Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Not Hiding

Imagine the following hypothetical scenario:

After receiving a Ph.D. in marine science, Jennifer started working for a government science agency.  She's a quietly confident person who prefers to think before she speaks, unlike many of her co-workers who jabber endlessly during meetings, never really saying anything of substance. She's noticed that the people who do the most talking are often viewed as being the smartest or most productive workers, even though much of what they say is nonsense.

At her six-month performance review, Jennifer's supervisor says, "You're doing really good work, but I'm wondering when you are going to come out of your shell. We need people who are good team players and actively participate in staff meetings and share ideas with everyone." Jennifer is shocked and dumfounded. She stammers, "I'm not hiding...I'm just quiet and like to work things out by myself. When I'm sure I've got a good idea and some preliminary plans, then I share my thoughts with others." Her supervisor looks askance and replies, "I'm not a big fan of the lone wolf style of working. People get suspicious when someone keeps all their thoughts to themselves."

Jennifer stumbles out of her supervisor's office in a daze.  She went in thinking that she would be praised for the excellent work she's doing. Now she's wondering if she has a future here.  

What went wrong? What should Jennifer have done or said? Should she try to change her naturally quiet, introspective nature to better fit in with this workplace atmosphere?

In the next series of posts, I'd like to explore the idea of how people like Jennifer are undervalued and even discriminated against. I will dissect this hypothetical situation and try to provide some ideas as to how Jennifer might have handled her supervisor and what she might further do to address this problem.

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