Complete the Head & Heart Leader Scale™ and receive a free, personalised report here.

Got a Minute?

Home | Got a Minute | Bullying and harassment | No. 8 – Help! I’m an introvert and loathe networking

No. 8 – Help! I’m an introvert and loathe networking

Share this aticle

7 April 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, networking as an introvert, support after sexual harassment in the workplace, and concerns for a colleague’s wellbeing.

As an introvert, I am struggling with all forms of networking be it in person or online. Whilst managers and co-workers value my work, networking is an area I always fall short. How do I overcome this in order to make meaningful connections?

It is fair to say the majority of people, introvert or extrovert, would groan at the thought of being told to go and “network” whether that is walking into a room of strangers or having to build networks online. The idea of developing a connection from nothing is daunting and more than a little off-putting for most.

I have overcome my dislike of “networking” by reframing what it means to me. I like to think about the people I connect with as being built on a genuine relationship where we listen to one another, try and help each other with any problems and make further introductions where appropriate. It is all about quality over quantity, and authenticity, rather than collecting names and business cards.

Think of networking as a way to develop a small number of high-quality relationships. You may also discover that as an introvert, you have skills that can be used to your advantage; you may never become the person at your workplace with the most connections but rather the person with the deepest.

Active listening, for example, is often something introverts are much better at than extroverts.

I’ve experienced two sustained episodes of sexual harassment in two separate organisations by educated men in positions of power and authority.I ended up leaving my profession for five years due to the profound impact the events had on me. At one point I had a Human Resources director suggest that I was the problem and so should go for less high-pressure roles. What can HR professionals do to better support women brave enough to come forward?

Thank you for sharing your story and choosing to bravely speak up about what happened to you. We know that women are sexually harassed far too frequently in Australia and it happens irrespective of whether women work in a high-pressure role or not. For someone to suggest that you could have contributed to your own sexual harassment is, quite frankly, shameful.

Fortunately, I believe there are many HR professionals who are sensitive to the complex issues that arise around sexual harassment and would have handled your situation more appropriately.

As for what HR professionals can do to better support women like yourself, my suggestions include:

  • Move from being reactive to proactive. Rather than waiting for a complaint to be made, formulate some preventative measures the company can implement to stop sexual harassment happening at all.
  • Recognise that trusting HR is not always easy for people wanting to report sexual harassment. There are already complex reasons for why people don’t speak up, so it is important anonymous reporting lines are available to employees.
  • Work directly with line managers to help them build teams that respect women and an understanding that preventing sexual harassment in their teams is their responsibility and not simply for HR to deal with after a complaint.
  • Read the full Respect@Work report by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and in particular Chapter 6 which sets out prevention systems you can put in place in your workplace.

I have noticed that a colleague actively steps away from me when we talk, often has a red complexion, and I have been told he might have a problem with alcohol. What should I do?

The health and wellbeing of your colleague is incredibly important, and it is good that you are concerned for them, but you need to tread very carefully with your concerns.

I would speak with your HR representative or your direct manager if you continue to be worried about his wellbeing and they can take steps to support your colleague should he need it. It is also important to ensure you are not contributing to any office gossip about his potential alcohol issues since this is not helpful for his wellbeing and mental health, or your office culture.

Link to original

Share this aticle
Got a Minute

Ask a Question

You can submit your own question anonymously.

Read Got a Minute

Every Wednesday since 2021, Kirstin has written a hugely popular column in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age answering curly questions from readers on work, leadership and careers. 

Latest Got a Minute

Stay in touch

Join many thousands around the world who have subscribed to Dr Kirstin Ferguson’s free weekly newsletter, Impact Loop.

As a bonus, you will receive the introduction to her award-winning and bestselling book, Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership, to download for free.
©2023 Kirstin Ferguson Pty Ltd
Privacy Policy