His manager called him “the shy guy.”

My husband’s manager of almost 2 years today introduced him as ‘the shy guy’ in the team to a new senior manager. Anyone who knows my husband would at laugh at this.

The ‘shy guy’ was the only thing the manager could think of about him to introduce him, despite the fact that my husband has recently been involved in many key issue resolution and other projects. A variety of people in the organization interact with my husband, and anyone from his mom to his recent acquaintances would not call him shy.

What can make a manager say this of a person? Would you have any insight?

5 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Someone who is not shy would ignore the comment. For example, if someone called me shy I wouldn’t care.

    Your husband’s job is to manage up— that is, make his manager love him – because his manager controls how the people higher up see your husband. It doesn’t matter if the boss perceives your husband as shy or rude or whatever. It matters if the boss sees your husband as indespensible.

    Managing up is the real job description of everyone’s job.

    You husband has lots of control over how his boss perceives him. Your husband needs to have a deep understanding of his boss’s strengths and weaknesses. And your husband needs to see where his own strengths fit with what his boss needs.

    I have a feeling that your husband doesn’t understand this part of office politics. It’s an unwritten rule about how people succeed at work. Once your husband understands how to do this effectively then other people in the office will see his skills at managing up, and someone will take him under wing and make a path for him to get to the top of his field.

    This all assumes your husband wants to learn how to manage up more effectively than he’s doing it now. Not everyone wants to deal with the office politics, and many people are ok if they are not climbing the corporate ranks.

    I write a lot about managing up. I actually really like doing it – I see it as an game to see how helpful I can be to people above me. Here are a few posts from my blog that might be helpful:

    7 Ways to Manage Up

    Managing Up: How to Manage a Baby Boomer Boss

    5 Overlooked Rules of Management

    If your husband wants a clear plan for how to manage his boss effectively, I can do a one-hour coaching session with him. We will talk about the strategy of managing up, then we’ll create a plan to turn his boss into someone who helps your husband get to the next level.

    Best wishes,

  2. me
    me says:

    “Managing up is the real job description of everyone’s job.”

    Brilliant observation. I wish I’d been perceptive enough to have realized this decades ago.

    Of course, I did my best to support my bosses throughout my career, but I was always more keenly focused on managing my daily work load.

    Above is excellent advice for workers at all levels and for all types of employment.

  3. Nelle
    Nelle says:

    Penelope, would you not care because you are not shy or because you are autistic which makes you not care? (Genuine question, I hope this doesn’t come off as being rude.)

    This hit home with me…I had a manager try to give me advice to get over being “shy and reserved” during my performance review. I’ve had others tell me I was too quiet and needed to speak up more. The current manager told me I wasn’t talking to my colleagues enough (this part was not true, but all she saw was “quiet” so then projected onto that without actually observing me. I have great relationships with my colleagues.) I’ve been called quiet all my life, asked why I’m so quiet and this is definitely a problem in the workplace. (See Susan Cain’s “Quiet”). You’re supposed to be extroverted and aggressive in the American workplace. It’s such a problem that “shy” and “quiet” are bad words in our society. My manager also seems to believe that being a good feminist means acting like a man and being as loud and aggressive as possible. It kind of behooves me actually that you recommend INFJs become managers…so many of us quiet, introvert types really struggle in the modern workplace. Maybe it’s because I work in marketing, where extroversion is more expected? Maybe we’d fit in better in accounting?

    Anyway a year after we had this conversation, she concluded after getting to know me better that I in fact did speak up when I needed to. She even said something about needing to be myself (which is not loud and aggressive, but rather cautious about who I want to share personal detail about my life with.) So I guess I did the managing up part right.

  4. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Is there any chance that “shy guy” was sarcasm? Especially since you state that anyone who knows him wouldn’t call him that….

    My husband is a sr manager and he would never introduce one of his managers with a personality description unless it was a joke that everyone would appreciate.

  5. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    My husband says his role in our relationship is to manage up. I really appreciate this about him.

    Coincidentally, years ago my supervisor shared one of those managing-up posts with me and that’s the first Penelope Trunk post I ever read. I was instantly hooked.

    Please never stop writing about this!

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