July 19, 2019

The introvert's guide to the modern workplace

Daily Briefing

    The noisy, bustling modern workplace can be a tough environment for introverts—but by following a few simple principles, introverts can set themselves up for success while remaining true to their personalities, writes Morra Aarons-Mele, author and founder of a social impact agency, in the New York Times.

    The many types of introversion

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    Introversion can present itself in many different ways. For instance, Aarons-Mele writes, some introverts are "shy and avoid being out there" in general, while others specifically "fear situations in which they have to interact with people they don't know or address a crowd."

    On the other hand, some introverts, such as Oprah and comedian Amy Schumer, "love to perform" but then "need quiet time to regenerate after," Aarons-Mele writes.

    Regardless of your type of introversion, being an introvert is "not a bad thing—but it may mean creating success on your terms," she writes.

    Office survival tips for introverts

    In particular, two key strategies can help introverts succeed at work, Aarons-Mele writes.

    1) Identify and set boundaries. "As an introvert, you may feel triggered by sitting through too many meetings without a break, a lack of physical space or privacy, bright lights, loud noise or work demands that invade your personal time at night and on weekends," Aarons-Mele writes.

    To find out what your limits are, Aarons-Mele recommends you ask yourself probing questions, such as:

    • Do you feel more productive around people or alone?
    • Is there a certain time of day you feel most productive?
    • If you work on weekends, do you feel resentful?

    Once you identify your work limits, you can establish boundaries using a method Aarons-Mele calls "Pace, Place, Space." Here's how it works.

    • Change your pace. Depending upon your job, you may not have to work eight straight hours each day, Aarons-Mele writes. Instead, think strategically about your work and try to break it up into "chunks" that leaves you with some quiet or down time. Perhaps, Aarons-Mele explains, "an ideal week would have you tightly scheduled for two days, followed by a quiet day with less face-to-face time. Or you may prefer an intense 9-5 day."

    • Work in a different place. If you're having trouble at work, you may be more productive in a different work environment, Aarons-Mele writes. Try scouting out a different spot in the office so you can have more privacy, or head to your favorite coffee shop for a change of scenery.

    • Create personal space. While some workplaces expect employees to always be accessible by email, Slack message, or text, introverts may "find off-hours communication … extremely jarring." To prevent yourself from burning out, be sure to set limits, either by "reminding your colleagues of your off hours, telling someone you need personal space, or discouraging co-workers from dropping by to chat by wearing headphones," Aarons-Mele writes.

    2) Make the most of meetings. Meetings can be especially "challenging" for introverts, as they may find it difficult to speak up to have their ideas heard, Aarons-Mele writes. Still, a few tactics can help:

    • Make your presence known. At meetings, introverts should "resist the urge to shrink into the background" and, instead, make it known that they are in the room. "Arrive early, take a prominent seat and lean into the table talk, even if it's painful. It's only for a few minutes," Aarons-Mele writes.

    • Follow up. If you don't get a chance to speak during the meeting, or feel put on the spot to speak and don't know how to respond, say you'll think it over and follow up. "Then write something brilliant to email later," Aarons-Mele writes. "You'll get the last word."

    • Talk early. Speaking at the start of a meeting can help you "[e]stablish your presence in the room," according to Aarons-Mele. It may also relieve any pressure to speak for the rest of the meeting.

    • Pre-meet. You can also consider meeting with stakeholders before the meeting. "Make your opinion known to the meeting leader beforehand, so it's easier to get heard in the actual meeting," Aarons-Mele writes.

    "Remember: It's O.K. to own your boundaries and claim your personal style," Aarons-Mele concludes. "Leave the party early. Turn off the lights. Be alone and be happy" (Aarons-Mele, New York Times, accessed 7/15).

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