๐Ÿ˜ถ [Relationship Series] An Introvert at Work

15 April 2022

Today, as a content writer in the creative industry, my responsibilities include not just planning and writing content from the safety of my desk, but also getting out there and engaging with clients, joining in various meetings for content feedback and actively helping in brainstorming for creative solutions. For somebody who can feel a little overwhelmed by fast-changing schedules and projects, I still find fun in what I do, especially when I can see my work published somewhere (also with the condition that I find peace at home, hanging out with my family and friends, and of course my cats).

Working can be really scary at first and when something unexpectedly new pops up, my first instinct is to internally panic before I aim for the steering wheel and take action. But with time, I start to do that less and less, and instead give myself some space to learn new things about the person I call “Me” and how best I can adapt, with my introvertedness and all. 

I’m a proud “work in progress” introvert. I believe that we don’t have to hate ourselves for being who we are or camouflage among the extroverts to look like we’re contributing. We bring value to the workplace in our own way too. What we need is to recognise our values and take advantage of our natural strengths. 

In this article, I hope to offer awareness of my experience balancing between working and staying true to my introvertedness for others to relate to. Believe it or not, we're not alone.

5 Things I Learned From My Working Experience As An Introvert 

There are More Introverts at the Workplace than We Think

Basically, we’re not alone! According to Susan Cain, author of the international best-seller, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, introverts make up a third to a half of the workforce. That’s roughly between 35-40% of the population consisting of quiet introverts like us. 

But why does it sometimes feel like it’s hard to spot an introvert at work? 

It’s because for some of us, we manage to hide our introvertedness and live as the ideal extrovert. Personally for me, I never hide that part about me since it’s just written all over my face. Hiding it would be a futile effort on my part. The surprising part was that my officemates made it clear from day one that they were mostly introverts as well. I felt right at home.

  • The countries with the highest percentage of introverted top executives and senior managers: Singapore 53%, Zambia 53%, Malaysia 51%, Russia 48%.

I’m Not Shy or Afraid of People (sometimes)

I resonate thoroughly with Suzi Swartz in her article where she expressed the stigma surrounding introverts and how people tend to mix up introverted and shy together, when in fact, if you’re an introvert, you view the two things very differently. 

I’ve been labelled “shy and quiet” all my life. Open up any of my school reports during Teacher-Parents Day and the first thing that appears in the headline and report summary: “Syazwani is a reserved and quiet student”, and basically there was something clearly wrong with that.  I am an introvert and a quite shy one at that, but it's not always the case for all occasions.

The problem is that because of this stigma, it also confused me to think that I'm naturally always shy around people. On the contrary, my extroverted jobs have pushed me to almost effortlessly talk to people when I need to, make calls, lead projects/presentations. But once that is over, I find my safe space again and recharge.

I Need My Own Space to Focus on Work

I’m one of those people who values privacy a lot, especially now that I’m working with tight deadlines to meet and responding to calls for fresh ideas. I prefer being alone in a quiet environment while working, either at the office or in my room when I’m WFH because it offers me zero disturbances while all the creative ideas are zooming in my brain. I noticed that I worry a lot less about being watched when I’m left alone (overthinking issues pop up a lot when this happens).

Of course, I can be flexible and do extroverts’ way of working, but it takes me longer to complete those tasks (especially when I’m not prepared) and socially recover.

Give Me Time to Digest New Information

As an introvert, I do my best when I’m thinking alone, especially when a load of new information is given to me. I need the time-off to decompress and digest it before I can give my own input towards it. 

Based on my experience, after I’m allowed to reflect and think through quietly, my input that comes afterwards tends to be more thoughtful, carrying more weight than when I’m rushed and throwing whatever ideas I have on the top of my head.

I Know My Limits and When Not to Overextend Myself

I’m an infuriating perfectionist, and an introvert at the same time. 

The combo doesn't always go hand-in-hand, especially when I’m absorbing a lot of work, taking no breaks and social battery charging time because I don’t know what my boundaries are. As introverts, we need to think for ourselves a little more so that we can maintain a healthy, less tiring relationship with our work. I know we love our work, but stretching ourselves too thin won’t do anyone good.

These limits include:
  • Knowing what time of the day you’re most productive and when you need recharge
  • Recognising factors that distract you at the office or when WFH
  • Being aware of when to limit in-person interactions and go offline; texting and emails

Overall, as an introvert who has almost exclusively worked in extroverted jobs, there’s no reason to adopt a different persona just to match with the vibe at our workplace. If we can find the balance between our introverted nature and our career, we definitely can find the balance we need without feeling guilty of being an introvert.

If you recognise yourself in what I shared, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned through having extroverted jobs in the comment section.


Read these articles for more information:

  1. Introverted? Here Are 13 Ways To Make Your Personal Brand Shine (forbes.com)

  2. An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving on the Job - Guides - The New York Times (nytimes.com)


2 comments

  1. I am ambivert person. I need all what u said in this post. I also cannot focus to work when there are people surrounding me.

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    1. It can be distracting to have to not listen to people talking at the workplace, especially when you can't block it out. Doing work in those moments can be a real challenge XD Would be best if there's quiet, focus corner for the peeps who need it.

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