S1E05: Are introverts an easy target in a toxic workplace? Interview with expert Joanna Rawbone

​​Introverts are often sensitive to the energy and dynamics in their environment, making toxic workplaces especially challenging. In this video, we explore how introverts can be affected by negative and draining workplace cultures and what they can do to protect their well-being. Learn about the unique struggles introverts face in toxic environments and how to create a healthier work-life balance. Watch now to support introverts in navigating difficult workplace situations.

Joanna Rawbone is a thought leader and advocate for introverts. With a passion for helping introverts thrive in a world designed for extroverts, Joanna has dedicated her career to raising awareness and understanding about the unique strengths and challenges of introverts. Through her writing, speaking, and coaching, she provides practical insights and tools for introverts to navigate their personal and professional lives with confidence and success.

Whether through her podcast, popular blog, or workshops, Joanna’s work has inspired and empowered introverts all over the world to embrace their true nature and achieve their goals Joanna chooses to believe that nobody sets out to create a toxic work environment. The toxicity can start to develop and worsen due to inadequate feedback and consequences.

As bullying, ridiculing, and discrimination, can be enough to push an already overstimulated Introvert over the edge, Joanna puts together a survival kit that will help to deal with situations like these flourishingly. Find Joanna at www.flourishingintroverts.com

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Oh yeah.Speaker 2: 53:32

All these different shirts. No, that was the other Brian. That was T-shirt Brian Oh.Speaker 1: 53:37

T-shirt Brian. Oh my God, yeah, brian with the insurgents was very funny.Speaker 2: 53:41

Yeah, um, we had the lady with four million jobs. Do you remember that one Mm? hmm, i know Where she had like what was it Like? 47.Speaker 1: 53:54

Like her first. Like her first line out of the box was like I’ve had 46 jobs in the past 30 years and we’re like what.Speaker 2: 54:05

We’ve got Amy, who talks to us about toxic positivity, which is pretty cool, and then we had Stu, who was our most recent recording, yeah, talking about leadership, which I’m pretty bloody excited about.Speaker 1: 54:20

And now so we’ll be doing some more interviews, but also sprinkling in some of the research episodes.Speaker 2: 54:25

Yeah, and then we’ll be doing some research episodes is going to like is our next kind of step right? That’s our evolution.Speaker 1: 54:33

And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what you guys like more And if you have any comments, thoughts, reactions, just reach out to us.Speaker 2: 54:39

Yeah, We really appreciate everybody’s comments. Yeah, We’ve had. I just, I just get so excited when someone comments, So if you could comment like like subscribe, share follow all those good things. Come join us on LinkedIn. Come join us on.Speaker 3: 54:55

Instagram, yeah, yeah Find us a good place.Speaker 4: 54:57

We’d be happy to have you.Speaker 2: 54:59

And we’ll see you in season two. Couple weeks, yeah, yeah, a couple weeks. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.Speaker 1: 55:10

Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there’s an interest in this topic.Speaker 2: 55:16

For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed caption available on YouTube.Speaker 1: 55:20

See you next week, same time and same place.

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[00:01:07] Gina Yeah. So. Hey, good morning. Your eyeballs are falling out of your face because you’ve had, like, a couple.

[00:01:17] Nicola We’ve had some early mornings doing some interviews.

[00:01:20] Gina Yeah, it’s true. I know. And the days that we record, I feel like sometimes I do. Like you mentioned, you felt a little, like, manic. It’s like. Like we can sometimes kind of go down the recording rabbit hole, and then we’re like, Oh, my God, we have all this other stuff we have to do, like our regular work. And it can it does make me feel a little manic. I get it. So sometimes it’s like that, but it’s like especially as a single, single mom, you know, single. So single moms unite.

[00:01:51] Nicola It’s rough sometimes. I am pretty excited. And this over here is Joanna, and Joanna has an amazing podcast of her own. She’s just informed us. She also has a TV show.

[00:02:02] Gina Which we think is very fancy.

[00:02:04] Nicola We’re thinking like, this is pretty fancy, or I’m going to hand it over to Joanna, and I’m sure she’s got an amazing blurb to share with us all.

[00:02:14] Gina Yeah, tell us who you are. Joanna Hi. Welcome.

[00:02:17] Joanna Hi. And thank you for having me here. It’s it’s an honor to be here with you guys, so. Yeah, I’m Joanna. I’m. I’m not single, mom. I’m a step mother and a step grandmother, so never had any of my own, But I’ve managed to accumulate a kind of family around me. So I knew from fairly early on in life that I was different, but I didn’t know how I was different. And it wasn’t until my thirties till I took the Myers-Briggs type indicator, which most introverts use that as the way to find out what’s different about them. Found out I was an introvert, but what that didn’t help me was how to play to my strengths as an introvert. What it showed me was the difference between extroverts and introverts. So now I had a blueprint to follow of how to be more like those people that seem to be really successful. So I pretended to be extroverted for a good couple of decades, actually, until I hit burnout. And that’s when I thought something has to change. And so since 29, 2018, actually, alongside my traditional training coaching business, I’ve got this niche where I’m focusing on enabling introverts to flourish without pretending to be something they’re not. And I’m rattling the cages of organizations and educational establishments to shake out the extroversion bias that exists pretty much everywhere in everyday practices and processes, which is what makes workplaces toxic for introverts.

[00:03:52] Nicola Tom, tell me a little bit more about this extroversion bias, because now I’m a little bit curious about this.

[00:03:58] Gina I think I get what Joanne is saying because I was trying to be, you know, the company women that I was trying to be something I wasn’t like, I’m straightforward. I’m to the point I’m assertive and they wanted me. I don’t know if you heard our first couple of episodes, Joanna, but they wanted me to fluff all the emails and I was like, It was exhausting and I understand that introvert burnout, but yeah, tell us more about the bias, please.

[00:04:26] Joanna So somewhere and I have no idea where it started, some bright spark decided that extroversion was the ideal, was the norm was what we ought to go for. So people pushing themselves forward, speaking up, being fun, being loud and larger than life, which plays straight into the extrovert ideal, but undermines often the confidence of introverts because it’s like, I can’t be like that and sustain it. I can do it for a while, but I can’t do it and sustain it. So then we look a bit deeper at recruitment processes. We get asked questions like What kind of team player are you? And introverts feel pressured to say, Oh, I get along just fine with everyone and I’m, you know, I’ll be in there mucking out with everybody else.

[00:05:18] Nicola Whereas realistically, they thinking I just want to poke my eyes up a pencil.

[00:05:21] Gina Realistically, we’re just thinking, leave me alone and let me get my work done. That’s how the best I work.

[00:05:27] Joanna Absolutely. And so what we need to do is introverts is when we’re asked that question, rather than play to the extroversion bias, we need to say things like, Well, you know what? I’ll be probably one of the quieter team members, but don’t let that fool you because what I’ll be doing is listening and noticing what’s not being said and assimilating ideas and being able to summarize. And there’s often not enough of that going on in a team. So that’s how I add value. And what we need to do is start expressing and articulating our strengths in positive terms, not apologizing for them. And then there’s then there’s assessment processes. And if you’ve ever been through that, you’ll know that there’s some kind of debate thing that happens around a round table kind of conversation and people get marked as to how often they contribute, not the quality of what they contribute. So again, introverts will get marked down. And then there’s the the whole kind of succession process and career planning where if you want to get on here, you’ve got to make sure that you’re visible, that people know who you are, blah, blah, blah. In other words, just be more extroverted. And many of us have been told that for so long that we start to believe not only we’re different, but there’s something wrong with who we are. We end up feeling not enough. That is the effect of the extroversion bias.

[00:06:53] Gina I mean, I identify with that a lot. Yeah, I mean, that was kind of like summarizes how I felt at where we met. And it was, Yeah.

[00:07:04] Nicola But I’ve never actually thought of it as a bias, right? I’ve never actually, like, taken the time to think of it as a bias because you’re right, it is very assimilated in that thinking around extroverts are what get you ahead in workplaces. And it’s why I’m such a great ambivalent. I’m absolutely an introvert at home. But the minute you put me in an environment I play extrovert very well nailed it. And I think and it’s exhausting. Like I get so exhausted and I. Absolutely.

[00:07:40] Gina How did you do it for like, for you for three or four years?

[00:07:44] Nicola Because I’m good and good.

[00:07:46] Joanna And when you try and tell people that actually you’re an introvert, they go, no, you’re not. I’ve seen you on the stage, I’ve seen you out conferences, I’ve seen, you know, so people don’t understand the difference between behavior and between energy needs. And that’s what differentiates introverts and extroverts. It’s not the behavior we can all choose and learn how to behave however we want. The thing that distinguishes us is when our batteries are draining, do we seek social interaction, busy environments, lots of noise and clamor? Or do we say, I sneak away and I’m now recharging quietly on my own? That’s the difference between an introvert and an extrovert. And many of us like me, I’m an extroverted introvert, so I am through and through introvert. But I have access to some of those extrovert behaviors that mean that I don’t get drained as quickly doing some things that may be a classic introvert would.

[00:08:44] Gina I feel like I’m classic introvert because I like go out and do one thing and then I’m like, okay, I just want to go home and like sit in like, do my own thing, sleep, read whatever, not communicate with anyone, which is can be hard, especially if you’re, you know, a manager of a team and, you know, bringing it back to the workplace. Nicole and I were at I had no time, and I know you didn’t either. There was always slack messages going off, like there is no time to take a breather. Does that lead us into sort of how the is the introvert bias and, you know, not being your authentic self, how that’s toxic? Can you talk to us about what happens in that situation?

[00:09:32] Joanna Yes. So partly because many of us have had to pretend in order to fit in and get on, which is what I did, And it sounds like it’s what Nicola did as well. And she did it probably better than I did.

[00:09:43] Gina She was just that.

[00:09:45] Joanna Yeah, because that’s what many of us have to do. We then get that overwhelming sense of I’m not being true to my authentic self, I’m not good enough as who I am. Then we start to explore. Variance, all those things that people typically do with a toxic workplace, which is I don’t really want to go in there. I don’t feel safe. So psychological safety is missing because if we look at the first layer of psychological safety and it’s about inclusion, I I’m not included. I’m because I’m not able to be myself if I am. People make fun of me. People tell me I’m stuck up. People tell me I’m arrogant. I was once called Dallas. I’ll let you fill in the gap.

[00:10:32] Gina I climb the sun just like the first time I met my team. The one of the team members were like, You’re being very condescending. And I just was like, I’m just talking like, I don’t know why it’s coming off that way, but I’m just talking. It was like, very awkward for for me. But okay, so how else does that create toxicity?

[00:10:59] Joanna So, so then there’s the kind of the interaction with the team. So you mentioned your team, and I think what we forget is up to 50% of any population identifies as an introvert. So we think we’re the minority. You’re thinking your team needs someone kind of, you know, who’s going to lead from the front and all of that. A half the team potentially are saying, thank goodness for that. We’ve got someone who is quieter, who is calm, who listens, who prepares, who actually gives us time to prepare before a meeting, rather than springing meetings on us and expecting us to make decisions on on the hoof. So so there are all those things that work against us and make the workplace toxic. I noticed that I would look ahead in my calendar and see appointments and I could feel my heart sink thinking I know exactly what that meeting’s going to be like. I know who’s going to dominate. I’m going to be working really hard to try and get my point across. And and to do that authentically takes much more energy. So ultimately, what the result of the toxic workplace is, we hit overwhelm and from overwhelm we can slip quickly into introvert hangover and from introvert. And that’s all of the worse things of a hangover hangover with no booze and then introvert burnout, which my my last episode took me well over three months to recover from. And all because we don’t feel safe in this toxic workplace that many managers and leaders think isn’t toxic at all, because that’s the ideal that we are aiming for.

[00:12:40] Nicola It’s kind of just highlights to me that bias where I’ve been conditioned to think in a certain way and it’s now just kind of highlight. I’m like, Oh babe, have I just become the toxic person? Am I that toxic leader ever? Never.

[00:12:57] Gina Yeah. And I think it’s easy for because, you know, we’re in well, for me, I’m in I was in corporate America and it’s exactly what Joanna was saying. You know, I was more of the focused, quiet one, just kind of wanting to just get plow through my work and get it done. And I was labeled like a workhorse because I would just like, sit there and focus and just plow through it. But then in meetings, like I, I wouldn’t necessarily speak up and I wasn’t getting, you know, talked to about, hey, do you want to, like, try to go for this promotion or something That never happened because I was I tended to just be like, stick to myself.

[00:13:38] Joanna Mm hmm.

[00:13:38] Gina I didn’t think that workplace was toxic, but I think I was just. My point with Nicola is, is that I think that it was clearly rewarded. The extrovert behavior was rewarded. So I just thought, you know, Oh, well, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. But it helped me like conditioned me when I became manager to also favor and reward the extroverts without even knowing.

[00:14:05] Joanna Yeah, Yeah, absolutely. And if we if we look at all those typical signs of of people who are experiencing toxicity in the workplace, you and I will have, will have experienced those things, but just not thought of it as a toxic workplace.

[00:14:20] Nicola You know, when you look at the Myers-Briggs stuff, what were you on Myers-Briggs? Joanna I’m an.

[00:14:26] Joanna ISP.

[00:14:27] Nicola Oh, it’s a super syncing.

[00:14:29] Gina Yeah, I have never done a Myers-Briggs test.

[00:14:31] Nicola Wait, wait. I think you’d need to. And then we need to post this to the page I’m in, T.J., I like.

[00:14:38] Gina Literally people are like like I remember I, like, dabbled in online dating for like a hot minute and people were like, I’m embassy F, what are you? And I’m like, Gina, I’m like, I have no idea what these letters are like. I knew it was referring to the Myers-Briggs, but I like Nicola. You’re on top of your shit. You just like, No. Exactly what it means. And I’m just like, Sounds good. Bunch of letters thrown together. Love that.

[00:15:03] Joanna So I’ve got a questionnaire that builds on Myers-Briggs and helps people understand what type of introvert they are. So it strips out the how we take in information, how we make decisions, and which of those processes we prefer, and just says, let’s look at your introvert type. And that’s why we know there are six types of introverts and many blends. So Gina, you said you might be a classic introvert. I happen to be an open introvert. I reckon if Nicola took the questionnaire she would be an engaging, social, sociable, connected introvert. So again, lots. Once you’ve got a blend like that, people are going to say, There’s no way you’re an introvert because they don’t understand that when the batteries are draining, you’re away. You’re out there.

[00:15:50] Gina I remember that somebody in our toxic workplace wanted to talk about something specific with me, and I just kept saying, like, I can’t I can’t focus on this right now. I have like something else to focus on. I was like, we could talk about it later. And she just, like, wouldn’t stop asking me to talk about it. And I don’t know if this is like part of the toxicity that I brought to our workplace, but I just was like, okay, fine, do whatever you want. Like, I just had it. Like, I was like, okay, we’ll just do it your way. Even though I did need a discussion, I just was like, Yep, sure sounds good.

[00:16:25] Joanna So one, once we don’t have the capacity to engage to, to make decisions, then what we’re very likely to do is just say, get on with.

[00:16:37] Gina It. I’d like to shut down because I just was like, like she wasn’t she? I was very clear. I was like, I can’t focus on this right now. And she just kept going. And I just got so frustrated that like, she wasn’t respecting that boundary. Like, I was very clear. I was like, I don’t have time to focus on this right now. We’ll figure it out another time. So how does how does an introvert sort of navigate any of these corporate situations where they might not be considered the shining star?

[00:17:08] Joanna I think one of the most important things is for introverts to get used to owning their introversion without apology. Because if we do represent and the stats show it’s something like 48% in the UK, 52% in the US. Now I always think of the US as a more extroverted society, which to me means there are just more people pretending in the US than even in the UK. So I think the thing to do is to is and Susan Kane did a great job with her book Quiet, but to make it discussable, to help people realize that it’s an aspect of neurodiversity because we’re wired differently, we’re not weird, we’re wired differently. So actually what we need to do is as managers and leaders is understand that actually people do have different needs. As introverts, we tend to have a different communication process. We tend to be think, say thing, whereas extroverts are, say, think, say, and not necessarily they don’t think through what they’re saying necessarily. They may not be attached to it. Whereas by the time most introverts get to say something, it’s well considered and exactly what they mean. And if we’re pushed to give a response, it can make us really uncomfortable because we’re probably saying something that hasn’t been thought through that we don’t yet know that we mean. So it can be really stressful.

[00:18:35] Nicola One of the things that I’ve picked up as a really hot tip for me as your as your local advert was, if someone throws those leftfield questions at you, you pause and you go, Great question. I don’t have the answer with me right now. Can I come back to you on that?

[00:18:51] Joanna I was going to say there’s two other tips that I’d add to that which I found work very well for introverts. One is to use a placeholder. So quite often I know I want to say something now. I just don’t know what it is I want to say. So rather than losing my place in the conversation, because quite often the conversation moves on. And by the time I thought we’re on to a different topic, so I will actually put my stake in the ground and say that’s a really good point. And actually, as I’m thinking that through, I noticed that there are a couple of trains of thought I have. All the while my mouth is doing this. My head is frantically working out what it is I actually want to say. But I’ve stayed in the conversation. I’ve got the mic still as it was. And for me that was an incredibly important thing to do. And the other is of course, a bit of a pre frame. I find both of those things really useful to do to make sure that I’m heard and I’m in the conversation. So I think the three those three tips together are really powerful.

[00:19:54] Gina I had a good question and then we got we got.

[00:19:57] Nicola Derailed.

[00:19:58] Gina And in. Railed. Yeah.

[00:19:59] Nicola You should have used your stake in the ground.

[00:20:01] Gina I know, but that’s the other thing. I’m very easily distracted by fun, shiny, pretty things. So like, if it’s like a fun conversation, I’m like, Oh, okay, let’s go over here and just even just listen to it. So one of the things I’ve learned that I have to do, like as what I, what I believe I am an introvert, you know, I have to reread my emails because granted, sometimes while there’s no tone in my email, it can be very like fact based and just like, disseminate information. And not everyone is okay with that. So I have to go back and actually like 99.9 times out of ten, I have to add the greeting. I usually never add a greeting. Like I just am like right into what we need to talk about and just like that. And so I have to go back in and like add a greeting like, hey, you know, hey Nicola, how are you? Or whatever, minimal. But my desire is just to go right into the meat and potatoes of it. And I don’t need any of this extraneous stuff. Granted, when we were at the workplace we were at it had to be a lot more than just like a high so and so, like I had to go into it.

[00:21:14] Nicola Yeah, we had to. We had to affect toxic positivity, everything.

[00:21:18] Gina I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. But so for me, one tip was that I learned over time is even though there may not be tone to your email or your electronic communication of, you know, I am whatever you guys are working with Slack, people will still read into it. No matter what. But I don’t know. Is that is that also indicative of being an introvert? Like what we’re talking about? And what are are there any other. Oh, the other thing I want to talk about is Sorry. How has remote working affected the introvert?

[00:21:52] Nicola Oh, good question.

[00:21:55] Gina Right. Because you were saying something, Joanna, and I was like, okay, this all sounds like you’re talking about, like in an in-person and now our world is not always in person. It’s like 50% in-person at best. Yeah. So, yeah.

[00:22:07] Joanna I’m I’ll answer the second question first and see if I can remember the first question to go back to it. Yes, the I’m one of those rare beasts who actually enjoy remote working. I enjoyed lockdown because I didn’t have to put up with all the distractions. So I’m a coach and trainer. By day I was traveling the world, you know, working on whatever client site I was. And when I gave my delegates a break, mid-morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, they would all swan off and have a coffee and do something nice and somebody would collar me. And so I would never get a break until the end of the day. Mhm. And one of the things I’ve enjoyed about eventually because I, I had that scary week where I watched my whole calendar for 18 months just empty as all of my clients canceled their training. And then it took about three weeks before my first client came back and said, Can we do this on Zoom? Yes, we can. And I’m still I’ve done two face to face. The rest is all zoom. And when I give the delegates a break, I get a break, too. So I’m really happy. Still delivering over Zoom and many introverts. I know there was a lot of stuff going around. Introverts the world over have been waiting for lockdown. It’s their idea of heaven. Well, yes and no. Most of us got more work done because we didn’t have the interruptions. We didn’t have the chatter in an open plan office to contend with. So most of us did manage to get more work done. But we’re introverts, not misanthropic. We don’t hate people. We need connection with the right people. And so where we were struggling during lockdown was when we couldn’t see those people who helped nourish us, who helped to actually refill us, who help recharge the batteries. And we spent so long on Zoom, you know, there was a recognized Zoom fatigue with people getting fed up with looking at their faces on the screen. Well, frankly, if you’re looking at your faces, you’re looking at the wrong place, because the only place you have connection is the camera, not down there at your face. So, you know, I know it was a struggle, but most introverts I work with are the ones who are choosing to do more in the in the kind of agile working, more working from home than they are going into the office. They don’t miss the commute. They don’t miss the hustle and bustle of the city streets. They don’t miss the hour and a half drive or whatever it happens to be. Actually, they’re really good working from home.

[00:24:52] Gina So do you think now being remote is or 50% remote? To make a generalization, I know there’s a lot of hybrid like I am 100% remote. What are you Nicola your hybrid?

[00:25:06] Nicola At the moment I’m pretty hybrid. So after 2 to 3 days in the office and then the rest of the times at home, which is actually really good because it means I can recharge because I spend most of my time in the office excavating.

[00:25:19] Gina I guess I’m just curious like how does, how do, how has it affected extroverts? Do you know, like how.

[00:25:25] Nicola Or you know what? I can actually answer that because I have I’ve got a friend of mine who is an absolutely beautiful human and she is a notorious natural extrovert. She gets energy from people and people just absolutely love her and they can suck all her energy out. And it’s just replenishes. It’s like a little Energizer battery. It’s fantastic. But she’s just a lovely human being. And absolutely she gets her energy from people and she absolutely hated lockdown because she couldn’t touch people. She couldn’t see people. She liked that office chatter. She liked that interaction with people, the interpersonal relationships, that connection. I think it’s almost this hybrid environments kind of created a really positive environment for the extroverts because they can come in and get their energy. But it’s also created a really positive environment for the introverts where we can go home and be like, Oh yes, no people, I can do my work today. Thank you. Yes.

[00:26:30] Gina I know I did. When I have like no scheduled meetings for like my day, which is like. Maybe once a week I’ll have one day where I don’t have to talk to someone on the phone or Zoom or whatever. And I’m like, Ooh.

[00:26:46] Joanna That’s a nice day. I’m like. I think one of the challenges is that it tends to be the extroverts who are demanding people go back into the office because we can’t be a team unless we’re all together, which is nonsense. We’ve had global teams operating for decades, so why all of a sudden now can we not have effective team working? And it’s because the extroverts want everyone back in the office so that they’re replenishing and they can’t understand the other half of the population who say, I’m fine, I’m actually really good, thank you.

[00:27:21] Nicola But I wonder if that’s more projection of, hey, I’m an extrovert, I’m not as productive as at home because I’m interpersonal. So now everybody is not productive at home. Whereas we’re all like, we’re getting our most productive work done in these locations surrounded by our stuff that we love.

[00:27:43] Joanna I think you’re absolutely right. Absolutely right.

[00:27:46] Nicola One of the things we’ve been talking about recently is now that we are in this hybrid space, we’re losing a lot of office space, right? Like with just dead space in offices. But then that tells me, you know, I started looking into research because we’ve had open plan offices for, what, like ten years? And I’ve started to see a lot more research come out saying that actually open plan offices are not as positive as people originally thought they were going to be. They’re not as collaborative as they originally thought they were going to be, and that there’s all of these you know, we spoke about earlier these psychological safety issues that come with open plan offices. So I’m curious to know level curious to hear what you think around introverts in that open plan office environment, because pretty much every office is now open plan.

[00:28:34] Joanna Yeah. And it started a lot longer ago than we think, actually. And it came out of the 1950s in the hold kind of economies of scale and factory, a sense of factory productivity. So it’s been around for way too long. And you’re right, the research is showing that people are not as productive. But of course, it’s better use of space so you can get more bodies in an open plan space than you can into smaller offices and cubicles. The reality is that most introvert clients that I work with hate open plan offices because they need quiet space in order to focus and do their best work. And they’ve got phone conversations going on and one side chat about football or the weekend and the barbecue on the other side and then somebody throwing a hissy fit over there. So there’s just too much going on. And one of the things about introverts is that we are already overstimulated mentally. That’s why we don’t need the additional mental stimulation. And what does an Open Plan office give you? Tons of of mental stimulation so we get overstimulated and therefore overwhelmed really quickly. So most introverts would rather book themself a quiet space, even go to a coffee shop where actually, you know, there’s just a more hushed conversation going on than than all the noisy stuff around. So most introverts would rather have an office with a door that shocked and they could open it if they if they were ready to receive and they can close it. If actually what I want to do is get my head down and do my best.

[00:30:18] Nicola Work in open plan offices, as I end up with my noise canceling headphones and I just play great noise over my ears because I’m like, Yeah.

[00:30:28] Gina Like, I wonder if that’s why Nicola Slack was so problematic because even though you can like, silence your notifications, you would still see the little red button. So essentially your virtual door is always open and you don’t have the ability to really focus and get what you need to get done, done. And part part of what gives me pride about my job is being able to do a lot of things and get them done in a very timely fashion. And I think I struggled with having the ability to never really shut my virtual door. So that could potentially be something that’s that introverts are dealing with as well. Because even though you are working from home and you’re not with everyone, you’re still getting stimulated by the sounds of your slack or whatever messenger you’re using going off or the little red thing ticking numbers. You know, if you’ve turned off your notifications and all of.

[00:31:30] Nicola My notifications or.

[00:31:32] Joanna Meetings.

[00:31:32] Gina Well, but I’m the type of person that if I see it. Even the little red thing saying like, you have a notification, I have to look at it.

[00:31:40] Nicola I don’t have any of those little red dots.

[00:31:45] Joanna Me neither.

[00:31:46] Nicola Like, no, I was.

[00:31:47] Gina Talking, like, specifically just for work.

[00:31:50] Nicola Like, I’ll work on my emails with the little red dot, because I think because I respond to emails the fastest, I leave my emails to get the little red dot. But every single app I have, it’s the first thing I switch off is notifications and the little red badge. And that way I can choose when I go in and check. Like I’m not saying I’m not going to check it for like 72 weeks now. Now, brown cow. But I will I will check a on a daily basis. But when I’m ready.

[00:32:18] Gina I don’t know. I think it’s just like a personal thing that like if I see a notification, even if it didn’t go off like audio. Like, if the being didn’t go up, I’m still like, I still have to see what it is. I wonder, though, if that’s also part of the nature of what I do, because we are on timelines and time and you know, you miss a message and you don’t respond. You’re a day late to delivery or three days late and then it’s like a whole thing. So I wonder if there’s a little element of that that’s just, you know, specific to me and what I do. But I know but back to what Johanna was saying. I never had I never felt in our work Toxic Workplace, Nicola, that I had the ability to shut everything off because everything was a fire that had to be put out right then and there, you know.

[00:33:03] Nicola But, you know, we’ve spoken about it where it was like even on my recharge days or my days off, it was, Oh, I know it’s your day off, boss. How many times did that happen? Like, every single time I took a day off.

[00:33:16] Gina Every single time. I know it did. Inevitably it did. And then 2012, I was working for a company and they did have, like, a loft, like open plan office. The owner of the company, it was a fairly small company, like maybe like under ten employees probably. And I don’t know, Joanna I would love insight on this, but instead of like coming over and talking to me about something, she would email it to me like she’d be like, I’m very disappointed in how you handled X, Y, and Z via email when literally she’s 20 feet away. It drove me fucking nuts.

[00:33:53] Nicola Wait, hold on a second. Let’s just pause there for a second. Maybe she was an introvert that didn’t.

[00:34:01] Gina Well, that’s why I want to know what Joanna is saying about that, because I think to me, that was now looking back and knowing what we know about toxic workplaces, that’s like prime way to start something toxic because instead of just being like, Hey, Gina, I have a question, or, you know, Hey Nicola, can we just chat about X, Y, and Z real quick? It always felt like I was being scolded behind closed doors and then I would have to and then I would have to literally type that to her. And she’s like, right there. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was so asinine.

[00:34:33] Nicola So bizarre.

[00:34:35] Joanna Yeah, I don’t think I don’t think that that’s introvert related. I think I think that for me that smacks of a lack of confidence and a lack of assertiveness, and extroverts can lack assertiveness and confidence as well. So in the same way that extroverts can have social anxiety, how bad is that? That I need social interaction to recharge my batteries and yet I’m scared of the very interaction I need. But it happens. So for me, the only way to deliver feedback is face to face. Or at least on a call like this, if we’re in different parts of the world, followed up with an email so that I’ve got an audit trail, and the one word we never, ever, ever, ever use is disappointed y because because the the time we’re told we’re disappointed is usually by parents or schoolteachers or, you know, when we’re little. And so it kicks straight into that parent child interaction has this feeling small and as you say, kind of being reprimanded for something. So you can you can use any other emotion when you’re being assertive and giving feedback, but never disappointed ever, ever.

[00:35:53] Nicola Can we just pause here for a second and remind people that if this podcast is something you enjoy, we would love to hear from you.

[00:36:01] Gina You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Let’s break up toxic workplace stories.

[00:36:06] Nicola Sharing and subscribing really helps us feel validated. I think one of the things that I’ve started doing this year because I’ve become a little bit more hyper aware around neurodiversity in the workplace and I know previously the label on it, that extrovert bias is we usually just book meetings and we’re like, oh, one on one chat or you know, let’s go for a coffee, catch up or whatever. But now what I’ve started doing is I’ve started putting like a summary. Not specifically what I want to talk about, but just like a high level. Hey, these are some of the topics I want to cover. And that way it gives everybody the opportunity to know, hey, this is a no one’s no one’s getting a disappointment chat today.

[00:36:50] Gina Yes. Or like a warning, because that’s any time someone would do that to me, I’d be like, Oh my God, they’re going to fire me. Yeah. Even though.

[00:36:56] Nicola Like, like, I think that’s just a trauma now, though.

[00:37:00] Gina Is that. What is that? Joanna? Why? Like, when someone’s like or I remember when I was in corporate America, like, you know, in like 20, 25. God, I would see like, my manager talking to someone else in, like, the in her office. And I’d be like, it’s probably about me. They’re probably getting ready to fire me. Like, what? What if I just like, you know, now looking back, I’m like, I was probably just like, the lowest on their totem pole. They didn’t give a shit about me. But why do we think that way?

[00:37:28] Joanna I think there’s a whole raft of reasons. And one of the things that I’ve noticed with most introverts is they have a louder in a critic, a more insistent in a critic than extroverts do. Or even if it’s not louder, they tune in and they listen to it more than extroverts listen to their inner critic. Because we all have an inner critic. It’s one of our sub personalities. So I developed a process where I got to meet my inner critic. Her name’s Gladys, by the way. She looks like a cross between Dobby, the house Elf and Gollum. So that waxy skin, huge watery eyes, terrified because most of us, our inner critic, is trying to keep us safe. And what we need to do is understand what it’s keeping you safe from. So mostly probably you’re the it was the inner critic and the self-talk chatter that was saying they’re talking about you because because you’re not you’re not hitting the mark. You know, you’ve got to do better if you want to keep your job here. And that’s the kind of the job of the inner. Yeah, Yeah.

[00:38:33] Gina So that so makes a lot of sense because somebody once told me, like, you’re not that important. That’s just your ego. And I think there’s probably a little bit of that too. Like, yeah, you’re not the center, like you’re your center of your own universe, but you’re certainly not the center of everybody else’s universe. And which I think is really hilarious because I was working at Wall Street at the time and like this huge international company, and it’s like that actually probably is a 5050 mix of me being, you know, ego driven and also like the inner critic. But yeah, it’s that’s I think that’s a really good thing to do, Nikola, because for people like me and Joanna, like we automatically think the worst thing.

[00:39:19] Nicola The worst of all, I think when you are the worst, I’m like, Oh, oh my God, you’re going to well, what have I done wrong? I don’t feel like I’ve done something wrong. Have I done something wrong? Oh, my God, I’ll be having a while.

[00:39:30] Gina But actually, where you and I met, I never thought I did anything wrong, but apparently I was doing everything wrong.

[00:39:36] Nicola Yeah, that’s because you’re a it. And you are. That’s because I’m.

[00:39:41] Gina Funny and rude, and I don’t fluff my emails, and I’m just. I don’t lead with kindness. And I was out of there. That’s that that phrase drawn. I just so you know is one of their core. What was it Door.

[00:39:53] Nicola Valley isms.

[00:39:55] Joanna Which which.

[00:39:56] Gina To me I was like, this is so fucking lame. Lead with kindness.

[00:40:01] Nicola Push it to the level of toxic positivity. We were just diminishing everyone’s actual feelings.

[00:40:05] Gina And we don’t really care about anything. I think my favorite one was Speak Now or Forever Hold your Peace.

[00:40:11] Nicola Oh no, you couldn’t speak. But.

[00:40:13] Gina But then there was a contradictory and contradictory one, which was. Say what you mean? I mean what you say. Okay. So if I realize that I didn’t say what I meant and meant what I said, but the issue has passed a little bit. Does that mean I can’t say it because I didn’t say it? Do you know what I mean? Like, it doesn’t make any sense. It. Joanna, It drove me bananas. Yeah. And I was technically the reason why I was let go, even though I resigned, like, not even 12 hours earlier, was because I went against all of their core values.

[00:40:47] Joanna Interesting. And yet what we’re hearing around those core values is that they weren’t actually meaningful or helpful. And most organizations who do a vision and values exercise will have things that are what a friend of mine calls hygiene values like integrity. So what? We’re going to act without integrity unless I put integrity on the wall, you know, it’s a nonsense. I think there is something here about and it goes back to the other question you asked about kind of, you know, fluffing things up. I think there is a sense of because introverts don’t have much patience with small talk. We don’t do all that. Just the we mean meaning, you know, how we use stuff. What we want to.

[00:41:27] Gina Do is dated fluffing my emails because I don’t have the tolerance for small talk because that makes so much sense. Yeah. Okay. I love this. Sorry I interrupted you was just like a letter.

[00:41:38] Joanna That’s mine. What? What? And that’s why many introverts don’t do particularly well at networking. They’re okay once they’re in and in conversation. But that whole kind of, you know. Hi, how are you? Did you have a good journey here? Nonsense. Really doesn’t work well with introverts. What we like are those generative conversations that kind of open our minds and and take our thinking somewhere else. We’re not interested in who did what at the weekend. It kind of doesn’t interest us, really.

[00:42:09] Nicola Two questions. My first question is like, how does this end up kind of translating into kind of bullying and discrimination in workplaces? Because I know that this can be really like I know introverts specifically can be an easy target. And then the next question I have about around that is what can we do as leaders, as people in workplaces, introverts and workplaces? What can we do to better equip the organization to not be toxic? And what can we do to better equip our introverts so that they feel included?

[00:42:44] Joanna So three questions then. Really, that’s clinical.

[00:42:47] Nicola That’s really much it was. It was one combined.

[00:42:51] Joanna So so the whole bullying thing. And for me, this comes back to another pet hate of most introverts, which is office banter, certainly pants. And it’s only banter. And what that usually means is I’m taking the piss out of someone who probably isn’t going to respond, who probably isn’t going to talk back because they didn’t join us when we went for a drink after work yesterday or when we were all talking about our weekend on a monday morning, they said, You know, I just had a quiet weekend and it’s like, Oh, boring, not that again. So. So there is something that just by being an introvert, it’s almost like you’re right, we are easy prey. So for the bullying, because unlike Gina, who you know, is openly kind of open about her assertiveness, it’s something that many introverts have still to develop because true assertiveness comes from. If we use one of the definitions which is standing up for my rights and wants right, whilst respecting the rights and wants of other people, many introverts have got to that place of thinking I don’t have any rights because people keep telling me that I’m I’m rubbish, that I, you know, that that I’m, I’m not worthy of being promoted because most introverts, the thing they complain about is being overlooked and undervalued. And because the is the louder ones who’s pushed themselves forward, who speak up, are the ones who are being rewarded and promoted. And so it’s it’s kind of an insidious slide into bullying and harassment in some ways victimization maybe because actually it comes back to that lack of psychological safety. We don’t feel safe being ourselves. We don’t feel safe to say I had a fabulous weekend because I did absolutely nothing. I saw no one on. I walked around the lake twice. We done.

[00:44:54] Gina That sounds amazing.

[00:44:55] Nicola That sounds amazing. Is that what you did this last weekend? Because now I’m because.

[00:44:59] Gina Yes. Sign me up to do it silently next to you next weekend.

[00:45:03] Joanna I’ve been called belly, No bake, no mates. I’ve been called stuck up. I’ve been called a loner. I’ve been called all sorts of things. And because my husband’s quite quiet, we’ve been together nearly 40 years, so we know each other pretty well. But when we go out for dinner, we don’t chatter all the way through dinner. Sometimes we just. What we talk about being is loving, being in companionable silence. We love each other’s company, We’re enjoying the food, we’re enjoying the wine, we’re enjoying where we are. And I see people looking at us and going, Oh, look at that old couple over there. They haven’t got anything to say to each other anymore. That must be really sad. And it’s like, No, it’s wonderful. Just let us enjoy this savoring of our food, this moment.

[00:45:51] Nicola This silent moment that we’re enjoying.

[00:45:54] Gina Yeah, I mean, I really identify with that.

[00:45:57] Joanna But for me, this comes bound down to boundaries. And boundaries is something else that many introverts don’t have put in place well enough. And so many introverts need to learn how to, especially to protect themselves from these toxic environments, is really need to figure out what is my boundary, what is acceptable. Tony Gaskins has this lovely phrase, which is you teach people how to treat you by what you allow, stop and what you reinforce. I think it’s those three things, what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce. And for me, that says everything I need to know about my. Boundaries. What am I prepared to allow people to do or say? What am I not prepared to? And what actually is the good behavior that I want to reinforce? And that helps me put in place boundaries because many of us have boundaries, but we’ve never thought about them and then we don’t articulate them. So when somebody steps over, it’s like a big shot. Well, you didn’t tell me that was where your boundary was. It’s like, now let’s let’s almost make it like a fence, a picket fence painted white. Then everyone knows where that boundary is. So then people know when they’re getting close to it and they know when they’ve stepped over it. But we’re not mind readers we need to be clear about. For me, this is where my boundary is, and I’m just letting you know so that we keep this relationship on a good footing.

[00:47:24] Gina Places that are like toxic workplaces, the boundaries are a nickel. And I talked about this, I think, in episode three about how it was very cult like. The boundaries are ever so slightly pushed until you don’t even realize that they’re pushed to a place of unacceptability. Yeah. And I think that’s what happened at our. Our place. Yeah.

[00:47:46] Joanna And that’s why that’s why being really clear about where your boundaries are and being prepared to assert your boundaries to defend them every time there’s even the tiniest push means that what you’re doing is you’re honoring your own boundaries. And if sometimes we do want to move them and it’s okay if you consciously move your boundary rather than it’s like your neighbor neighbor sneaking the fence over a bit and kind of stealing a bit of your ground all the time.

[00:48:12] Gina That’s exactly what it was.

[00:48:14] Nicola Looking in hindsight, if we think about one of your staff members, the one that took a lot of time, that was them asserting the boundaries and they actually took that time off. They didn’t respond to Slack’s emails and other stuff, and they were probably ahead of the game in that regard where they had already seen through the bullshit that we’d dealt with and started putting their boundaries in place to keep themselves safe.

[00:48:42] Gina Yeah, I mean, also with that particular person. Nicola I had, I had my own issue because there was not a sense of urgency in the way that she worked. And sure.

[00:48:54] Nicola We know that.

[00:48:55] Gina Yeah. So it kind of made me doubly frustrated when there was like it was like pulling teeth to get stuff out of her and to get things done. And I’m trying to effect change in a positive way that’s going to help everyone on my team and for her to be out all the time. It was like just a kick in the ass again because she wouldn’t respond and I’d be like, okay, she barely responds when she’s here.

[00:49:23] Joanna I don’t obviously don’t know the context of it, but for me, that’s what I would be encouraging people to do, is once you’re in your own time, then actually not responding is the right thing to do. We we have become so obsessed with everyone being available 24/7, which again is fine for the extroverts, but for the introverts, it’s it’s really intrusive because that’s the time I need to recharge. And now you’re you’re kind of crashing in to my personal time. How do you expect me to show up and do good work tomorrow if you’re not allowing me the recharge time today?

[00:50:02] Nicola Yeah. And yeah, they might not have been urgency there, but that might have been lack of experience versus urgency.

[00:50:09] Gina But I also think that goes back to management because they weren’t planning properly. So we had to not the slack.

[00:50:16] Joanna I was just going to say that I remember so when I was still working in BTC, so I’m going back to the eighties or early nineties now. Mm hmm. Somebody had this brilliant sign on their desk which said a lack of planning on your top, your part does not constitute a crisis on mine. Yes. And that is so often.

[00:50:36] Gina That should have been our core value.

[00:50:38] Nicola That should have been our call that here that Dr. Seuss ism. I am therefore that one. That was the perfect callback.

[00:50:45] Gina No, but that’s not that’s actually it means something. But yeah, sorry. Go ahead, Joanna.

[00:50:51] Joanna No, no, I was just going to say, and for me, there is that sense of I’m not going to bust my gut. If you’ve been sitting on this and could have action earlier and haven’t and now you’re panicking and all you’ve done is push the pressure on to me, not the work itself. And that’s the thing where we need boundaries in place and where we need to assert our boundaries.

[00:51:14] Nicola Okay. So Joanna, I’m super curious now to kind of like, like circle us all the way of background and kind of go through some of the things that we can do to prevent creating these toxic environments for introverts.

[00:51:30] Joanna As managers, leaders, etc..

[00:51:32] Nicola As as everybody in the workplace, essentially.

[00:51:35] Joanna So I think this is going to come back to the psychological safety bit for me. And I think it’s Tim Martin on a can’t remember his name, but he has this brilliant model of the different layers of psychological safety. And I think if we were to honor those, it would remove a lot of the toxicity almost immediately. I mean, it will take time to apply. But his first layer is this inclusivity piece where we can all be ourselves, who we truly are, and we are accepted for that. So, you know, that is absolutely diversity and inclusion in a nutshell. That bit just there, his next layer up I think is then. So that’s about inclusion, safety. I’m safe to be who I am in this environment. The next layer up is then around a. Either learn or conjugate. I think it’s learner safety. So the learner safety level is about. I’m human. I will make mistakes. Not intentionally, but I will make mistakes. And it’s often the way we learn. And I feel safe to make mistakes here without being ridiculed, without being carpeted, without being blamed. Provided we then work together to help me figure out how not to make that mistake again. And we put right whatever needs putting right so that learner safety is incredibly important. Do you know how many people don’t ask questions because they’re terrified of letting someone know that they don’t really know what they’re doing, that they’re struggling, that they’re finding their way through things so that learner safety is important. There’s then contribute to safety, which is that I can say my piece, even if I think it might be silly, even if I think it’s not quite hit in the mark, even if I haven’t thought it through yet, which is why I might need to do that pre frame thing of, you know, I haven’t thought this through properly yet, but what I’m thinking about is X and, and have people say, Well that’s really interesting, let’s explore that a bit. Even if I am the most junior and the new person, I still have that contribute to safety so I can speak up at whatever time. I don’t have to speak now or further hold my peace. I can speak whenever it’s relevant. And then the top level and these are like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They build on each other. The top level is I then have challenge of safety where I, wherever I am in the organization, can turn to anyone and say, Is that right? Does that make sense? Is there not a better way to do things? Can we not explore that? I’m not sure I agree with you, whatever that of safety means. And once we have that real psychological safety in place, or as we put that psychological safety in place, for me, a lot of the toxicity disappears.

[00:54:34] Gina What if you have a leader who doesn’t know what they’re doing, shouldn’t be leading.

[00:54:38] Joanna Then then people and we often have this that the people below know that and see that. But nobody is challenging. Nobody is is is doing anything about it. And so for me, I would rather be fired for challenging than staying somewhere with somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Dr. Amy Edmondson, who actually coined the phrase psychological safety in her brilliant TEDx talk around the Chilean miners, is a TED talk about teaming. She talks about the importance of situational humility, where leaders are brave enough to say, haven’t got a clue. We’ve never done this before. Let’s figure this out together. So they don’t bullshit everyone. They don’t blag it and pretend that they know what they’re doing. They’re actually prepared to say, Hey, this is new territory for us all, let’s figure this out together. And that situational humility is such an important part of psychological safety.

[00:55:35] Gina Again, my last question, because I know we’re getting short on time, is what what made you really decide to become like a champion for introverts? Like, we know you’re an introvert, but was there something like a perception being one factor or something that you were just like, I fucking had it? Let me let me try to come at me? Yeah.

[00:55:57] Joanna I think it was a straw that broke the camel’s back situation. And wherever I was working in the world, I noticed the same thing. And I know that we notice what we look for, right? So maybe I was looking for it, but wherever I worked, it was the quiet ones who keep their head down and do good work, who were getting overlooked and undervalued. And I finally I got mad enough to say, This has to stop. So I’d been aware of it, obviously for a very long time. And I think there’s something about age that made me braver, made me care less about whether I upset people, made me decide that this is the mission I’m on until I turn my toes up. And a bit like you. If I make a difference to half a dozen introverts, I will be happy that I’m doing the right thing because I am on a mission to shift this extroversion bias and to enable introverts to flourish. And it’s that’s that’s what I’m here on this earth. Earth to do. I love that.

[00:57:03] Gina And I think it’s pretty noble. I learned a lot from you. Joanna.

[00:57:07] Nicola This has been a great I think this has been a really great conversation because I think it’s really timely as well, because we’ve been I don’t want to say we’ve been negative, but we have highlighted super toxic workplace.

[00:57:20] Gina We’ve just been super gossipy.

[00:57:22] Nicola I know they’re super gossipy.

[00:57:25] Gina Yeah, super.

[00:57:27] Joanna But it’s it’s those real tangible examples that people can relate to then go, Oh my God, yeah. I had some of that. And, and I was in the same way that you were saying I wouldn’t have necessarily badged it as toxic. People are now saying, actually it is this is not acceptable, so let’s do something about it.

[00:57:46] Nicola Hmm. Now, where are all the awesome places that people can find you?

[00:57:51] Joanna So probably the easiest place is flourishing introverts dot com. My website that’s got my free downloadable resource is my podcast, my TEDx talk, my TV show, Little courses that I offer, occasional blogs. It’s all there in the one place and linked in is where you’ll find me most active. I do have an introvert group. I do have a business page on Facebook.

[00:58:19] Gina Because I think you’re a really valuable resource for people who are, you know, ready to enter, like the.

[00:58:27] Nicola Conversation, even.

[00:58:28] Gina The conversation, or just like, how can I improve myself? Like as a leader? I always want to know how I can improve because I, I don’t know anything, you know, like, I know stuff, but I don’t know at the end of the day, like, we all don’t know what we’re doing. So, like, let’s all figure it out together.

[00:58:43] Nicola Yeah, for me, it’s really highlighted that I potentially have some extra extroversion bias because I’ve been trained to be an extrovert in the workplace as an introvert. And now I’m like, actually, I’m doing myself a disservice and I’m doing other introverts. I know a disservice by performing at a level that is in my mind expected and essentially is expected by society. So let’s maybe reassess that a little bit.

[00:59:12] Joanna Yeah, Nice. Nice. In that case, my work here is done.

[00:59:16] Gina Thank you. This was an invaluable discussion and.

[00:59:19] Nicola Yeah. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.

[00:59:26] Gina Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there is an interest in this topic.

[00:59:32] Nicola For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed captioning available on YouTube.

[00:59:37] Gina Next week, same time, same place.

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