We talk a lot about employee behavior here, which seems appropriate for a blog on developing your employees. I don´t think, however, I´ve devoted much space to the "timid, shy, and less assertive," the same trilogy used in the subtitle of Ilise Benun´s new book, STOP PUSHING ME AROUND! According to the Shyness Institute (Yes! There´s a think tank for studying wallflowers!), half of all American adults consider themselves shy. Shyness might be useful is some situations, but in the workplace it can be a sign of weakness.
In Benun´s new book, just published by Career Press, readers learn how to adapt the tried and true strategies that have made the author an expert. Specifically, she offers techniques intended to teach you how to:
* Uncover and develop confidence in your natural networking talents
* Overcome the irrational fears that prevent you from connecting with people who could catapult your career
* Master the art of small talk
* Overcome fear of rejection
* Deal with difficult clients and colleagues
Sometimes, I think shy people are not only misunderstood but judged unfairly, too. Indeed, shy people are often underestimated in terms of their abilities to contribute to a team through their ability to focus, their skills of observation (just because they´re not talking doesn´t mean they´re not trying to figure out the world) and other less obvious talents. Plus, I believe we all have our shy moments when we´d rather be that wallflower taking everything in. In many cases, that´s the safest place to be. We could actually learn something from our somewhat timid colleagues. But we have to ask.
If you´ve got shy people reporting to you and wish they´d speak up then do some one-on-one coaching. All the wishing in the world can´t take the place of training-the kind of training that´s focused on improving a specific situation. And if you think that you can´t help people emerge from their shells, consider the possibilities offered by Benun who says, "You can conquer your shyness and learn to present yourself confidently in a wide variety of business situations, from speaking up at a meeting, to taking credit for a project, to asking a busy boss for a deserved raise."
Is it your responsibility to help someone overcome the obstacles that shyness presents? That depends on your feelings about employee development and whether or not someone´s personality has an impact on your company. As you consider this issue of shyness and how it impacts a workplace and the people who populate your company think about how the opposite characteristic-assertiveness-has helped your bottom line. Can a strong team player be matched with someone who is less assertive so that each can learn from the other? Can you have a frank discussion with someone whose timidity is getting in the way of his work?
Next time: a Q & A with author Ilise Benun.