When you think of introverts, you’ll probably see us as shy and meek as we don’t shine as obviously as our extroverted counterparts. Understanding an introvert can be a task because there’s so many layers.
In an office environment, it can become tougher for others to understand this side of us. It’s not that we want to be left alone all the time (though there are some extremes who do); we just need to have some space at times.
I’ve been working for a while, and as an introvert, here are 10 office related situations that I wish I could just avoid entirely:
1. Team building activities are not your cup of tea
Two words that can make any introvert cringe—team building.
If you know what the normal team building activities entail (noise, action, running around), you might sympathise with the introvert who just wants to curl up in a dark corner away from all that unnecessary hype. We don’t feed off energy from multiple people and large group activities gets us drained easily. Having to yell, cheer, high-five random strangers and build up team spirit? Pointless.
Instead, we prefer office activities that has us spending time in smaller groups where we won’t get overstimulated. If not you’ll find us in the toilet trying to breathe and find some solace in solitude.
2. Small talk is the bane of your existence
Whenever someone in the office comes up and asks what I did the past weekend, I can feel bile rise up in my throat.
What’s going to come out of it anyway? It’s probably going to be a prolonged conversation about topics I probably don’t care about, but social convention dictates that I’m forced to listen intently with a smile across my face. I know extroverts will judge me because I don’t take interest in the nitty-gritty of the lives of others. It’s not that I don’t care.
Unlike extroverts who receive energy through interactions, we easily feel exhausted and bored by small talk quite fast, especially when it consists of what we see as meaningless topics. We prefer deeper conversations, ideally philosophical ideas. Most introverts find satisfaction in a really good conversation with an intimate group of people about things that truly matter rather than typical office gossip.
3. Making plans with your colleagues is the stuff of deep and careful consideration
Don’t confuse introverts as being shut-ins. We don’t always enjoy a hermit life to avoid all social connection. We just take a bit longer to jump on board with any plans because in our minds, we’re calculating how much effort and energy needs to be used in the outing. Our social energy is precious because it’s a limited resource.
We can be outgoing and friendly when needed, which might confuse people in the office. Get an introvert really comfortable (or drunk) and you might even see a secret party animal side emerge. This duality does get others confused. Sorry, we can’t help it.
4. Town halls are a pain when you’re suddenly put on the spot
Being the center of attention is often a nightmare for introverts.
We generally work best on our own and having a lot of eyes and ears on us is nothing short of horrifying. Of course, we can be trained to handle such situations, but most introverts would prefer to stay out of the spotlight.
So when the limelight focuses on us, a part of us just wants to get it over with quickly so we say only what’s needed and remain quiet for most of the time until prompted. We have no need to make our presence felt. It doesn’t even matter if the attention is positive. Turn your gaze elsewhere, please.
5. Open space office concepts aren’t all they’re cut out to be
Think of an introvert’s personal space at work as their safe haven.
We usually prefer a layout that brings a small group of people close enough where we don’t need to scream across the room to get their attention, but not too crowded until we feel suffocated. So when the head of the office says it’s time for a change, you can understand why a look of horror crosses our faces.
Open plan offices are basically torture chambers for us, especially when we want to prioritise productivity. Having no proper separation in an office usually means loud voices floating about, boisterous laughter enough to cause migraines and worst of all, it makes it so much easier for anyone to approach you at anytime.
Give me back the small, single person cubicles.
6. Sitting at your desk with headphones on makes you anti-social
A very common misconception about introverts at work is that when you see one typing away furiously at their computers with earphones on, it means they’re unapproachable. Depending on the situation, you could be mistaken.
Just because we like our alone time and small talk is a bore doesn’t make us anti-social misfits or loners. We don’t just sit at our desks all day, hiss aloud when we see even a hint of daylight, and curse the human race every 5 seconds (Who even came up with this imagery for introverts?).
When an introvert has earphones on and has been sitting quietly for a long duration of time, it’s usually because they’re incubating new ideas and executing plans for success. Not because we don’t want to talk (Okay, SOMETIMES that is the reason).
7. Eating in every day makes you a sad, lonely person
Again, introverts don’t hate all social connection, we’re just more selective of the people we choose to stick with. During office hours, lunch breaks are those rare moments when we’re allowed to have a peaceful moment for ourselves.
People need to realise that when an introvert says “I like my alone time”, it doesn’t mean that we’re being unfriendly and that we’re trying to be all gloomy in our solitude. Our alone time is actually our preferred mode so choosing to stay at our desk to eat lunch there doesn’t make us sad, lonely people with no friends.
We just want to enjoy a meal without feeling the need to be forced to socialise. Plus, staying at our desks during the lunch hour maintains our steady work momentum.
8. Your leadership skills in particular might be overlooked
You could say it’s our own fault, but we’re usually not the first choice when you’re looking for a leader.
However, I could argue that introverts make thoughtful leaders if selected. After all, we thrive by listening carefully rather than exerting power over others. It’s second nature for introverted bosses to listen, appreciate and validate great ideas, and highly unlikely for them to treat those they lead condescendingly.
But unfortunately because we’re seen as introverts, there may be those in the office who misjudge our true capabilities to head an organisation and brush off our potential.
9. Do you even network, bro?
You’d be surprised to know that many introverts are actually friendly and sociable when they want to be. So when networking, you’d probably have a hard time distinguishing the extroverts from us because of how easily we can blend in.
Just as there are shy extroverts who are hesitant with new people but love going to club parties, there are also sociable introverts who can strike up a conversation easily at networking events until it’s time for us to retire to quieter and more laid-back environments.
10. People forget you have a voice
This happens a lot because of the stereotype that extroverts in workplaces are charismatic and expressive with their opinions while introverts are shy and quiet with no desire to say much.
The truth, however, is that introverts just generally don’t speak up unless there’s something important to say or if it concerns a topic they’re deeply passionate about. People tend to confuse the act of speaking up as an extroverted thing when in fact, we do speak up, when it matters enough.