - sometimes they are simply someone with a different way of approaching business and relationships. He is soaking in what you do and how you do it. The best thing you can do in this scenario is try not to perceive this as a threat to you. It's a countermeasure. Be yourself, do the best job you can do, and when (inevitably) he sits you down and tells you what he sees when he watches you in action, even if it's all negative, take notes. You can learn from this. Or push back, gently, if you know that with a particular creative or client, being brasher/louder/funnier works better.

4) They don't value you - you brought in clients they didn't feel were high-end enough for the parent company, or they feel the work you're doing, while successful enough to make their clients happy, is garnering negative publicity or bad reactions from their associates or spouses. There's nothing you can do about this one. If you're lucky, the ECD will talk with you before taking over the reins, and if you can show him you can change you might have a shot of staying on, but you probably won't be happy. This happens really rarely, though, with CD's who are good at winning new business.

5) They value you and want to groom you. You sound really young. Your whole attitude in your question, as others have mentioned, sounds dismissive and arrogant. Whoever this ECD is, I guarantee he is someone who brings more skills to the table than you have. I have seen plenty of incompetent people rise to the level of ECD, and all of them bring something to the table that a smart CD can learn from - sometimes it's management style, sometimes it's networking finesse, sometimes it's just great hair - but it's something that they learned to work to keep getting promoted. The young hotshot who knows everything and doesn't listen may be a future superstar - but as long as his or her ragged edges are showing, you will always bump your head against the ceiling of older people who have been there and learned how to work well with others. You've presumably already learned that even when your client is a total idiot, you never, ever say that the client is an idiot. It's time for you to get that same tact and teamwork when it comes to working in a team. If you see the ECD as the enemy, he will return the favor and you won't win. Because the fact of your seeing him as the enemy shows that you're not ready to lead.

There are lots of successful CDs out there who do amazing work and never rise. There are also lots of boneheaded mediocre CDs who know how to network and go out and run major agencies. Most of the former either flame out, switch careers, or start their own agencies - and some do succeed spectacularly. But I know more than one brilliant, talented, amazing creative leading shops with just one or two clients, working insane hours and stressed out, who can't get back into the big agencies - even with a client - because they burned too many bridges. Don't be them.
posted by Mchelly at 4:38 AM on May 13, 2016 [82 favorites]


What you have is probably cultural, not introversion. It's perfectly okay for your boss to sit silently in a meeting while you do your thing. I will tell you that just like everywhere else, being a White Guy in China is a thing. You also happen to be able to win business so BONUS! My point is, your new boss is probably doing a shit-ton of stuff behind the scenes that isn't even on your radar, because you have a VERY specific function in the agency and his function is completely different.

How to use your boss? I might set up a meeting with him, and ask him for feedback and for development advice. Clearly he's not going to solve your problems, that's okay, perhaps you can find someone else, outside the agency even, to help you with those kinds of things.

Being an Expat is fraught with cultural nuance and you don't strike me as a subtle kind of guy. Perhaps read up on work relationships in China or join a local group of Expats who may have navigated these waters that can guide you.

Your boss is not a bump on a log, he is an important person in the agency that you need to defer to. Sometimes you just need that senior guy in the meeting.

I work in the South. Once we had a customer meeting in Kentucky and we were doing a big presentation. Somehow we arranged to have the "President of Kentucky" attend our meeting. I worked at the Phone Company, and for the nine states we covered, there were nine state presidents. They were all older white guys and not necessarily the most dynamic of dudes. They all sat on numerous boards of charities and community organizations, and did mostly PR kinds of stuff. But they KNEW their states. So we're in this meeting and he's sitting there doing nothing. I'm giving the pitch, discussing the technology and understanding what the customer wants. The customer keeps looking at the President. So I go for the close and the customer asks a question and I open my mouth to answer, and the President clears his throat. So I stop and he says two words. That was it, contracts were then presented and signed.

The very senior guy doesn't need to have any flash.

Also, before the mods break in, it's not a back and forth thing in Ask, it's okay to clarify a point, but individually responding to each answer is not done.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:55 AM on May 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


My impression of your attitude from this post is that you don't respect your boss because he's introverted, and you would like him to change his personality. On top of this, I wonder if you don't understand exactly why he's been put in that place. It seems awfully presumptuous to think that he's not pulling his weight when you're not his boss.

So, how do you not piss this guy off?

Change your attitude. Introverts do not like being coerced into changing how they do things. As an introvert, you come across as intolerant. He may warm up to you over time, but trying to force the issue is probably just going to make matters worse. Consider that perhaps he feels uncomfortable with your personality too.

If you can't change your attitude, then I suggest revisiting the wonderful advice supplied by winterhill.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:06 AM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


It seems like you're assuming a problem exists when, from your question, I have no clue what the problem even is. He's quiet? So what? How does that affect your job?
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:17 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


[A couple of answers deleted. OP, please try to avoid responding to individual answers — Ask is really sort of a one-way street in this sense, thanks.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:26 AM on May 13, 2016


I am struggling to understand what it is that you want him to do.
But he doesn't spitball ideas with me. When I think of it, he sits quietly listening and says "yeah" or "hey, not really. try something else." He only says more when he wants me to do something. I feel like I am still alone. I fear it's because he is shy and not trusting.

Or it's because he's your boss, and your job is to come up with ideas and present them to him and he judges them and then asks you to do stuff. I mean, it's nice to have people to spitball with, and if you've no peers at all, perhaps that is the issue, but it doesn't make it *wrong* for him not to act in that way.

It's been a week but we just did a client presentation and the dude literally said You talk, I will back you up and then said nothing for three hours. nothing. That made me feel like the owner of a sick goldfish — deeply alone and unclear on what to do.

Again, I don't understand why he should have said anything. "I'll back you up" can have an implied "...if you need it". Clearly he didn't think you needed it.

So how can I get him to warm up? How do I make him comfortable talking? How do we get to the point where it's not me seeking info but him being relaxed enough to suggest drinks on his own?

...maybe he doesn't want to go for drinks with you? You can't do any of these things, and you're assuming that there's something wrong here when there really isn't - you're reading onto him the idea that he has the deficit and is 'too shy' or 'too cold' or 'uncomfortable' in some way. I suspect he just has a different understanding than you do about the relative responsibilities of your two jobs.

To be frank, this sounds like you needing reassurance and support, not about introverts and extroverts. Instead of framing it as a situation where your boss is somehow inadequate/shy/difficult and you need to 'fix' these problems, it might help to frame it as a situation where *you* are feeling awkward, and ask him to help you fix that instead.
posted by AFII at 5:27 AM on May 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


If I read that correctly, he's only been in the position for a week? If so, then he's very much still in "shutting up, observing, and learning" mode and sensibly so. Jumping into a client presentation when you've been at a job for a week would be insanity, in my admittedly introverted book. As would going out for drinks with my new supervisee after a week.

I would suggest just riding it out for a while as he gets the lay of the land. Ask for specific things you need, and otherwise let your professional relationship develop a while on its own.
posted by Stacey at 5:35 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you are quiet sometimes, and really try to listen, you will learn so much. Introverts or quiet people tend to have a lot of depth- their two words are just the gentle waves on the top of a fully loaded lake with a full and diverse eco system. If you aren't quiet, you will only get the gentle waves and you will miss out on all of the good stuff.

Be very aware that you do not interrupt him or talk over him. He knows who he is. He has nothing to prove to you. If he feels that you do not or can not hear him, he isn't going to bother speaking to you.
posted by myselfasme at 5:39 AM on May 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


You're not talking about him like he's your boss - you're talking about him like he's your employee.
I don't want to care for him. I want him to pull his weight. This is not how you talk about your boss. Its not for you to decide how he should do his job or socialize.

Do your job the way you've always done it. If he wants to change anything, he'll let you know.

(also, its only been a week - give him a chance, its not easy coming in at the top of a team, especially in a position that didn't even exist before, its going to take time to get the lay of the land)
posted by missmagenta at 5:40 AM on May 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


You know the old saying, if you want a friend, get a dog.

What I'm hearing is that you want validation and approval. Well, you may not get it. I've seen lots of situations where the boss had a plan and no one who worked for him had a clue what it was. Very common problem in management. I would try approaching him with alternatives. Also with questions about the local culture. Is A better than B? Will approach C fly with the target market?
posted by SemiSalt at 5:43 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Second vote for learning mode. If a new boss came in, told you how to run your department, and took over your meeting in week one, I image you would be angry! He is learning what's going on and what is going to be productive.

Yup, he's introverted and business focused. He may expect your relationship to be, he tells you things you should do. You do them. And yeah you tell him how you see things and if you need help.

A lot of people don't want to drink with their employees. This is normal.

If you don't want to pass him off: do your job. Listen to what he says. Respectively disagree ONCE if you need to, then do what he says. Cut way down (90%) on the drink invitations and crazy stories. Focus on the work. Accept he may not like you, and that doesn't really matter.
posted by Kalmya at 6:03 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Man, you are right, you do piss introverts off. You rubbed me the wrong way immediately and then everything you said increased the annoyance. You'd think knowing this about yourself would be a strength, because you could modify your communications style so as not to piss people off. You'd think somebody in advertising would be soops concerned with exactly that!! But no! Just, like, why do you think we're BORING? I'm boring because I don't right away leap up and do a little dance of joy because you're the "fuck it, let's go, get it done, and be awesome" type at work? By contrast I'm the let's not go, let's not get it done, let's not be awesome type? At work? Well, I think the "fuck it, let's go, get it done, and be awesome" type is very often inflating "mediocre" into "awesome." Has no insight. Finds everyone boring because can't think its way out of a paper sack because inside its head is like a big noisy fun circus, just triumphant, hooray-for-me songs played on a kazoo 100% of the time. Says things like "I call them my kids because they're younger than I am" with no appreciation that in fact they might not like to be called kids and probably assume you're calling them your kids because you're an asshole. Why don't you stop worrying about what everybody thinks about you and start working on disguising what you think about everybody? Start with the boss. Because if you think he's boring and a do-nothing and holding you back from going and doing and being awesome, he'll figure that out soon if he hasn't already. Since he's your boss, not some stranger on the internet, that could be bad for you. Just get back to going, getting it done, and being awesome and stop obsessing about how much better you are than your boss. "Your kids," sadly, will probably wait a considerable time for a behavior improvement since there's nothing in it for you to think of them as competent colleagues, but this question was about you and your needs.

P.S. don't ask people to drink again after they've declined. There are a lot of good reasons they might be saying no, like that they're recovering from addiction, or like that they can't metabolize alcohol.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:12 AM on May 13, 2016 [136 favorites]


I am an introvert, though I agree with others that introversion may not have all that much to do with the issues you're having. In meetings where my (extroverted) boss jumps in when I'm talking, I often feel dismissed and unsupported, that she's implying that I don't know enough or have enough authority to be saying what I'm saying. In meetings when she lets me talk and stays quiet herself, I generally feel much more supported and backed-up, because she's acting as if I know what I'm talking about and don't need saving.

On top of that, I suspect there are cultural values that may be much more in play here than you're crediting, as others are saying.
posted by lazuli at 6:14 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


By the way, i realized I left something off my previous list of why CD's get bosses put over them, and that's talent. Have you seen his reel, and the projects he's been associated with? Do you know who he learned under and who he came up with? It's entirely possible he has a portfolio that will blow you out of the water, despite his reticence.

I think it ties in with all the other issues - you need to find a way to respect him in order to work for and with him. If you can't respect him, your days there will be numbered - you'll either be pushed or you'll feel forced to jump.
posted by Mchelly at 6:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can talk both ears off a donkey and I'm an introvert. Him being not always talkative in the contexts where you are does not make him an introvert.

You don't yet know what strengths he brings to the process. He's already said he'll back you up. I think you should just chill for a while and see what he does; he's your boss, not your spitball creative buddy - that's not his role.
posted by rtha at 6:23 AM on May 13, 2016


It's been a week - it's quite possible he's not comfortable enough at present with the overall strategy/direction/projects to be providing feedback. Deference rather than charging in with an opinion and no broader context is a good thing.

That said - I have always started relationships with bosses and staff out by initiating a conversation about how they best like to work. Where do they want me to be independent and where do they want to be looped in? What are their press points and what don't they care much about? Do they prefer open door style office or formal meetings? Do they think better alone or in groups? Do they like working on ideas on the fly or reviewing full proposals/ideas?

It might be good to initiate a conversation like that just so you can learn a little bit better what his style is and how you might conform to it. It is quite possible your assumptions are correct, however a week's worth of work is not really enough evidence that he's not going to pull his weight or be engaged in your work.
posted by scrittore at 6:33 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Your boss sounds like he's being a decent boss to be honest. You sound like the type I refer to as "creative hurricanes". I have worked with many. They are sometimes geniuses but a PITA to work with and to manage. Do you know how to manage that type of employee? You stand back and let them do their job while making sure that there's minimal collateral damage.

It's been a week. He is assessing your output compared to your energy. He's still deciding if you're a bullshitter or have real talent. If you're as talented as you say you are, just keep doing you.

When he told you "You talk, I will back you up" that was part of the assessment. Can you communicate clearly to clients? Can you represent your agency with confidence and savvy?
That made me feel like the owner of a sick goldfish — deeply alone and unclear on what to do.
Yeah he probably noticed you felt like this and yes, this is part of building his assessment of you.

he sits quietly listening and says "yeah" or "hey, not really. try something else."
Yup, that sounds like what a boss does - and actually a good boss (although tbf he could have been more specific about his critique, which you can certainly directly ask for). He listened. He's letting you come up with the solutions and not micro-managing you with his own. He's not there to spitball with you because he's not your equal. He's there to make sure you do your job well.

If he doesn't want to have drinks with you don't take it personally. Lots of people want to keep their work lives and social lives separate, introverts and extroverts.
posted by like_neon at 6:33 AM on May 13, 2016 [25 favorites]


Just reading the other comments and your deleted responses, I actually don't think you have a introvert/extrovert problem. I think you have a problem with the fact that they gave you a boss when you really thought they were going to ask you to run the whole damn company.
posted by like_neon at 6:37 AM on May 13, 2016 [28 favorites]


It's so interesting to hear your point of view after being in the role of watching people come in and behave the way you're behaving and end up breaking the company completely long-term.

I'm not an expert on Chinese culture(s) but I have worked in organizations that had a high percentage of Chinese staff. Being quiet and giving direction simply, without the pyrotechnic awesome!!! was a quality I observed over and over. As I understood it, a lot of Chinese business culture is picking up on subtle cues to gradually move towards a sort of modified consensus -- where consensus often means coming into line with the decisions of the most senior staff. I would suggest that you consider the possibility that you are missing a lot of information about both your company and its successes and failures.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


My day job deals with cross-cultural information and training. Not only is it very likely that you buried the lede by focusing on "introvert" rather than "native," your presentation here makes me wonder if your boss is wading through similar issues on his end. Please, give special attention to the answers and resources that address these things.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Frankly, you don't seem to have any respect for anyone other than yourself.

You were hired six months ago and seem to feel that all by yourself you've turned a "failing" company into a success despite themselves, and appear to be surprised that they haven't already seen the light and begged you to become a partner. You're just so totally awesome that they're lucky to have you. You promptly fired the existing team and replaced them with your own hand-picked "guys and girls" aka "kids" --- and by the way, using those terms and that "sick goldfish" comment really emphasizes just how much you feel superior to them, and I don't mean in seniority or experience.

And now you're looking for ways to "fix" your new boss. I'm sorry, but I don't think the problem --- if there even is one --- is your boss. You sound exhausting and self-centered, and maybe even a bit of a bully. Chill out and back off, because A) he's only been there for a week, for christsakes, B) you really don't know all that he does --- a lot of good management is like a duck swimming: all you're seeing is the duck serenely floating on the surface of the pond, not the legs pumping furiously below; and C) like others say above, there's probably a lot of cultural context you're missing.
posted by easily confused at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2016 [36 favorites]


If you are inclined to think that there isn't a place for quiet and slower introspection, and a lot of it, perhaps try to do a little more research on what makes a good place successful. Here's the good news: the world needs people like you who can take things and make them happen. The world also needs a counterbalance to this for a million reasons that it sounds like you are on the brink of discovering. Find out what those things are, perhaps do some good reading on personality profiles and what they contribute positively to the work place, and then figure out how to work with your boss in a way that you two are more than the sum of your parts. That would be a very satisfying project for someone who likes to problem solve and get things done. Unless he's totally holding you back, which it doesn't sound like he is at all, you have nothing but a positive ally in your corner right now who probably is there to share about how to have a good action/thinking balance when it comes to (what sounds like) a very intricate but also people oriented profession which may take dedicated action but also some additional thoughtful finesse.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am first generation Chinese-American, and I agree with other assessments that you are running into a cultural problem. In Chinese culture, you need to listen and pay attention to context. People (men, especially) who can be economical with their words are often considered very wise, because they can communicate a lot of information without saying a lot. They can be economical because they are leveraging a lot of unspoken context that everyone understands through observation. This also means that if you talk a lot, communicate very little new information, and show you don't understand the context you can come across as an idiot. Praise is also more rare in Chinese culture, so if you're looking for reassurance from a superior you often won't get it. Unless you're in an especially extroverted company, you will probably only get a lot of feedback when something is very wrong. I grew up in a Chinese-American culture, so I really struggled to learn how to dish out the praise in American companies and stop seeming cold and quiet; I had no idea what was too much and what was too little. Learning how to seem warm across cultures is really tough, so consider that as well when you evaluate how he responds to you. FWIW, I'm an introvert and think I'd get along fine with you if you could get past the fact that I still struggle to show a lot of emotion. It's not that I don't feel anything! It's just that a) I am naturally quiet and b) I have been trained not to show my feelings. So it's tough to express them. Just as tough as it is not to express them, in your case.

The fact that you're starting out with your boss on a footing of "I trust you, let's see how you've been doing things" is good. I also think the fact that you're clearly foreign and also successful is giving you a huge pass here. I suspect you're getting more trust and freedom than a native Chinese who behaves like you would. Also, if your business conversations are mainly in English, people who aren't as fluent in English will be more quiet and unwilling to say more complex things that they don't know how to say in English. Since you mentioned that you can't converse about business topics easily in Chinese, you are probably missing a lot of information. For that reason, I encourage you to double down on learning Chinese. I also suspect there are important details that you've been missing about the company culture that are due to being from a foreign culture and not being fluent. It's tough and lonely to be an expatriate, so kudos to you for all you've achieved. It seems like the next step for you would require developing more fluency and learning how to behave as a Chinese boss would...which means the fact that you have a boss who is very different from you is a good thing. You will notice all the differences rather than assuming you're the same and not learning anything.

Your boss is someone who can show you what it means to be an executive director in China. If you knew what that actually meant on a day-to-day basis, you wouldn't be upset that he isn't helping you spitball ideas or going out to drinks with you. What do you really know about him? So far, that he's willing to give you a chance. Rather than try to force him to reassure you through conversation, try to let go and observe, the way he is doing.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:28 AM on May 13, 2016 [27 favorites]


I can't recommend Quiet by Susan Cain enough (someone mentioned it above). It has a whole chapter specifically for reconciling introvert/extrovert relationships and contains coping exercises for both parties.
posted by teabag at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Slow your roll.
posted by amanda at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am an introvert! If I were your boss, here is what I would want you to do to avoid pissing me off.

1) Accept that talking does not equal working or pulling one's weight. You haven't actually given any examples of him not pulling his weight, yet you are completely dismissive of him because he is not verbose.

2) Seriously consider whether you are adding value when you're talking. Some of us wish we could have the hours of our lives back that we've had to listen to bombastic extroverts carrying on. I've worked with the "fuck it, let's go, get it done and be awesome" type and it makes me crazy. If your "kids"* are competent and engaged in the work, they shouldn't need a pep talk from you. Consider the possibility that they are silently wishing they could get back to work when you're doing your extrovert thing. Maybe they are "caring for their extrovert" by signalling to you that your behavior is useful because you're their boss. Maybe your boss doesn't have to do that because he's your boss.

3) Don't try to change him. It's interesting (and telling) that your suggestions all involve him changing (warming up, wanting to have drinks). You need to accept that he doesn't have to do those things to be a good boss. If you want to work well with him and avoid pissing him off, you need to adapt your communication style and expectations.

4) Learn from him. You're lucky. He's only been there a week and he's sitting back, listening, and learning. That's a good boss. Could you do that?

* On the "kids" thing, I would be really curious to hear how this is perceived in China, but if a boss called me a kid or a girl, especially a bombastic male boss, I would be livid. It's condescending at best, and it seems that you could use a little humility in your attitude toward your job and your colleagues.
posted by Mavri at 8:02 AM on May 13, 2016 [38 favorites]


Nthing all of the advice to look into personality types, what different ones bring to the table in the work place, cultural differences (I also think you buried the lede, whether unwittingly or not it matters little, it's clearly at least one major factor), and, frankly, long-term strategical analysis. Mchelly's comments are an excellent example of someone using their people and business knowledge along with realistic self-evaluation to take a step back and analyze situations. They have given you gold right there.

I work as a client-facing consultant who "sells" things – skills, teams, projects, services, it's a package deal. I manage a team of 12 now, who all happen to be at least a decade younger than me, some of them nearly two decades younger. It would never in my wildest imaginings occur to me to refer to them as "kids". Nor has it ever occurred to me to say that I alone achieved everything we have (client satisfaction, renewed contracts, improved productivity). I did the swimming duck thing, my teams did their jobs fantastically, and without their motivation, their education, their independent thinking, their courage to talk to me when they disagreed, we would not have achieved what we did.

I too was very surprised to see the level of immaturity in your post. The upside is, you seem to be in a culture and a space where you have a fantastic learning opportunity. Like it was tailor-made to help you strengthen your weakest points.

Humility is a value in pretty much every culture on the planet for a reason.
posted by fraula at 8:05 AM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


okay, it seems like I am not allowed to respond to individual comments. fine. I'll mark anything as 'best answer' that I learned something from, that help me improve, change, be constructive.

but I'll say one thing: what Don Pepino writes is exactly what I see as the problem. it's agree completely with him and sadly that's where it ends. he's stuck in the "I am right and you are wrong and there is no solution" mentality. that's not helping me. I'm actively asking for 'this will work...' solutions to my problem. the only way I can try to make you understand what I am thinking is to write openly. I fully expect to piss some people here off with that but I'm saddened they didn't see the thought process behind it, even though I tried to explain why I am doing this.
posted by krautland at 8:06 AM on May 13, 2016


Wow, settle down, Don Draper!

I'm not an introvert and I've never worked in China, but I'd bet big dollars you're not experiencing a cultural problem or an introvert/extrovert problem.

What you have is a confidence problem.

The most talented, inspiring and successful creative leaders I have ever known have a clear picture of what they bring to the table and what the team brings. They know when they are standing on the shoulders of giants, they know where they are weak and they know the boundaries they're working within (or they have a trusted partner who does this for them, because they know it's not a strength).

You're proud of your accomplishments and you should be. But you also need to come down to earth and recognize the framework that allowed you to accomplish those things -- or it will, I PROMISE, come crashing down around you. You spent half your question telling us about how you are advertising's second coming: I only hear that kind of talk from people who don't think their work speaks for itself.

My guess is you won't actually learn this lesson until you actually get your ass handed to you by circumstance, but if you really want to get off on a better foot, here are two things you can do today:

1) Recognize your boss as your superior. He decides how much weight he pulls and you decide if you're ok with that arrangement, and if not, you walk.

2) Never again, as long as you live, call any woman who works for you or with you or even in your general vicinity, a girl.

They hired someone above you for a reason, one that seems pretty obvious to me from the way you've phrased your question. If you are as great as you say you are, take it slow, and your better-in-every-way talent will be obvious.

And if they don't see how much greater you are, then start your own thing. Certainly your "kids" will follow you.

And if you're not so sure about either one of those things being a safe bet? Roll up your sleeves and apply your talent with humility and you'll be there lickity split.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


I fully expect to piss some people here off with that but I'm saddened they didn't see the thought process behind it, even though I tried to explain why I am doing this.

You're a communications professional. If you're not explaining yourself clearly, and you're blaming your audience for it, that's not a problem with the audience, as you should know.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2016 [59 favorites]


he's stuck in the "I am right and you are wrong and there is no solution" mentality

He is offering a solution:

"Start working on disguising what you think about everybody"
"Get back to going, getting it done, and being awesome and stop obsessing about how much better you are than your boss."

You can't change your boss. I know that your question was "how can I change my boss?" and you're unhappy people aren't giving you answers to that question, but the issue is that you need to change yourself and your expectations.

The best boss I had was someone who, when I asked my colleagues what he did, was described as being someone who keeps all of us protected from all the messes of upper management. He wasn't hands on and gregarious, but he allowed us to focus on doing our jobs and coming up with new ideas. AND he gave us suggestions about how to deal with firm wide bureaucracy: eg, what was important and what would be valued by the rest of the firm. Listen to people like that.
posted by deanc at 8:31 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like you missed the point of Don Pepino's comment. Your ask also pissed me off for the reasons that Don mentions. You come across as a self-centered, disrespectful asshole. I sincerely hope you aren't like that in real life because yes, that can totally piss your boss off. And I thought Don's comments were spot on regarding what you need to do about this. You need to stop thinking yourself above everyone and that you are so fucking awesome, and start becoming more respectful and willing to understand that there are different communication and leadership styles. And just because your style is bombastic doesn't make it the correct one. It's just one of many. Honestly - when I work with people like how you come across, it makes me fucking crazy. Especially if said person has no humility and thinks they are gods gift to the world. My advice would be to dial it back. And stop calling people girls and kids. Thats incredibly disrespectful and if I were on your team I'd be hating on you so hard for that. Learn some humility. Try to appreciate what others bring to the table. And you can't "fix" your boss. The only fixing I see here is for you to adjust your expectations and work on yourself.

If you think you need help understanding how introverts think, I also highly recommend the book Quiet, as people recommended above. As a super introvert, I found that book spot on. Maybe it would help you not be so dismissive of people who aren't like you.
posted by FireFountain at 8:40 AM on May 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


A quiet, observant, steady person to weigh quickly in with a yea or nay seems to me the PERFECT complement to a bombastic, take-charge, ideas guy. I wouldn't want to be in a meeting with two of the latter types, that's for sure.

I'd guess it's simply not his job to "spitball" with you, but to ensure you're not going to doing anything to harm the business, and to observe and steer and temper you. I assume this was a deliberate hire.

It is an extremely prudent business decision to hire someone like that to rein in a "wilder" employee, no matter how successful the wildman has been. It shows great foresight. A winning streak always ends, and they won't want a loose cannon to get a big head and take crazy gambles. They're thinking as always of reputation and bottom line.
posted by kapers at 8:59 AM on May 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


(FYI, Don Pepino is female.)
posted by palomar at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


(And for what it's worth, I agree wholeheartedly with Don Pepino in that you come off like exactly the kind of person I dread working for, as a woman, as an introvert. You seem to value your own mind far more than any contribution from your "kids" or even your own boss, and you disregard any commentary here that doesn't support your self-image as wunderkind by blaming it on your audience not understanding you. You're a professional communicator? From what I'm seeing here, you need to brush up on your skills. Maybe it would help to pay attention to the advice you're receiving here about the massive cultural clashes you seem to be blind to in your current work situation.)
posted by palomar at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2016 [29 favorites]


It's been a week but we just did a client presentation and the dude literally said You talk, I will back you up and then said nothing for three hours.
My read on this is that you were doing great and his jumping in was not necessary, as you didn't overstep or need backup.

Can you reframe this as a positive? They want you to do what you do--but they do need to be careful with their business, and this executive is how they're accomplishing both and allowing you to fly.

Bonus advice: I would hate it if my Director called me her kid! Or her "girl!" I can see you rubbing some people the wrong way, especially interculturally, so if I were you I would be thankful someone more sensitive has my back. Bombast Guy and Reserved Guy, the dynamic duo.
posted by kapers at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If the attitudes in your post are coming through in real life (and I suspect they are, because quiet people tend to be very good at observing and loud people tend to be very poor at hiding their feelings), you shouldn't be worrying about how to make friends with your boss. You should be worrying about how to avoid being fired.

You may or may not be as awesome at your job as you believe, but that's not the only part of being a good employee. It's at least as important that you are able to interact professionally with your colleagues and treat them kindly and with respect. The attitudes expressed in this post (and in the followup comments) are the exact opposite of that. Your words drip with disdain for everyone who isn't like you. I assure you, your boss is aware of that and he almost certainly knows from experience how harmful that attitude is in a team environment. He's sitting back and evaluating your performance not because he's "introverted", but because he's being a good manager. He's giving you a chance to show that your skills are exceptional enough to tolerate your disrespect. Not all managers would give you that chance.
posted by randomnity at 9:31 AM on May 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


please for the love of god do not call your adult women coworkers "girls"
posted by burgerrr at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


Holy crap, what did I just read, a movie treatment for a remake of Footloose set in 2016 China?

No one has mentioned the stereotype of the "Ugly American" yet but you're embodying it to a T right now. Try to have some cultural sensitivity!

Your Chinese colleagues might actually be cutting you slack because they think your behavior is cultural -- which it is, unfortunately-- but I'm sure it will begin to wear on them soon.

I know most American job descriptions want a dynamic self-starter who can twirl eleven plates in the air while tap-dancing to God Bless America blindfolded. Just ask Craigslist! But it doesn't sound like this is your place of employment.

Your boss is not going to get all buddy-buddy with you, nor should he have to. I'm not really clear on what the problem is that you see. You have accomplished a lot on your own, but if he is your boss he will probably step in to steer you the right way should you go off course. Perhaps no news is good news? If you got six out of eight contracts he probably doesn't have any complaints. Just let him be who he is and respect that, as others have said.

And I agree that you should drop the use of "kids," and this is the third question this week that addresses the fraught term "girl." Stop with the "girl"-ing, y'all who engage in it.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:07 AM on May 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


It was impossible not to get mad at you for being so thoughtlessly insulting, and it's easy to lump your confidence in with your tendency to gaffe all over people's feelings. In fact, that's an error. You had to be exactly as confident as you are to have done the mindbendingly terrifying thing you did (go live and have a career in China as a nonspeaking foreigner) and you have to be good at what you do to have been successful at this company for six months. Now you have to get good at something you're naturally terrible at: it happens to us all, at least those of us with the luck to have interesting careers. But that does not mean you need to lose some of that confidence. You are right to resist efforts to undermine it because you need to keep it to continue to do well. You just need to tweak it. Move and expand the big umbrella of self-love you're sheltering under so that it fits more people under it.

Your people go under that umbrella, by default. Everybody else can still be a dullard, but not your people. Your kids, probably at first mostly because you picked them, but then as you get to know them better because of who they actually are. Next your boss. Then everybody in the company. You are all awesome, period, no thoughts to the contrary can be tolerated, the end. Practice 'til it's your actual attitude. Meanwhile, find out how often your boss wants a check-in and then leave him alone except for those regular check-ins.

So maybe switch it up, actually, from what I said before and concentrate first not on your boss but on your colleagues. You want somebody to bounce ideas off of and you feel alone, but why? You have this crackerjack staff that you picked yourself and that you're clearly proud of (that's the actual reason why you call them "your kids," not because they're younger and not because you're an asshole, but because they're fresh and full of energy and smart and you feel proud of them--the way parents feel proud of their kids), so why do you need the boss to toss the ball around with, why aren't you relying on your people for that? Practice tweaking your pride in your people: are you proud 50% of them and 50% of yourself for having found them? That's pretty good: now work up to being 90% proud of them, 10% proud of yourself for finding them.

You don't want to listen to metafilter telling you to do this stuff because you know you're not good at it and it's going to be hard--and not glamorous hard like Drapering, more like hard slog. That's okay, you can still do it--you are good at doing difficult things and rising to challenges. Use that natural confidence to rise to this one. It will be hard, mostly invisible work that you won't get applause for: you'll have to observe yourself and give yourself the accolades when you do well and the criticism when you mess up. You'll have to get more introspective than you've been heretofore. The real rewards will be a long time coming and not obviously directly related to learning how to think this new way, but they'll be really big. You won't get canned from what sounds like a pretty sweet gig; you'll make actual friends with some of these people; you'll grow in your career; you'll be able to trust that people who seem to like you really do.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:13 AM on May 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


I'll mark anything as 'best answer' that I learned something from, that help me improve, change, be constructive.

You best answered your own comment/defense against the good insights you've been getting? Dude. Good luck.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:36 AM on May 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


My problem is that he is quiet and I am bombastic. Look at the length of this post! But he doesn't spitball ideas with me. When I think of it, he sits quietly listening and says "yeah" or "hey, not really. try something else." He only says more when he wants me to do something. I feel like I am still alone. I fear it's because he is shy and not trusting.

It's like you're verbally communicating with him and expecting a back and forth with an introvert. Try emailing ideas and see who that goes.

You're main problem is that you feel alone in what you do. Try networking with other creative directors in the huge, international company you're part of. Email'em or phone'em and ask for "help" with a particular situation. You actually need to need the help, that's more of a way of just starting a conversation with a colleague.

If I were you, I'd politely have a talk with your boss, explain how you work and ask for direction/advice on how to work well with him. If he still doesn't spitball as you like to do, then just chalk it up as it being him and learn to work with what you got.

Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2016


It feels like you're describing family roles rather than workplace ones: you explicitly call your team "kids" and, reading between the lines, I get the sense that you expect your boss to act like he's your dad/coach who's there to play catch and slap you on the back.

Even leaving aside the cultural/expat issues, this is an inappropriate way to view these dynamics. The men and women on your team may happen to be younger than you, but they are adult professionals. Likewise your boss may happen to be older and more reserved than you, but he is still your superior -- not your dad -- and he is also an adult professional. You need to view all of them first and foremost in that light, with courtesy and respect rather than the impatience and condescension you seem to evince here. Doing so will not compromise your ability to continue to perform as a creative whiz.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also, don't be gregarious with your boss if he really is an introvert. Few things will piss off or annoy quicker than that. Just be business like and not chummy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'll just say, judging only from your question, I'd be giving you a boss too. And I'm not sure I'd be waiting a week to start putting pressure on him to tell me what he's going to do to sand off the "pissing people off" part of you.

I don't put up with brilliant assholes any more. I'll take not quite as brilliant, but not an asshole, any day.
posted by ctmf at 8:25 PM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you want an opinion from this ambiverted 2nd generation Chinese American who is not a stranger to business and watching how cross-cultural exchanges work, your boss is hired because while you did a phenomenal job that could look like a miracle, you don't know humbleness. You need to be taught, and overseen. If you were truly wise, you'd understand that working with a boss who is greatly effective while being very quiet is a great opportunity.

Why? Because he is WATCHING you. He is OBSERVING you. Your flaws, arrogance, and lack of humility show through. He already knows all of that. You wouldn't be writing this answer otherwise, because you are scared of not being able to impress him with your flash in a pan. You can't pull the wool over someone's eyes, who has genuinely seen through it. Not only that, if you wise up and understand that he is there to help you, and you can learn to understand on a more humble level, then you can have a genuine partnership. He could help your career soar to heights that you would not be able to imagine. But not in the way you currently have understood. Be humble. Ask questions. Ask for guidance and feedback. Don't be a dick because your ego is so fragile, successes are not made on overnight fortunes, they're based on long-term respect and camaraderie and morale.

My family routinely uses the word 懂事 dǒngshì, or "understand/sensible/intelligent." When positive, it means that they understand things, are perceptive, are humble, and recognize what is going on and can adjust accordingly that is most harmonious to the situation. When people are foolish, arrogant, clueless, or are unaware of how they affect themselves or others, they “不懂事” bùdǒngshì, or they don't get it. You are greatly exemplifying 不懂事, but if you take the good advice of everyone in this thread, calm the fuck down, and think about how you could view everyone as collaborators instead of your monkey puppets, and be humble to the idea that other people's ways of working may be superior to yours and could wow or complement you, you may be on your way to 懂事. Godspeed though, you will really need it.

Because if you don't, you won't be here anymore. They don't need an asshole who 不懂事 and cannot recognize help when they see it. If you are going to take this seriously, ask to sit down with a meeting, and ask him how you need help to really 懂事. We all are rooting for this.
posted by yueliang at 2:25 AM on May 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


Okay, so that first part of the comment is basically just very unfiltered, because I want to represent just how dire your situation is. rhythm and booze's comment is what I would consider to be another really important aspect of what I was getting at with dongshi, and probably a kinder way of saying it.

I come from an environment where my parents are both introverted and extroverted, and navigate deftly between both Chinese and American contexts. Because of this, I have learned that overall in any culture, being economical, thoughtful, and truly listening and patient with your words and recognizing that input to be truly useful. I will again echo the book Quiet, because the qualities of introverts are multiply rewarded in Chinese culture. If anything, I think white cis boy culture has too much loudmouthed extroversion and take up too much space, and it pretty much alienates everyone who isn't interested in being in their audience. So go find your center, and find and pay attention to different ways that people really want to feel supported. Practice active listening and self-reflection, it'll be good for your heart as well, when you can use your extroversion and have it honed to nuanced degrees.

I am sending good vibes to you, and hope that your success will happen, and no, this isn't a thinly veiled barb, I genuinely mean it. You worked very hard to get here, and many people would hope you to have success. But that includes other people too, and adapting to be attentive to the needs of others as well. I wish you the best.
posted by yueliang at 2:45 AM on May 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


You sound arrogant and full of yourself. I'm not sure where you got the idea that introverts are lazy and that you have to walk on eggshells around them, but that is straight-up WRONG and extremely insulting to introverts.

I think you seriously need to work on your sense of empathy and get rid of your superiority complex.
posted by a strong female character at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been a creative in advertising for decades and have seen this dynamic played out multiple times. Your boss is sitting back quietly and assessing you. Once he's finished doing this, you will either keep your job or not. Winning business so far has gotten you to this point but it's your attitude which will determine if you stay or not and quite frankly your attitude is horrifying. Hot shots come and go. Your boss is playing the long game but you're too young and arrogant to see him for who he is. That's alright, there's lots more where you came from. You'll learn more from losing this job than you will from keeping it. And next time you'll do better.
posted by Jubey at 5:31 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


So how can I get him to warm up? How do I make him comfortable talking? How do we get to the point where it's not me seeking info but him being relaxed enough to suggest drinks on his own?

You don't do any of these things. He is a partner and you have only been there six months. You let HIM set the pace and tenor of your interactions, and you strive to make your work processes and your priorities and all your staff resources align with whatever metrics he needs to deliver to HIS superiors. You spitball with your peers and staff, you don't waste your boss's time on bombastic brainstorming. You consider a client presentation a success when your boss has to do as little as humanly possible.

You need him. Much more than you seem ready to acknowledge. This man will either make or break the next chapter(s) of your career. You've made it sound like your primary concern right now is how he's just, like, killing your buzz or something... which if you're smart, will be one of the very very least of your worries. This is a critical time when it comes to "strategic stuff you don't learn in school" -- and that includes playing this relationship very carefully, and humbly. Your work quality will continue to speak for itself; your ability to adapt to the higher-level corporate dance is what's under the microscope now. Proceed with care.
posted by argonauta at 7:04 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


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