How Shyness Can Affect Your Success on the Job

by Jason

how shyness can affect your success

I was at my local Wal-Mart the other day while it was in the process of being remodeled.

I watched some of the store employees (mostly males) standing around discussing how to best move parts of a shelving unit.

Did I say discussing? Maybe I should have said shucking and jiving! There was a lot of joking, laughing, back and forth, give-and-take, chewing the fat, whatever you want to call it.

Perhaps you could even say there was more talking than working. Nevertheless, all the workers seemed to have what you might call a “rapport” with each other.

Anyway, while observing all of this out of the corner of my eye, it occurred to me: how well would a shy person fit in with this kind of situation?

Shy people are often asked “why are you so quiet?” as if it were some sort of mortal sin. What if one of those Wal-Mart employees who was working on helping with the remodeling was shy and had trouble participating in the discussion?

How well would he or she fit in?

Would a shy person be joining in with the discussion, or would he be standing off to the side, pretending to be trying to figure out some problem of remodeling logistics on his own?

Shy people are often thought to be “unfriendly,” “standoffish,” “snobbish,” and other uncomplimentary things.

If a shy person was part of the workgroup, would he or she have as easy a time fitting in as the others? I doubt it.

The simple fact is, all jobs require you to fit in to some degree with your coworkers. If one or more of your coworkers labels you with one of the uncomplimentary adjectives listed above, it can make it even harder for you to fit in.

Let’s say a shy person was labelled as “snobbish” and unfriendly” at such a job. Let’s say that workers started discussing the shy person when he was not around. The general consensus becomes that the shy person is a loner or outcast.

The workers may even start expressing the opinion that they don’t like him very much.

This starts a vicious cycle that makes it even harder for the shy employee to get on well with his or her coworkers. Eventually the supervisor could hear that the shy person is unpopular, which could result in a negative evaluation. And so on.

You can see how the vicious cycle of severe shyness can seriously impact your chances of job success.

I gave the example of an entry-level job at Wal-Mart, but shyness can just as easily affect one’s chances of success at the professional level.

In any job, getting on well with one’s fellow employees is extremely important. It marks you as a “team player.” Look at the job listings and see how many of them require people who work well with others.

In addition, networking is generally cited as the number one way of getting a job and advancing up the career ladder. Unfortunately, shyness affects one success in this arena as well.

Networking involves meeting people, socializing, making good conversation, making friends, and impressing others both with one’s confidence and competence – all the things that shy people often have trouble with.

Some people minimize the seriousness of shyness. Wrote the late author Isaac Bashevis Singer:

“I don’t think that people should get over being shy. It is a blessing in disguise. The shy person is the opposite of the aggressive person. Shy people are rarely the great sinners. They allow society to remain in peace.”

Shy people may allow society to remain at peace, but they will earn less while doing it.

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