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I am currently working in consulting and I am the most technical in the whole team, although I graduated in business administration/ management and now I have the role of a devs all-rounder (especially for frontend problems and APIs). Often I design the architecture (e.g. connecting some microservices to the big systems like shop, SAP or CRM) and write the code to make the architecture work in the end (e.g. Salesfore to Message Broker to Service) I have only been with the company for one year and am part of the core team around which more and more people are hired. Now it's all about new hires coming into teams and, at best, we should be leading them.

My problem is that I am not a social person and see myself as kinda cliche nerd/geek:

  • I prefer to work alone or with colleagues I know.
  • I like sprints because I know what there is to do and I can rock it.
  • I prefer to work remotely rather than in an office.
  • I have customer contact, but I don't like it, even if the customers like me, as some colleagues say.

I don't feel able to lead other people, especially because I feel insecure and generally get annoyed and exhausted quickly when I am around people. I prefer to have my peace and quiet and do my work. For example, we got a new working student and I knew that I should take care of him, but just couldn't manage it, so a colleague took over. I didn't have any tasks to hand over to him and I didn't have the time to explain to him how to do something, because I have too much workload myself (he only knows machine language and is supposed to develop HTML and JS in our company). And the tasks I could have handed in were just the ones I enjoy.

On the other hand, I also feel threatened by new technical staff, as I was the only coder in the team for a long time and am a career changer. So I always have the feeling that others write better and cleaner code than I do. It is also a good chance to get responsibility early in my career and would probably promote me to the top for future jobs

  • How should I deal with this situation. Also in view of the fact that I still have 40 years of working life ahead of me? Should I just accept that I can't lead and communicate it in a way that I don't want to lead or how should I work on it?
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    Hi @0x30 - welcome to the site! You seem to be asking more than one question. It might be easier to address your issue if you shorten and focus your post. You might also like this other StackExchange site: interpersonal.stackexchange.com – ASDFQWERTY Jul 26 at 17:10
  • Either change the way you are or find a workplace where more people are like you and where you can be a better cultural fit. – dan-klasson Jul 30 at 14:46
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The operative clause here is "social skills". How did you get good at development? You practiced. You trained. The primary difference is that you like to do that. It's easier for you, and you gain energy through those activities. Social behaviors are a draining activity. That doesn't mean you can't become good at them. Just like any other skill you have to study, and you have to practice.

You need to embrace the idea of being uncomfortable. These skills aren't just going to come naturally to you, and they're not going to make sense to you in a lot of cases. You can take some courses on these things, attend working groups focused on them (Toastmasters comes to mind), and you can even attend workshops. In the end, you need to get out and talk to people and get their feedback. Accept their feedback and work hard to make the changes in behaviors. As with any skill, the more you do it the simpler the behaviors will become. They will always drain your energy and fatigue you. However, you will eventually get to the point that people will not be able to identify you immediately as an introvert.

Feedback is the most important thing to becoming better. Ask your peers, your managers and your clients how you could have been better in a situation. Watch other people in various situations where you feel you would struggle. Self-assess your behaviors and make the changes where you can.

Make changes slowly. These behaviors are all about habits. Habits take time to form, and if you try to make too many changes too fast it's just going to be a mess of feedback and disastrous interactions. Pick an area to focus on. Maybe it's introductions, handshakes (although not during Covid), maybe it's recognizing social cues. Whatever it is, focus on it and accept that you will make blunders elsewhere.

This is going to take time and lots of it, and just like any other skill, if you devote your energy to becoming better at these behaviors you will eventually be able to freely mix your technical and social interactions without difficulty. It's ok to be uncomfortable. It's ok to be afraid of it. Just continue to practice with it, and you'll become better.

Just keep in mind, so many of those individuals we revere in TED talks and at the head of huge innovative companies are also closet introverts. Being on stage and in front of people drains them immensely. The difference is they've practiced and learned.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I understand your point very well and can understand the examples well. The problem in my case is the lack of intrinsic motivation. I earn more than the average income in my country (Germany), I have what I want and I don't care about prestige or status symbols. The speakers you mentioned might have had a motivation to be heard or go on stage. I also know introverted musicians. But for me there is at most an external motivation in the form of social pressure and expectations of the company that I'm developing in that direction. – 0x30 Jul 26 at 16:08
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    @0x30: Only you can motivate you. Your preferences are not always how work is going to turn out. The days of the "engineer in the basement" are gone. Even in remote work, there is a heavy social component because of the nature of teams. You've asked how you should deal with it. This is how you should deal with it. I wasn't suggesting you need to become the next Steve Jobs. I was simply showing that a lot of people have this problem, and the only way to overcome it is through practice and study. Whether it's in front of 2 people or a crowd of 2000, as an introvert you're always "on stage". – Joel Etherton Jul 26 at 19:59
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    @0x30: Just as a reference, I am an introvert. My job is almost entirely social now. It's intensely draining. The work I do is also intensely fulfilling (and I never would have though it even 5 years ago). Even when I'm engaged in a 1:1, I'm "performing". I'm behaving in the situation as I need to not necessarily as I want to. – Joel Etherton Jul 26 at 20:01
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I think getting motivation right is hard. During my first programming job, I learned that I wasn't motivated by building and learning new technology -- I really wanted to listen to customer calls and interact with them (in stark contrast to your experience). A few years of programming jobs later, I found that my motivations eventually changed -- I enjoyed building and learning technology more than I enjoyed interacting with customers.

When I started a company for the first time, I realized the disadvantage I was at. I was supposed to look for new hires and interact with customers, but I preferred to enter a flow state and write code all day. I learned that motivation is a slow changing glob of emotions that often disagrees with me logically. But this is very normal. The thing to take away is that motivation can and does change, just painfully slowly sometimes. The best we can do is keep our goals in mind, ask good questions, and be patient with ourselves.

It seems you logically want to make this career change. If you think it is a wise life decision, irrespective of your feelings towards it, then it can't hurt to entertain the possibility long enough for your feelings/skills to eventually change.

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  • Thank you! In fact, I'm not sure if I want to take this career path. In the past I have already made some decisions with the intention to push myself into the cold water and learn such skills the hard way. For example, I accepted an offer from the Big Four, but quickly realized that it was not my world at all. So I wanted an objective outside opinion. – 0x30 Jul 28 at 7:09
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+125

How to deal with lack of social skills?

Don't find workarounds to avoid dealing with people, work on improving your social skills! You have 40 years of working live ahead of you to keep improving your social skills.

Here are some low effort ways to start:

  • Pay attention to disagreements between other coworkers and learn from their interactions. What caused the disagreement? How did each side present their case? How did they resolve it?
  • Try to reframe your thinking from "I don't feel able to lead other people" to "I have a lot to learn before leading people". The former is a self fulfilling prophecy.
  • Observe coworkers who are mentoring new hires. What balance of explaining, demonstrating, guiding and enabling do they use? (See the EDGE method for more.)
  • Read! As mentioned by Old_Lamplighter, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the 'Humans 101' book I wish I had been given at the start of my career. (Yes, Carnegie's language is antiquated, however the fact that the book is still in print after 86 years is a testament to the underlying principles he espouses.) Also the Negotiation Masterclass from Chris Voss contains some excellent material.
  • Finally, talk to your manager and/or coworkers about this. Tell them that you are not really comfortable training people and leading, but that you would like to get better. They will be very receptive to your honesty and desire for self improvement.

I used to be extremely people adverse. I'm still introverted, but by learning a few basic people skills, my anxiety caused by social interactions has dramatically. Working with other people to reach a mutually beneficial outcome can be a wonderful feeling.

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TLDR

Read some books, and practice.

Reading list:

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus
  • The Hard Facts About Soft Skills by Richard Anthony Celestin, Esq.

Hi, I am pretty much the poster boy for "lack of social skills".

I am hearing impaired, and mildly autistic (Aspergers Syndrome) and had all the social graces of a rabid wolverine with a bad case of hemorrhoids.

So, for social interactions, I was born with two strikes against me and a temperament that had me destined for the third. I am saying this for context only.

Given my own problems, I took some rather drastic steps to improve my social skills.

I read books, acted in plays, went to toastmasters. (toastmasters.org) and did everything I could to push myself.

For the books, start with the first, and go down the list.

Then practice what you learn, and practice it in work as well as outside work. You may want to join toastmasters, or another group where you can practice your social skills. The good news is that you can improve. I mentioned my background not to brag, but to show that even someone with physical, developmental, and psychological difficulties can overcome them through practice.

Start small with something like paying at least three people sincere compliments every day. Then build from that. Take small steps and turn your these steps into habits and build your skills.

Don't expect them to change overnight, and don't stop practicing. Just like an athlete trains, you need to train, you need to do these things so often that you start to do them without thinking, but, as I said, it DOES work.

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    This is good. I first thought of Toastmasters, when I read OP, so now I don't have to write an answer. – Michael McFarlane Jul 27 at 21:49
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    Thank you for your answer! It motivates to feel not alone with the problem and see, that other people solved it. In fact, I already have the book from Dale Carnegie but never read it to the end. Probably a task, I will do in my vacation in a few weeks. – 0x30 Jul 28 at 7:05
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    @0x30 that book turned my life around. Don't just read it, use it as a reference manual for your social life. – Old_Lamplighter Jul 28 at 17:52
  • Tbh, I don't like the writing style of the book but that's just a personal preference. The anecdotes described therein are very long and I miss that he gets to the point a bit faster. I have the same problem with books by Taleb. But I will work my way through your list and hopefully find a book that I enjoy reading more. – 0x30 Jul 29 at 6:45
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    @0x30 Then use the summations at the end of each chapter, the Seven habits is a good one, and "Brag" helps you promote yourself without looking like a shameless self-promoter. – Old_Lamplighter Jul 29 at 12:42
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I feel as though you're torn and you don't seem to know what you really want. And a lot of this seems to stem from your insecurity of new blood joining the company.

You need to reflect and write down what you're really after. It it a management role? i.e. more money and less exertion and usage of brain juice? Or do you want enjoy and see yourself happy with focusing on the details and remain in a technical role?

Don't feel insecure with others being better developers, you can always improve your chops. Reflexive decisions are usually wrong. If you've always been an introvert who hates the thought of having to deal with whinging, obnoxious, petty, passive aggressive and down right despicable and vindictive people - a leadership / management role will not be for you. Especially if you've always had the disposition of being a loner.

Know that if you do decide that you want to progress and lead - you'll drastically need to change your personality and learn new soft skills. Fake it till you make it. It's good to learn social skills and improve in this department, but knowing little about anything else other than what you've written, personally, I'd double down on my strengths - i.e. improve my development chops.

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