When you think about your Human Resources career, what comes to mind? A variety of skills and traits are required to be successful in your role. HR professionals need to be mediators, problem solvers, advocates, influencers, strategizers, analyzers, and leaders.
Sales is one skill that you may not consider important to HR, although it is hugely important to your success. But many HR professionals aren’t comfortable “selling” their strategic and tactical support services. The way you approach selling a people strategy, system, or solution may differ greatly, depending on how introverted or extroverted you are.
While introverts do not naturally gravitate towards sales roles, they have the ability to listen consultatively and display a calm confidence that bolsters their recommendations (making them excellent salespeople)! In this article, we share how to tap into your natural potential to sell your vision as an introverted HR professional.
What Makes an HR Professional an “Introvert”?
An introvert is someone who derives their energy from being alone and having time to "recharge" on their own, according to SimplyPsychology.org. Although it's not always the case, an introverted person may seem reserved and bashful. Additionally, introverts could prefer engaging in less stimulating activities and enjoy reading, writing, or meditation.
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HR introverts tend to prefer projects with deliverables they can work on offline, like employee handbooks, data analysis, government reporting, etc. One of my colleagues specializes in Human Resources Information System (HRIS) implementation and management. She told me that she loves her job, but it would be so much better if she didn’t have to interact with people! The most draining part of her day is answering people’s questions. Now, this colleague isn’t antisocial or shy. But the constant interruptions, and having to redirect her full attention to other humans, leaves her feeling drained.
Why do you think someone who feels this way about social interactions deliberately chose to work in Human Resources? Sociologists, psychologists, and other professionals have created extensive bodies of research and testing around this topic. One of the most well-known social scientists to capture personality type traits was Carl Jung.
Jung explained that these concepts of introversion and extroversion are actually part of a continuum. In this continuum, introversion and extroversion exist at separate ends of the scale. Does an introvert have the capacity to exhibit extrovert traits? Absolutely! The individuals in our immediate environment, including ourselves, can have an impact on how we respond and act in certain circumstances.
A personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on Carl Jung's theories on psychological types. The MBTI has 16 types of personalities, and introverts account for 8 of those.
ISTJ Personality Type
ISTJ represents “introverted, sensing, thinking, and judging”. Those who fit into the ISTJ personality type tend to be:
People who are categorized as ISTJ, also value harmony and security and are not easily distracted from their goals. They enjoy well-structured, well-ordered home and work environments, and they value tradition.
Professions that tend to be comprised of a high number of ISTJ types include:
Career counselors often recommend that people whose Myers Briggs test indicates ISTJ go into these fields. They likely make these recommendations based on a small body of scholarly research. This research suggests that there is a correlation between people’s own personality traits aligning closely with the personality traits of their jobs and receiving promotions and higher average annual earnings. In other words, if you have many of the same personality traits required by your job, you may make more money in your career long term than you would if your personality was not compatible with your job’s “personality.” The jobs listed above require many of the same traits as those of the jobholders in the ISTJ category.
Some psychology experts note, however, that these career recommendations should not be based on MBTI personality types, as research to support the connection between career success and MBTI personality types is sparse. And it’s important to understand that simply being extroverted or introverted does not equate to career success. Scholarly research on the impact of certain personality traits on promotions and long-term gross income has shown no statistically significant connection between extroversion and career success.
ISFJ Personality Type
The other main introverted MBTI personality is the ISFJ type (introverted, sensing, feeling, judging).
ISFJ’s tend to:
Prioritize meeting their obligations.
Put the needs of others above their own.
Value security and traditions
Have a strong intuition.
Jobs commonly held by ISFJ types include:
Registered Nurse (and many other types of healthcare professionals)
Human Resources Specialist
Personal Financial Advisor
Health and Safety Engineer
Because ISTJ types and ISFJ types share so many traits, they gravitate to many of the same career fields like Engineering, Law, and Finance. But there are additional fields that appeal to people with ISFJ characteristics. The “feeling” aspect of ISFJ allows ISFJ types to thrive in roles that require listening skills, empathy, and customer service abilities. This is why we see “Human Resources Specialist” on the ISFJ list but not the ISTJ list.
What does this mean for Human Resources professionals with ISTJ personality traits? Are they doomed to fail because their personality does not closely align with their job’s required traits? This is where the industry you choose for your HR career makes all the difference. Because people with similar MBTI personality profiles tend to have more in common and communicate in similar ways, they are more likely to get along. If you’re an ISTJ HR pro, try to work in an industry populated mostly with others who are also ISTJ types. You may be more likely to thrive at a civil engineering firm than a film studio, for example.
Quite unreasonably, many employers expect their HR professionals to be only the best of all of the Myers-Briggs personality types. They want a friendly, outgoing HR professional, who also doesn’t speak out of turn and is hyper-cautious, who is focused on the details but sees the big picture, who has strong professional boundaries but is super approachable, who is proactive and goal-oriented without challenging the status quo…yeah…good luck with that!
How Does Introversion Impact Interactions With Staff and Management?
Introverts may feel that unless they are asked for their professional opinion or advice, it’s not their place to speak up. This can be problematic for an HR professional who, for example, might not feel comfortable confronting a manager about a discriminatory hiring practice. It also takes more energy and effort for an introvert to seek out opportunities to provide feedback, which can adversely affect their relationship with management. However, since introverts are methodical and thoughtful and may read nonverbal interactions through a different lens, they may be more respectful of their supervisor and careful not to speak out of turn. Introverts tend to be more diplomatic in this way, and diplomacy is a skill from which many extroverts could benefit.
Social interactions with colleagues or superiors can be exhausting for introverts, as they invest a lot of energy trying to navigate socially demanding environments. Additionally, social fatigue or social burnout happens when introverts socialize to the point that they cannot do it anymore. Imagine the HR introvert who has to call out sick for a few days after hosting 10 new hire orientations in the same month. Introverts may feel physically tired, stressed, angry, or irritable. Social exhaustion can feel like hitting a wall. It’s important to recognize when you’re on the verge of burnout to cope and avoid it. Being patient with yourself and understanding that avoiding burnout is not an overnight process. It takes practice and time.
A few strategies that can help you avoid burnout include:
Identifying your main triggers
Learning how to say “no”
Scheduling alone time for yourself
Reaching out to a supportive partner, family, friend, or therapist who can help
What Are the Best Practices For Influencing People?
Sometimes it may seem counterproductive to build relationships when the energy involved can lead to exhaustion or frustration. Famous self-improvement author Dale Carnegie laid out several strategies to “make friends and influence people.”
Behaviors recommended by Dale Carnegie to boost your likability and influence include:
Becoming genuinely interested in other people.
Smiling and using friendly language.
Remembering people’s names and listening.
Sincerely encouraging others to talk about themselves.
Talking in terms of the other person’s interests to make the other person feel valued.
Asking questions rather than making demands.
Allowing the other person in a disagreement to save face when they are wrong.
Praising people and recognizing their achievements and even the smallest improvements.
Making the other person feel like your idea is their idea.
How Can HR Introverts Influence Company Leaders?
Even if you classify yourself as an introvert, your voice and knowledge can prove valuable to your organization. A level-headed demeanor with a humble attitude goes a long way when trying to influence company leaders. Here are a few tips on how to best influence company leaders. Inc. Magazine published Alison Davis’ article entitled “The 5 Best Ways to Influence Leaders.” These tools can help introverts gain the courage they need to approach business leaders with great ideas without fear of being dismissed or rejected. Remember, the goal is to persuade leadership to support it, approve it, and ultimately fund it.
These 5 tactics for influencing leaders are:
Connecting your ideas to the needs of your leader by defining your pitch's goals in detail, using examples to support your case, and maintaining focus on the big picture.
Considering persuasion as a process; Building relationships over time by demonstrating empathy for the difficulties and worries that leaders are facing.
Meeting with influencers before large meetings and building trust with them to better understand your audience; Giving examples of situations in the past where this strategy has been successful and explaining the need by presenting a story while just utilizing the data to support it.
Having a plan to support your idea; Having the fortitude to stick to your convictions in the face of challenging inquiries and putting together persuasive responses that will benefit the firm.
Depicting a wonderful future; Describing to leaders how the organization will operate more effectively with your strategy in place and discussing the repercussions if your plan is not carried out; Outlining the actions you'll take to put your plan into action and specifying the kind of leadership backing you'll require.
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