How To Navigate The Workplace: A Practical Guide For Introverts - Introvert Spring

introvert work advice

How did your day go?

When we have a bad day at the office, it can be tempting to blame our frustrations directly on the people who we think are the instigators. Unfortunately, this cycle of blame and spite towards our coworkers will only grind us down further as introverts, and will never let us address the primary source of our frustrations: the work environment itself.

For over ten years of my career, I worked in an office, and one of my biggest pet peeves was not being able to seek out practical advice about dealing with workplace stress when I needed it the most. As an introvert, I couldn’t see a clear way to navigate through my challenges in the workplace in an effective and sustainable way. While my coworkers seemed to be able to at least tolerate the workplace, I found myself up against an impossible set of circumstances, until I realized one simple truth:

The workplace is not a place of work for introverts!

Fundamentally, once you accept that the work environment is better suited for extraverts than introverts, you’ll begin to understand the motivations of some of your colleagues when they try to distract and suck the life out of you. They are simply responding to their own incentive to maximize their productivity in the work environment, and in most cases they have no idea that their attitudes and behaviours have such an impact on some of the people around them.

Accept your work environment for what it is, and accept that your own needs are just as important as those of your coworkers.

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with distractions at the office, try to reclaim some quiet space by booking a meeting room for a couple of hours. If that isn’t an option, try to zone out for a few minutes (or hours) by putting on some headphones and listening to some of your favourite instrumental music. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your productivity can increase when you learn to master your environment.

Find your innie groove

At the office, we’re all too familiar with the stereotypical “worker bee” personalities, who always seem to be inundated and overscheduled with work.

At the start of my career I often admired these types of people, who I assumed were the most productive people in the office. As I tried to emulate these behaviours in my own work, however, I eventually realized that looking and acting busy was just a big distraction to my creative process.

As introverts, we can be just as productive as anybody else in the office, however we are most productive and creative when we place our entire focus inwards.

The next time you are faced with a mountain of work at the office, try to get disconnected from the outside world temporarily, and forget about the “big picture”. Carve out some innie time. Give yourself permission to forget about any deadlines you may have, and what your colleagues told you earlier in the day.

You’ll be surprised what amazing ideas can come out of the deep ocean of your mind, when you’re temporarily not focusing on what’s happening up at the surface.

Deal with groups by respecting your own needs

It is practically inevitable that some of your day-to-day work will require you to interact with others. Extraverts are verbal processors, so there is often a misinformed bias in the workplace towards approaching problem solving as a group activity.

After working for several years in group-work friendly environments, I realized that introverts will always be at a disadvantage in these types of situations, simply because we are not verbal processors. We need time on our own to synthesize information, and develop creative solutions.

The next time you find yourself in this type of situation, I would recommend that you say less, and create more. Be a little selfish with your time, and actively try to encourage less dialog with your peers. Replace the word “but..” with the word “and..” in your sentences. Give yourself the time to develop your own ideas more fully before sharing them with your peers, and when you do share them, try to make or show something practical, in order to encourage the group discussion to move in your direction.

Multitasking is not for introverts

Multitasking is the idea that people are more productive when working on multiple things at the same time. Although it is something that is feared by introverts, it has been around the office long enough that I think it has some merits that cannot be ignored.

If you are an extravert, multitasking can be a great source of stimulation to boost your energy levels during a hectic work day. Unfortunately, the same is not true at all for introverts.

Multitasking can be an intoxicant for introverts, for the same reason that can be an enabler of productivity for extraverts. Regardless of this, you absolutely need to defend your own space and time for creativity, if you want to do your best work.

The next time you are faced with laundry list of projects and deadlines, try to visualize each major task in your mind as a separate “folder”, which you are only allowed to open and work on if all of your other folders are closed. Even if you have one or more tasks in an unfinished state on any given day, you’ll be surprised at how much your productivity increases when you give yourself permission to focus on just one task at a time. It is truly an amazing experience.

Be proud of your introversion, embrace your strengths

When your loud and gregarious colleagues are getting all of the attention at the office, it can be easy to forget that you have just as much to offer to your employer, even if those contributions may sometimes go unnoticed. Treat this as a gift.

For many of the reasons already discussed, sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is to go unnoticed, so our ideas can be fully developed before we need to share them with anybody else. If you are comfortable working alone, embrace this, and if possible, set this expectation with your manager so they can try to be on the same page as you.

Together, as proud introverts, we can redefine the status quo at the office, and build a better and more productive work environment for everybody. We are excellent problem solvers. We are visionaries. We just need to put our (innie) minds to it!

TwitterProfile-CL-nologo-240-May2014

Phillip Richard is a software consultantmusic producer andintrovert blogger. He is passionate about discovering creative solutions to unique problems, and expanding the limits of everyday technology to help people reach their goals.  As a proud introvert, he is dedicated to helping others discover the online introvert community, and its amazing people and resources, as they make their way in their life and careers. @WorkingQuietly