Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Introverted vs. Extroverted Social Worker
In some ways this topic was the bane of my existence as a new child welfare worker at a busy city office. I had several co-workers that thrived on crises, were adept at multi-tasking, loved being surrounded by ringing telephones, attending non-stop meetings and of course having conversations with co-workers in between. I didn't envy them but I did feel different. I enjoyed my quiet space to get reports done with minimum interruptions, talked on the phone only when necessary and tried to schedule breaks in between meetings as much as possible.
Don't get me wrong, I was sociable to the group of people I immediately worked with but I was more reserved when interacting with other staff. I just didn't have the same opportunity to get to know them. It was also hard learning to be assertive in the beginning and oftentimes I was mistaken as being "shy" but when asked my opinion I would often give a well thought out response. I also did not seek out conflict or crises unless it could not be avoided. Many times I felt like I was playing a role at work when I had to be outgoing so that certain clients would engage with me. I also had to learn to be socially savvy in awkward and difficult situations so that my respect (and role) would not get trampled on. But then of course afterwards I would always feel tired.
Like many social workers at the end of the day I was glad to enter my quiet home. I would take this time to recharge and I enjoyed as few commitments as possible as they felt like work. I still had friends outside of work of course but I was selective about spending energy on external activities.
Overall, this is what I have learned/observed from social work environments:
The Extroverted Social Worker
Pros: more easily assertive, comfortable in larger groups, get work done when there is a lot happening around them, can stand meetings, do not mind having attention focused on them, adept at handling tricky social situations, enjoys being a team player, and finds it easy to be talkative with clients.
Cons: less analytical, may not get a lot of work done if it is quiet, and is less reflective.
The Introverted Social Worker
Pros: observant, likes to work independently, enjoys to reflect heavily on decisions, and is successful at completing one activity at a time in a quiet environment.
Cons: less adept at multitasking, does not enjoy meetings, uncomfortable with attention, can feel awkward when talking to co-workers/clients that they are unfamiliar with, can appear shy to others, and feels drained when working with larger groups.
These lists are not meant to demonstrate that being an extroverted social worker is better than being an introverted one. As there is a variety of personalities that clients display, so should there be different types of personalities that social workers posses. Also, having a variety of introverted and extroverted social workers in the office can compliment each other. It can only get uncomfortable if there is a monopoly of one type of personality in the office, or if co-workers are not willing to recognise and accept their personality differences.
Overall, from my personal perspective it has not always been easy being an introverted social worker. I have to manage my workspace and when and how I communicate with clients to ensure I do not feel overwhelmed or too drained. I have also accepted that being introverted is a part of my personality and that is not going to change. Just as we accept the successes and challenges of our clients we have to accept that we have limits with what we are comfortable with depending on our personality.