An Introvert’s Guide to Office Survival

It’s no secret that our culture reveres the bold, the talkative, the spontaneous, and the decisive. These larger-than-life “extrovert qualities” are often necessary but hardly sufficient for business success. Famous introverts such as Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Marissa Mayer and Warren Buffett are often the ones that contribute the most creative ideas, demonstrate the greatest passion and deliver the most prescient strategic insights. 

If you are an introvert like me, you know the daily struggle to thrive in environments designed around the extrovert ideal. However if you don’t take the initiative to deploy strategies that ensure the environment also works for you, a typical workday may eventually take a toll on your energy, self-esteem and even your career. Here are 10 tips for thriving without compromise. 


Don’t succumb to pressure to become an extrovert. Any such attempt is likely to come off as disingenuous, undermine your confidence and render you less effective. Introverts possess uniquely valuable traits. Harness and embrace what makes you different and use it to benefit the organization. 


You probably had to leave your introvert comfort zone to land the job in the first place. Once there, it can be beneficial to have an open conversation with your supervisor and close colleagues about your work style. This will make them less likely to perceive you as antisocial, but rather as a deeply focused get-it-done type. 


Introversion is not a license to be slow, late or aloof. Your job is to deliver value to the organization. Figure out how you work best then get sh*t done. If you focus on output and always meet your deadlines and obligations, the nuances of your work style will matter less and less. 


Introverts often need more time to process and synthesize information. Don’t feel pressured to provide instant feedback. If you need a few minutes alone with the information to provide your most considered response or recommendation, let your colleagues know that, then be sure to follow through ASAP.  


There is something to the ideal of the strong silent type. In a group meeting, don’t feel like you have to chime in on everything being discussed. Be attentive, absorb what’s being said and speak up only when you have something of value to contribute. Your colleagues will increasingly see you as confident, measured and thoughtful. 


Introverts often express themselves better in writing. If you are in that camp, use email when possible. It will give you time to synthesize your thoughts and be more articulate than when trying to speak extemporaneously. But beware, bosses and colleagues never want to read a rambling novel. Get to the point, clearly and succinctly.  


As introverts, we tend to be more sensitive to stimuli so the modern noisy office environment can adversely affect your productivity. Invest in some good noise-cancelling headphones. But be proactive in letting your colleagues and employees know it’s not a “don’t bother me” sign, but rather just a tool to aid in concentration. 


Eight or more hours in a busy office can be exhausting for anyone but it’s particularly so for introverts. If you are an early riser, consider coming into work early and savor the quiet time to get things done. You can also schedule mini escapes throughout the day. Whether booking a conference room for a half-hour to work in silence, or scheduling a couple of 15 minute walks outside, these can help you recharge and ultimately be more creative and productive. 


Happy hours, group lunches, dinners, book clubs, sports leagues – there is no shortage of social invitations in office environments. This can be daunting for someone who doesn’t care for small talk and needs time alone to recharge. But social events can help you build stronger relationships with your colleagues, establish trust, find common ground, and grow in your career. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation, but be sure to say yes sometimes. 


Not all introverts are alike. We all reside somewhere on the spectrum from introvert to ambivert to extrovert. The more self-awareness you have, the more successfully you’ll be able to navigate and grow in your career. Consider reading Susan Cain’s excellent book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” or download the audiobook. You may also wish to talk to your HR team or Learning & Development Manager about taking the DISC profile test. Many companies will pay for you and your colleagues to take the DISC test which can run $40-60 per person. Having taken Myers-Briggs and countless other tests over the last 20 years, I consider DISC to be by far the best, most accurate and most actionable personal assessment tool available.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash


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