Tag Archives: introverts in procurement

The Introverts Guide to Office Parties

‘Tis the season for office parties. And also the season for introverts everywhere to agonise over whether they really want to attend…

christmas parties
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There is nothing worse than the festive time of year for an introvert. All the dreaded required and implied invitations come in. It’s also the time of year when energy is lowest, you’re just amped to get out of the office for a well earned break. Not rub shoulders and trade awkward bants with office colleagues that you already see waaaay too much of.

You’re in a Social Pickle

Follow these tips to manage any social situation where you find yourself held hostage.

Parties – do your homework

Don’t ignore it, you’re going to have to face the facts that this dreaded situation is upon you. Find out who is organising the party and ask them how it’s going. You’ll likely get a barrage of problems and issues, act as a safe venting space and you’ll gain their trust. They’ll give you a preview of the rundown of how things are going to go. You can use your new found friendship to conveniently place yourself away from the scheduled office conga line.

Maths is your friend

Arrive early to leave early. Attendance and face time at an office party is about being seen, you don’t have to be there the whole time to get a tick in the box for attendance. It can also double as a great excuse to leave “yeah look I’ve been here 14 hours already helping susan prep the sausage rolls, so I really need to get home to let kid/dog/goldfish out for some air…”

Find a role

Use your new office BFF aka the party organiser to your advantage. Find out if there is anything you can strategically do to “help” to remain largely unseen with limited interaction. Hand out props to people going into the photobooth, help the band get their gear in, clear tables or fill up the toothpicks.

Size matters

The number of people at the party could have an impact on how much the dialled is turned up on your introvert richter scale. Review the RSVP list and check who is going versus who is invited. As you’re scanning the list think of any relevant projects they’ve been involved in and store away some one liners like “how did you find your experience on [x project]?”

Where’s your energy?

The labels of extrovert and introvert were created in the 1920s by the psychologist Carl Jung. In a nutshell he states that the difference comes down to whether people recharge by being around people or being alone.

In a party situation if you can quieten the external stimulus enough you may begin to see where your mind is. If it’s racing in a million different areas worrying about a million different things then you need to focus on just one thing, even if that one thing is twirling the straw in your glass.

Back-up Strategies

If the top tips don’t work then do some prep and follow these tried and true failsafes.

  • Seek Refuge. Find a safe team and stick with them.
  • Infiltrate. Call in back-up, invite some people loosely related to your team and form your own rival crew. Even better if they also hate office parties to! Think of the biggest project your team worked on during the year, are there any stakeholders that you could invite?
  • Decline, don’t go. If you really hate office parties that much then try to decline and offer an alternative like a team lunch out. At least you can limit your interaction to a small group of people.

The Best Kept Secret

The ultimate survival strategy comes down to one thing: own it.

There is no harm in being straight up with people. In fact it can be a really good conversation starter and you’ll probably be surprised how many people are exactly in the same boat.

Own your label and own your needs. Take that fresh air or break in the bathroom to recharge. The hungry extroverts have been filling their bellies with all the social antics and office banter. It’s ok to refuel by yourself on your own terms.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Can Introverts Really Thrive in Procurement?

While many aspects of modern business, including key skills, seem to favour extroverts, Susan Cain argues that introverts have as much to add and value to give.

“There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

Don’t miss Quiet Revolutionary”, Susan Cain’s keynote speech at ISM2016.

There are almost certainly introverts in your procurement team – whether it be yourself, your boss, or your colleagues, a third to half of the population are introverts. Susan Cain’s game-changing book The Quiet Revolution champions the introvert cause and goes into detail about how workplaces are designed to benefit extroverts – but what about introverts in Procurement?

What is an introvert?

First up, it’s important not to confuse introversion with shyness. Shyness is about fear of social judgement, while introversion is about how you respond to stimulation. In Cain’s words, “Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, while introverts feel at their most alive, most switched on, and at their most capable, when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”

We all fall at different points on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, but 21st-century workplaces are predominantly designed for extroverts and their love of stimulation. A culture that celebrates action over contemplation, open-plan offices, constant noise, and (worst of all) endless group-work, means introverts are often forced to pass as extroverts in the workplace rather than be themselves.

Groupthink versus creative solitude

“Groupthink” means that we can’t be in a group of people without unwittingly aping their belief. Groups follow the opinion of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though, as Cain emphatically states, there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. This reveals a serious flaw in the way workplaces, schools and even the legal system (think about what happens in the jury room) see group-work as the best way to get positive results.

Solitude is essential to creativity and productivity. Team members should be able to generate their own ideas by themselves, free from groupthink, then come together as a team to talk them through, while ensuring no single person dominates the discussion. Cain points out that collaboration is important, but we need to recognise that freedom, privacy and autonomy matters.

Rather than constant group-work, workplaces should encourage casual, chatty, café-style interaction where people can share their creative ideas. In Cain’s words, “we need to work together, but the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with solutions to unique problems”.

Introverts make better leaders

In a culture that prizes extroversion, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, despite the fact that they make the best leaders. Here’s why they’re a better choice for leadership roles:

  • introverted leaders are generally more careful and are less likely to take outsize risks
  • introverts are much more likely to let employees run with their ideas, whereas extroverts can’t help but put their own stamp on things
  • people recognise that introverts step up because they are driven to do what’s right, rather than because they enjoy directing others or being in the public eye.

What does this mean for Procurement?

As most CPOs would agree, Procurement is a “people skills” job. This means that alongside core skills such as supply market research, analysis, category and contract management, introverted Procurement professionals must be comfortable with networking, influencing, stakeholder engagement, supplier relationship management and negotiation. The best advice is to play to your strengths rather than try to be something you are not.

Extroverts love negotiating, – the thrill of the contest, thinking on their feet and coming out on top – but having to negotiate can make introverts very uncomfortable. Again, it’s not about shyness, but rather about finding yourself in a high-stimulus environment, with pressure, fast decisions, and no time to reflect in solitude to come up with creative solutions. Here are some suggestions for introverts to overcome their fear of negotiation by playing to their strengths:

1. Does the negotiation really have to be live? Carrying out a negotiation by email may be slower, but will allow you to make considered decisions rather than blurting out a rash offer in a moment of high pressure.

2. In a live negotiation, use the power of silence. A meaningful pause can make the person across the table so uncomfortable that they start to gabble to fill the silence.

3. Plan ahead. Use your solitary time to do your research and plan so thoroughly for the negotiation that you will be prepared for anything.

4. Listen. Have you ever had one of those conversations where the other party knows what they want to say and doesn’t appear to listen to you at all? Introverts make much better listeners because they don’t feel the need to dominate the discussion. Active listening makes people feel valued and will enable both parties to find common ground.

Susan Cain has a powerful message that resonates not only with introverts, but will be enormously valuable to extroverts who want to understand how to help their introverted colleagues thrive. Attendees at ISM2016 will learn how to create a better workplace Yin and Yang between introversion and extroversion, and join Cain’s Quiet Revolution.

Susan Cain

Time is running out to register for the biggest and best supply management conference on earth – ISM2016 – from May 15 to 18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center. More than 100 breakout sessions will feature some of the BIGGEST names in supply management, including Apple, Google and Coca-Cola. Get all the information you need to register on the ISM website.