An Introvert Goes (Back) to Work
Right now, it feels as though I’ve been thrown dead-center into Dave & Busters, a cacophony of sounds and dazzling overstimulation whirling about that keeps me from getting even the smallest amount of concentration going.I yearn for the fortress that was my apartment, back when I was working from home, alone with my thoughts, my tasks, my deadlines. Here I am, back in my cubicle, where the peaceful solitude I’d grown so accustomed to is gone, as if it never happened.
I’m awash again in small talk, speakerphone madness, and “quick meetings.” How did I ever get any work done here?
Re-entry anxiety is real
For an introvert, the quarantine was a backhanded godsend. Instantly gone were the social distractions of working in an office, replaced by a peaceful, interruption-free workspace at home. And some studies show that up to 50% of the population self-identify as being introverts, although there are definitely degrees on the spectrum — very few of us are unilaterally introverted or extroverted.
According to Introvertdear.com, “And why might such a high percentage of introverts be dreading the return to in-person work? According to Truity, 50 percent of working professionals identify as introverts and 96 percent of leaders and managers identify as extroverts. ‘While the population as a whole is pretty evenly divided between extraverts and introverts, it’s key to remember that extraverts are more likely to fill leadership roles — and, thus, more likely to make policies that suit their work style,’ says Molly Owens, CEO and founder of Truity.
So, in other words, many of the things that make working from home so blissful for us introverts — quiet, alone time, and space to focus and think — are things that get overlooked in workplaces run by extroverts who may not be aware of these introvert necessities. While their practical listening skills and keen sense of observation can, of course, make introverts excellent leaders, much of the contemporary workspace is not set up for introverts to naturally succeed.”
Yes, introverts are struggling with re-entry into being back “at” work. But unless you consider yourself an introvert, this might not be all that apparent to you. All you might be thinking is how great it is to be back to normal and back among people again. Yet there are some who may be struggling with the idea.
Working with an introvert
True introverts process things differently. They need more mind-clearing, more space, more autonomy than people who are more extroverted. They tend to struggle with being put “on the spot” for small talk, status updates, and speaking to a full room. Zoom meetings and online conferences on Slack were their refuge. But honestly, even those weren’t always comfortable at first.
So approach someone who shows tendencies of being an introvert with care as they acclimate to the office environment. They need some space, and time, to readjust to being back in the thick of things. Resist the urge to catch up on everything that’s gone on during the past year or so of distance. They were just fine coping with that, thank you. The stress for them instead begins again now.
Don Seaman spends his professional life trying to put the alphabet into the right order to construct coherent thoughts that people can read. Now he does that for Surprise. You can find out more about this failed musician and retired superhero on LinkedIn and Twitter.