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Team-Building: What To Do With The Standoffish Type
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Team-Building: What To Do With The Standoffish Type - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: What To Do With The Standoffish Type

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: What To Do With The Standoffish Type

She’s always on time for meetings. She contributes to group assignments like the professional she is. She does just about every aspect of her job well, and she’s quick to offer compliments when others perform admirably. But she never shows up for after-work drinks, she won’t be anyone’s secret Santa, she’s not interested in holding the baby when a colleague drops in during maternity leave, and if you try to do a trust fall during a meeting, she will find a valid reason to leave the room. She’s friendly enough when spoken to, but she will not introduce herself to the new people, and her communication with interns is limited to what needs to be said in order to get the work done. Some would call her a snob, but those who’ve worked with her long enough know she doesn’t harbor any feelings of superiority. She’s merely standoffish.

Standoffishness can be the outward manifestation of many personality types. The standoffish person is usually just quiet, someone who doesn’t feel the need to fill quiet space with idle conversation. He or she may be shy, the sort of shy that’s learned to thrive professionally despite what might even be crippling shyness. Shy people who survive in the workplace often have to draw boundary lines for interaction, so that sitting around a bar table after work might be endurable, but personal sharing in front of groups might not, or it could be the other way around. Standoffishness might be what you see on the outside when on the inside is a phobia, anxiety, social disorder, or plain introversion. Many of us have learned to put on a professional, public face in order to do the work we’re good at doing. For some, it’s just a slightly more formal version of their private faces, while for others it can be almost a different person.

It can be easy to misinterpret standoffishness for dislike. We live in a world where the behavior of extroverts is rewarded professionally and socially. Seldom does an extrovert have to learn to behave like an introvert, while many introverts learn the hard way that in order to be noticed, rewarded, hired, or promoted, they need to engage others in ways that don’t come naturally. For this reason, when someone doesn’t go out of his or her way to express fondness or interest, many of us perceive the behavior as cold and unfriendly, yet seldom can it reliably be concluded that the person dislikes anyone.

So with all that possible misinterpretation, it seems tempting not to deal with the standoffish person. Why keep someone like that on a team when his or her contributions also come with a lack of warm and fuzzy feeling? We have asserted in this space many times that true team-building is the result of people doing meaningful work together. If someone contributes to the work in such a way that his or her ability is respected and admired by others, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone on the team who considers anything else important. As long as we’re not talking anti-social, destructive, divisive, or otherwise counter-productive behavior, simply not being chatty or outgoing pales in comparison to a team member’s ability to do a job well. You will likely find veterans—those who understand the rarity of a competent colleague—rally around the standoffish teammate in his or her defense. Sure, it would be nice if he or she would pick a number in the annual Super Bowl pool, but as long as the team can count on him or her with the stuff that really matters, almost everyone will be willing to write that person a social pass, and so should we all.


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Team-Building: What To Do With The Standoffish Type - Executive Leadership Articles

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