Succeeding As An Introvert: 10 Tips To Thrive at the Office

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Is an open floor plan at the office right for you?

CC Image Courtesy of Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

Does the idea of answering questions on the fly, spending days in meetings, and having frequent work-related group outings make you uncomfortable? If so, you’re likely an introvert. At the office, many situations — conferences, drive-by questions, and after-work drinks — play to extroverts’ strengths. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking comments, “Introverts feel most alive and energized when they’re in environments that are less stimulating–not less intellectually stimulating, but less going on.”

But despite this, it’s easy for introverts to flourish in the office, given their dedicated, focused approach to work, and their ability to listen closely to coworkers and bosses. Discover ten ways to thrive in the workplace as an introverted person.

Choose the right job for you

Introverts tend to work best alone, with limited interruptions and lots of head-down, focused project time. Pick your job accordingly: A position requiring tons of travel time, frequent group projects, or a meeting-driven culture will tend not to be a good spot.

Seek out the right culture

Introverts often prefer working independently, rather than in a group. But consider seeking out team-oriented companies; since introverts tend to avoid self-promotion, a non-competitive atmosphere, with no horn-tooting required, can be ideal.

Companies with a work-from-home option can also be beneficial for introverts — having the option to work at home a day a week, in an environment under your own control, can be helpful after a meeting and conversation-filled week at the office.

During interviews, check the floor plan

Open office plans can be a challenge for introverts, leading to disruptive, loud conversations. On the flip side, though, many cubicle-free offices become zones of headphones and instant messenger programs, in recognition that constant chatter makes getting things done difficult for all kinds of employees.

Control your schedule

Own your calendar. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, blocks out time on his calendar. For Weiner, these meeting-free buffers allow him to think long-term strategy and  avoid getting caught in the hustle-bustle of days spent bouncing from one meeting room into another. Spend a few minutes, either daily or once a week, looking ahead to your upcoming schedule: Are you in constant meetings? Block off some time in your calendar to recharge, whether by sitting alone in your office, or going for a quick walk around the block.

Plan ahead for meetings — often, introverts dislike the feeling of being on the spot. The best way to avoid that is to prepare for conversations and meetings.

Manage your space

You won’t always have a ton of control over where you sit at work, whether it’s a cubicle, office, or desk in an open work area. If it’s a headphone-friendly environment, consider getting oversized ones to send the signal that you’d rather avoid conversation.

Don’t hide your preferences

No need to wear a sign saying “I’m an introvert.” That would be, well, awkward! But there are more subtle ways you can let people know how you work best. Not a fan of speaking up at meetings? Email key players with your ideas the next day. Bothered by frequent interruptions? Encourage coworkers to IM you — and just avoid responding to the blinking message until you’ve wrapped up your project.

Don’t be afraid to be honest and manage expectations; in general, managers want their employees to be happy and satisfied, not burdened under uncomfortable expectations.

Be social when it counts

Foster work relationships by playing on your own terms as much as possible — avoid big birthday lunches in favor of one-on-one lunch dates, and grab coffee a few times a week with one or two coworkers.

You don’t have to go to every big event, but do remember that chugging through a to-do list efficiently isn’t the only way that employees get ahead. Showing some facetime and being socially engaged can make a difference to success in your career and position. If nearly everyone at the office is talking about the holiday party, show up!

Use your strengths

Think it’s just extraverts who get ahead? Not true! Introverts are likely to be thoughtful, learn through observation, and appreciate the details–in an office, a worker with the focus and follow-through that usually accompanies these qualities is of a high value. Embrace the positive qualities that accompany your introversion.

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