5 Tips to Overcome Shyness at Work

shy-workerHow do a good impression to your new boss if you have more visibility that just a weekly one-on-one meeting? Personally, I’ve always been on the shy side. I learned over time that my confidence grew with every job and new types of job functions, which in turn allowed me to be less shy. I’ve managed knowledge workers who are new in their career and are new to their field and are a little too shy for their own good.

As a knowledge workers, you have to do some amount of self-promotion to demonstrate to your company, your team mates, but especially your boss that you’re exceptional. Everyone wants to work with and for exceptional people. Being shy can set you back to the point where your boss could think they made the wrong hiring decision. Remember, you can be exceptional and shy. The trick is knowing when to overcome your shyness or using it to your advantage.

What should you do?
Let’s assume that not only are you shy, but you’re in a new job function so there’s a learning curve that you have to figure out. Let’s also assume that you only have two regularly scheduled meetings with your boss. After learning about this from managing shy knowledge workers, I recommend the following:

  1. Make contact: Make a point to have at least one touch point per day with your boss. Whether it’s stopping by before you leave for the day or running into your boss in the coffee area. Any touch point that allows you to say “hello” build rapport with your new boss. Bosses have to get to know you. If you’re shy and don’t have more contact with you more than once or twice a week, how are they supposed to get to know you? It’s up to you to create opportunities for yourself because managers can be so busy at times, they can’t get out of their own offices, let alone to your work area to say “hi.”
  2. Speak up during meetings: Shy knowledge workers must speak up. It’s easy to sit there in meetings and only respond to questions or worse, just sit there. It’s okay to ask questions and show that you’re engaged in the meeting. If there are complex projects and numerous deliverables, make a point to clarify you’re action items and due dates to demonstrate that you’re on the ball. You just may find out that you may be wrong and can take corrective action just by summarizing and clarifying.
  3. Ask if there’s more that you can do: There’s nothing worse than not being busy enough in your job. Don’t be seen walking around the office as if you have nothing to do. If you have bandwidth, make a point to send an email or stop by your manager’s office to let them know there’s more they can pile on your plate. Always frame it like this, “This task or project took less time than expected. Do you have anything else that you want off your plate?” Trust me, managers love to hear this. Shy knowledge workers can benefit asking for more since it demonstrates that they are productive and are taking initiative.
  4. Use the shy card to your advantage: Let’s face it, being extroverted can backfire. Extroverted mis-steps can be more public to your boss and coworkers. Shy knowledge workers can use their introversion to stay out of trouble. They can reduce their risk of visibility. If a mistake is made, most likely they didn’t announce to the world what they were going to do. Another benefit of being introvert can also be seen as being contemplative and thoughtful. Over time as you learn to know when to speak up, your boss and coworkers will know that if you’re talking, it’s for a good reason, not just to hear yourself talk.
  5. Ask about any good books: I love knowledge workers who ask me to recommend any good business books. Shy people can definitely benefit from this since this will give you insight into the type of manager your boss is just by the type of business books they recommend. Asking about recommended reading also demonstrates that you’re committed to self-learning and mastering your skills.

Shy knowledge workers, do your self-promotion in stealth mode. It’s more effective than if you were an extrovert. Turn this potential weakness into a strength by gaining confidence over time with baby steps. Demonstrate that they didn’t make a mistake in hiring you showing your curiosity and initiative. You got the job, now show your boss why they were right about you.

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