Finding Ways to Cope as an Extrovert in an Introverted Workplace
Coping as an extrovert in a very quiet workplace has its challenges when it’s in your nature to gain energy from social interaction. Extroverts, just like introverts, can be highly sensitive – and anxiety can apply to us all.
I currently work in one of those millennial jobs that focuses on the web and technology and all that other Generation Y jazz. It’s one of those jobs that’s hard to describe to Baby Boomers – or anyone, really. My job requires a lot of alone time living within my headphones and staying focused on work. My co-workers and I mostly speak through chat programs and my company offers remote work for many employees who choose to work from home.
I love my job, but I often feel like I’m missing something. Some days I work for 10 hours with my headphones on, typing to friends in chat, get home, say “hi,” to my husband, and realize those are the first words I’ve said out loud in 10 hours.
I don’t know if I’d consider myself an all-out extrovert, but I’m discovering just how important face-to-face interactions are for me. For introverts who revel in seclusion, this job is perfect.
But what do extroverts do when they crave interaction in a job that doesn’t cater to it?
I’d say it’s probably a lot more common to hear introverts have issues with their environment than extroverts. The world sort of exists by being around others. As a result, introverts are probably forced into social interactions more than extroverts are forced into seclusion.
Co-workers spending time around each other is a situation in which interaction is forced, and you learn how to adapt to one another. In most cases, those who prefer seclusion are forced into communicating. For me, and others like me, my job pushed the other way. I became comfortable with my peers, but it was uncommon to speak out loud to them in my open office. People much preferred the seclusion of working from home, or talking in chat programs.
And so, I withdrew.
It’s worth mentioning the difference between introversion, anxiety, and shyness. Many of the people I’ve met in my office suffer from anxiety and have big issues in certain office settings for medical reasons as a result. Introversion isn’t the same thing as anxiety. Introversion is a person’s preference for being alone, with less need for social stimulation. Shyness is more of a response than a state of being. Introverts tend to drain around others and recharge by themselves. Extroverts are the opposite and tend to drain by themselves and feel recharged in social situations.
An extroverted person standing in a room full of introverts can feel just as alienated, uncomfortable, and lost as an introvert standing in a room full of extroverts – it’s a miscommunication in personality. However, it’s important to learn how to blend the two.
Blending introverted and extroverted personalities in a work setting is all about understanding one another and understanding the needs of your co-workers. It’s understanding your introverted co-worker may need to work from home in order to feel comfortable and energized in their workflow. It’s also about understanding your extroverted co-worker may seek you out to discuss and brainstorm a work-related issue in person in order to get their cogs rolling.
Blending personalities may not always go smoothly, but in understanding the needs of the other it’s easier to find opportunities for the two to blend together cohesively.
The Importance of Company Culture
At first, I took a lot of things personally. Why didn’t my friends want to be around me? It was hard to understand their need for being alone when I felt lost in my need to be social.
I withdrew in frustration, but in reality I needed to learn how to cope with my company culture. Each culture is different, and I just hadn’t experienced one that didn’t mirror my personality yet. My company culture is the way it is because it’s mirroring our job requirements and the personality type of most of the people working there. I was the outlier, not the majority. I had to adjust to my culture instead of expecting it to adjust to me.
It’s hard to balance needing social interaction with being a bit shy, which I am. I don’t fit the bill for an extrovert perfectly, but I do enjoy communicating by talking, and I do feel isolated by too much time spent alone. Does that mean I have no problem being the centre of attention or running up to anyone to strike up a conversation? Absolutely not. And so, it was about finding aspects of my company’s culture to fix my seclusion.
Potlucks, brainstorming sessions, and taking advantage of chat conversations, even if they weren’t face-to-face, have all helped me to feel less alone.
The Right Environment for Everyone
Offering an array of different options for employees in terms of environment is a great way to promote high levels of productivity. Everyone works a little differently, so allowing seasoned employees the opportunity to work from home is important for them as well as the company’s overall goals, even if it leaves some employees feeling under-stimulated as a result.
There was an 80% increase in people working from home from 2005 to 2012 alone, which is not only helping employees work better, but it’s also helping costs. It’s something millennials cite as one of the most important perks a company can offer, which is probably why it’s becoming more common for companies to offer it.
For me, surprise, I don’t work well from home. Not only am I less productive, but the seclusion is even more overwhelming at home than it is in the office. The important thing here is to remember that everyone needs something a little different.
For an extrovert working in an office full of introverts, it is difficult to find a middle ground. It’s possible to make people leave you alone, but it’s not as easy to make people interact with you. Instead of feeling frustrated by being unable to find a middle ground among you and your co-workers, you may need to find other ways to fulfil your need to communicate with others.
Finding your Happy Medium
It’s taken me a few years in my position to accept that I may not get everything I need from my co-workers. However, the options are to find another job, feel lonely forever, or adapt. I love the work I do, and I don’t want to feel lonely forever, so adapting has been my only option. If I’m feeling especially lonely at work, I’ve gotten used to getting up and walking away from my desk. It’s amazing how much a change of scenery can leave you feeling more refreshed and stimulated.
From personal experience, my advice for coping as an extrovert in an introverted workplace is:
Attend work related functions, go to meetings, or focus on turning solitude into productivity. Listen to a podcast, make plans after work, or allow chat conversations to fill some of your void. Also, remember that work isn’t your life – it’s only an aspect of life. Focus on filling days off or hours after work surrounded with friends or family. Your happy medium may be having alone time at work, and social time on the weekends. With time, you may even learn to enjoy the silence.
I’ve always found myself somewhere in the middle, feeling inspired and livened around others but also feeling drained if the social settings are too new or too large. Perhaps a large portion of people are ambiverts and find themselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
At work I definitely find myself playing an introvert despite my gnawing extrovert tendencies. Fortunately, by learning to understand other personalities, accepting your own company’s culture, being aware of other people’s preferred work environments, and finding ways to adapt on your own, you can still be a happy extrovert working as an introvert.