Feather & Flint

15 Strengths & Struggles for Introverts at Work

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January 13, 2017 60 Comments

In many work environments, being an introvert is similar to being left-handed: Though we represent a sizable portion of the population, the world simply wasn’t built for us. However, thanks to speakers like Susan Cain and her Quiet Revolution, our society is beginning to realize its bias toward extroverts—and its desperate need for the gifts that introverts can bring to the table:

8 Strengths of Introverts at Work

We’re insightful & empathetic.

When you listen more than you speak, you take in so much more data about other people—information that gets drowned out when you’re constantly figuring out what to say next. We pick up the subtle hints that others give us about who they are and what they care about. Other people are surprised and touched by how well we understand them, seemingly without even trying—but it’s because we’re actually paying attention to the details that most people miss. People begin to associate us with the feeling of being listened to and cared about—and that will always pay off in the long run.

We’re self-motivated.

We love the feeling of being completely immersed in work that we enjoy. We still crave downtime to relax and chat with coworkers; but we don’t require as much external stimulation as others do. We’re happiest when we’re able to work autonomously at our own pace, without constant interruptions or unnecessary supervision. This makes us incredibly easy to manage, because we’ll basically do it for you!

We’re leaders of a different sort.

We can be fantastic leaders when given the chance. We won’t seize power—we’ll start quietly leading those around us through mentorship, encouragement, wisdom, and inspiration. We value others’ perspectives and respect their autonomy. We keep our egos in check, and we don’t take risks without thinking them through. The world needs introverted leaders now more than ever.

We’re team-oriented.

We’re some of the best coworkers you could ever ask for. Rather than vying for the spotlight or to make our voices heard, we’re supportive, collaborative, and focused on those around us. We still need to feel appreciated and enjoy having our efforts recognized; but it’s a bonus, not our primary goal.

We’re eloquent & thoughtful.

Speaking without thinking will never be an issue for us. We speak with intention, and because of this, our words carry more weight. We’re known for our wisdom and poise because we always take the time to think things through and word our thoughts carefully. Contrary to the stereotype, we can be incredibly charismatic public speakers—as long as we’re given ample opportunity to gather our thoughts first.

We’re introspective.

We know ourselves on a level that others can’t even comprehend. We reconsider our strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, and future goals on a daily (if not hourly) basis. We’re equally in touch with our shadow selves and our aspirations, keeping us oriented and grounded in reality.

We’re writers by nature.

It’s easier for us to communicate from a distance, where we can weigh an issue carefully before crafting a response. Where others struggle to translate their thoughts into writing, we truly shine.

We strive to please.

We care about expressing ourselves well and incorporating others’ feedback. We’re rarely careless or callous. We’re so tuned in to others’ experiences and perceptions of us that we simply can’t help it! For our coworkers and our managers, this is a huge plus. However, we can put our desire for others’ approval ahead of our own priorities; if left unchecked, this can spiral out of control.

Introverts at Work: 15 Strengths & Struggles | Feather & Flint

7 Struggles for Introverts at Work

We’re sensitive.

Even if we know you’re giving us constructive feedback for our own benefit, we may still need a little time to process and accept what we’ve heard. Our characteristic sensitivity makes it almost impossible for us to not take criticism personally. The upside (and downside) of this is that we will never forget what you tell us—we internalize your feedback and take it very seriously.

We’re anxious.

We sometimes find situations challenging that others might find completely normal. We secretly despise open office layouts—we feel so exposed and unable to focus. We dread making small talk, whether in the elevator or at networking events, because it feels awkward and forced. However, we love connecting with people through deeper conversations about things we both care about—and we can often be mistaken for extroverts in these moments!

We don’t like interruptions.

We’re easily distracted by external stimuli; and while we might be too nice to say anything, we get very frustrated with constant interruptions when we’re trying to concentrate. Workplaces where people are constantly striking up conversations or breaking up the day with unnecessary meetings make it almost impossible for us to engage in deep thought. (But when we’re in the mood to chat, we just might talk your ear off!)

We can be quiet.

We’re sometimes drowned out by louder or more persistent voices. Sometimes, when we’re quiet in meetings, it’s because we think through our responses so carefully that we decide they’re not worth stating out loud. Other times, we know that we have the best idea in the room, but we’d rather not have to vie for attention in order to speak our minds. When we’re in an environment where we know we’re respected and our ideas can make a difference, however, we’ll speak up just as often as our extroverted counterparts.

We hate being put on the spot.

Don’t ask us to come up with brilliant ideas on a moment’s notice. When we’re surrounded by people, all waiting for us to come up with an answer out of thin air, our brains literally fill up with white noise. The work-around is so easy—just send out the prompt ahead of time and ask everyone to bring their ideas to the meeting. We’ll blow your minds with our well-thought-out suggestions every time—just give us that chance!

We can seem aloof.

We know that we can be difficult to get to know, but we don’t mean to be. We’re just as gregarious as extroverts—we just need more time to warm up before we’re ready to put ourselves out there. When we start a new job, breaking into an existing group feels like an insurmountable challenge; we want you to like us so much that we sometimes stay quiet rather than risk saying the wrong thing. Just wait—once we feel comfortable, we just might be the best coworker you’ve ever had.

We need to recharge.

Whereas extroverts feel energized after social interactions, we need some time to regain our energy. It’s not that we don’t enjoy socializing just as much as extroverts do—we truly come to life when we’re engaged in passionate conversations with like minds. However, we purposely leave space in our schedules to recharge after social occasions; if we’re forced to sacrifice this, we won’t be operating at full capacity until we’ve had a break.

Introverts at Work: 15 Strengths & Struggles | Feather & Flint

Are you an introvert? What are your biggest strengths & struggles, and what have your experiences been as introverts at work? Tell your stories in the comments!

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Next, read the original story and more great content for introverts at work on The Introvert Boss Network.

 

60 Comments

  1. Reply

    Summer @ Coffee With Summer

    January 16, 2017

    This is 100% spot on! Love this! I need to share!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Thank you so much, Summer – so glad it resonated with you!!

  2. Reply

    Julia

    January 16, 2017

    This is so true! And since I’m fairly new to the workforce, I think it’s interesting to see my strengths and struggles at work compared to when I was at school. I’m a quintessential introvert and I always thought that I wasn’t team oriented because I DESPISED group work in school because I would always get stuck doing all the work, but it’s totally different in the office and I’m definitely more team oriented now!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Thanks, Julia – so happy it rang true for you! I actually found the same thing – I hated group projects because I’d get stuck doing the bulk of the work, too, and also because of how awkward and forced the interaction felt. But being on strong teams as an adult has been the total opposite experience for me – I find myself stepping up into leadership positions in a way that feels so natural, and it’s the best!

  3. Reply

    margo

    January 16, 2017

    Yay for introverts! 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Yay! Thanks, Margo 🙂

  4. Reply

    Sarah Jean althouse

    January 16, 2017

    Yes to the good and the bad! My strengths as an introvert are writing, observant, fill-in-the-gaps, only speak when I have something good to say! Weaknesses are definitely that I get drained.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      I’m so glad you found this accurate – thanks, Sarah!

  5. Reply

    Abbey

    January 16, 2017

    Girl, YES! This is perfect! I love that you included all of those strengths instead of just struggles, because we really have so much to offer! 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      I am so happy to hear that! I definitely think that introverts have more positive traits than difficulties – it’s just a matter of owning your differences! Thanks, Abbey 🙂

  6. Reply

    nicole

    January 16, 2017

    This is spot-on! One challenge I face in my new job is interruptions. I no longer have my “own space,” like I did at my last job, so it can be challenging to focus. To accommodate myself, I’ve made the break room my “office” and my co-workers know it’s my office. It seems to work well when I need to go somewhere and get something accomplished.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Awesome!! I definitely miss having a cubicle like I did at my first job – sitting in an open office is slowly killing me. My new job has “focus rooms,” which I should really start taking advantage of for days when I need to pound out an article! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  7. Reply

    Michelle Koch

    January 16, 2017

    This sums me up. I was an outside sales person in an office pretty full of extroverts and it was exhausting. At the time I had a boss who liked impromptu brainstorming and role-playing, which both made me cringe. I was good at my job, so she eventually (thankfully) caught on to skip me in the role playing and wait on my good ideas until the meeting was over and I’d had time to think about the question.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Wow, that sounds exhausting!! I’m so glad that as a writer, I’m generally surrounded by other introverts & creatives who have similar temperaments. But when I worked at Starbucks in college, having to perform as an extrovert for 8 hours a day was honestly like torture! I got so burned out that I only made it 6 months, because there was literally no way around it. By the end, I’d be begging my managers to let me unload boxes & organize inventory in the back room just to get away!

  8. Reply

    Bria | Tendril Wild Blog

    January 16, 2017

    Ahh, I relate to this SO much, Robin.

    I’ve often felt incompetent in a group, surrounded by extroverts, where it feels like I won’t be understood and/or respected in the way that I really want to be. It’s hard, and I used to think it sucked to an introvert because I found it so difficult to connect with others.

    But over the past few years, I’ve started to come into my own and realize that being introverted is truly a blessing in disguise. 🙂 I love being an introvert, and I feel that I have one of the most unique + thoughtful perspectives on the world around me.

    Thank you for this! Saving this post on Pinterest to revisit whenever I’m having a weak moment, haha.

    (Also, Susan Cain is AMAZING. Love her.)

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Thank you so much, Bria!! I am SO happy to have found so many women who resonate with this so much. It’s a sign of how underappreciated we are as introverts that we all feel like we have these struggles–and the positive qualities, but they aren’t being properly recognized.
      I’ve found that I do best in groups where I’m comfortable enough to appear to be an extrovert, but where my sense of humor is appreciated just as much as my introspection & insight. I’ve been lucky enough to find that a few times in my life when I’m surrounded by other creatives! It’s all about being comfortable with your weaknesses AND your strengths–because the only introverts I’ve ever had trouble connecting with are those who are deeply uncomfortable with who they are.
      Thanks for your comment–I’ll be leaving you a bunch on your amazing blog, too!

  9. Reply

    Rose

    January 16, 2017

    I second Abbey’s comments! There is so much focus on the negatives of introverts and what they can do to change. Their strengths should definitely be celebrated!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 16, 2017

      Thank you, Rose!! I think we’re getting better as a society of ~theoretically~ appreciating introverts, but when it comes to choosing an introvert over an extrovert in a job interview… we still have a long way to go.

  10. Reply

    Kirstie

    January 17, 2017

    This is really well-thought out – it would be great reading for any manager or company owner whose looking to better connect with their employees. I also love the tweets @IntrovertLiving – there’s some fun ones.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      Thanks, Kirstie! I totally agree–the more we get the word out about introverts’ strengths, as well as the things that they hate, the better!!

  11. Reply

    Mr Grumbert

    January 17, 2017

    That’s a very interesting post! Not only of you are introvert but also when having to deal with one.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      That’s exactly what I was hoping – thank you for reading!

  12. Reply

    Everyday Joey

    January 17, 2017

    This is perfect! They are all so true, I love your perspective 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      I am so glad it feels on-point to you–thank you so much! 🙂

  13. Reply

    Neha kumari

    January 17, 2017

    This is so true. Love everything. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      I am so glad that you connected with it – thank you so much for reading!

  14. Reply

    Marcie

    January 17, 2017

    This is exactly how I felt working all throughout my twenties! People assumed I was an extrovert because I organized large-scale events and was very excited about my job, but they didn’t realize that I needed to be alone in my office for hours to recharge enough to do it all over again. Great post!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      Hi Marcie – same here! People who only see me when I’m in my element never believe that I’m an introvert, but they don’t realize that it’s only because I’m super comfortable in that particular environment (and that I go home and take a nap afterwards!). Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  15. Reply

    Sarah @ Now One Foot

    January 17, 2017

    Oh man are those struggles spot on! I love this strength the most I think: “We won’t seize power—we’ll start quietly leading those around us through mentorship, encouragement, wisdom, and inspiration.” Definitely a big difference I’ve noticed between introverts and extroverts in the office.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      I am so happy that this felt true to your experience (and not just mine!). The leadership thing has been a huge learning experience for me throughout my career – I knew that I was compelled to lead every team that I’ve been on, but I wanted to go about it in a very different way than anyone else that I’d seen. Thank you so much for your comment!

  16. Reply

    Mindy

    January 17, 2017

    Thank you! This list sums it up perfectly.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      I’m so happy it rang true for you! Thanks, Mindy 🙂

  17. Reply

    Ailie

    January 17, 2017

    As an introvert, I loved your post and can relate to everything you have said. I have found though that at the office, I have had to force myself to come across more “extroverted” since I am dealing with people regularly. I do find this very draining and am often desperate for that downtime. Another thing I have experienced personally (not sure if its an introverted thing) is that being an introvert, people don’t always seem to take me seriously or I feel looked over. Because of this, I have also had to learn to use my voice more by expressing myself and standing up for my healthy boundaries.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 17, 2017

      Thank you so much, Ailie – I am SO glad you loved it, that means a lot to me! I definitely do feel like being successful at work is a constant balancing act between acting like an extrovert to get ahead and form relationships, and then setting introvert-friendly boundaries so your success is sustainable. It takes a lot for an introvert to confront managers & coworkers about their boundaries, though, so I bet a lot of us have put up with unhealthy situations for too long before we found our voices. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

  18. Reply

    candy

    January 18, 2017

    We all have struggles don’t over look anyone ..We all have something to share and give.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 18, 2017

      So true – thanks, Candy!

  19. Reply

    Becky

    January 18, 2017

    YES to all of these things! I have spent so much time wishing I were an extrovert and wasted energy trying to become one, but recognizing my introvertedness and focusing on using my strengths has been such a game-changer! I really love your list of strengths. I’m going to take some time to think about how I can best utilize those things. I love this post! You are right on about everything!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 18, 2017

      I am SO happy that the list has been true to your experience, too! I definitely went through phases too of trying to force myself to just BE an extrovert, before finally realizing that I was wasting my talents by trying to fake a different personality. It means so much to me that this might help you better utilize your strengths – that kind of self-insight is so important, but so hard to come by!

  20. Reply

    Kristin

    January 19, 2017

    After reading this, I think I may be an extrovert everywhere EXCEPT work. Because I am sooooo the person you described when I am at work, but I am a total extrovert in other settings! So interesting!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Hey Kristin – I think that’s totally normal! We all have tendencies that are both extroverted and introverted–I think that for many introverts, it depends on where we feel the most comfortable. With people who we feel comfortable with, or in an environment where we’re most comfortable, I think we can totally be mistaken for extroverts–it happens to me pretty regularly! Thanks for reading 🙂

  21. Reply

    Lauren C. Moye

    January 19, 2017

    Yep, yep, and yep again. Thank you for sharing! I like how you included both the strengths and the weaknesses. Sometimes I think introverts start to declare how great they are, only to forget that our strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. Pinning this.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Thank you, Lauren! I think for a long time, introverts’ strengths simply weren’t valued–and so now, things might have swung in the opposite direction, where we’re so focused on our strengths that we stop trying to grow. I’m definitely a proponent of taking both our strengths and weaknesses into consideration!

  22. Reply

    Alyssa Wilson

    January 19, 2017

    I LOVE working with introverts! In the event industry people think we want to be surrounded by talking people with big personalities. Personally I love learning from quiet! Great blog!

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Thanks for your comment, Alyssa 🙂 I can definitely see how extroverted strengths would be highly valued in the events industry, but there always needs to be a balance. For every person who’s fantastic at speaking, there needs to be a wonderful listener!

  23. Reply

    Neha kumari

    January 19, 2017

    Thank you so much for the lovely post. Being an introvert i can totally relate to all of this. It feels me all the way down.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Hi Neha – I am SO happy to hear that! Thanks for taking the time to let me know 🙂

  24. Reply

    Gennifer Rose

    January 19, 2017

    This video is awesome, I never thought much about the pressures of being social before. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, I like being social in smaller settings like a dinner but a club is too much for me (especially now that I’m 30!). Thanks for sharing!

    Gennifer Rose | http://www.GenniferRose.com

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Hi Gennifer – Isn’t Susan Cain’s talk brilliant?! It really had a ripple effect on the way we all talk about introversion – so awesome. And I definitely know what you mean – in a small group setting where I feel comfortable, I’m always mistaken for an extrovert!

  25. Reply

    Hien

    January 19, 2017

    I am super duper guilty of seeming aloof… But besides that, I think I make a great worker — whether I lead or follow. I believe I am technically an ambivert, but I prefer introversion the older I get.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Hi Hien – Me too! I’m the warmest, friendliest person once you get to know me, but I have to admit that I love maintaining an air of mystery 😉 It’s a protective instinct, I think!

  26. Reply

    Jnellie

    January 20, 2017

    Spot on! Love it. I used to be an introvert. I just do my job and never socialize with others since I don’t know how to do small talks. But eventually, i was able to be more sociable not only at work but outside work.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 25, 2017

      Thanks for your comment! I would say that being an introvert and being social are definitely not mutually exclusive. It’s based on your comfort level in a particular setting! I can appear to be a completely different person depending on the context, even if the core of who I am stays exactly the same.

  27. Reply

    Helene

    January 20, 2017

    I have always been an introvert, not only at work but in general. I love silence more than average and i prefer to work alone. Now i work from home and it’s my favorite ever.

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 26, 2017

      I’ve found that the perfect balance for me is working remotely from a coffee shop. It helps me stay on-task to be surrounded with people, but with just minimal background noise!

  28. Reply

    KatrinaJeanCarter

    January 20, 2017

    Though I don’t consider myself to be a hundred percent introvert, I can relate to all of them 🙂 Love your writing, Robin! Keep it up 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 26, 2017

      Thank you so much, Katrina!! I think most of us definitely fall somewhere in the middle!

  29. Reply

    Divya@ Eat Teach Blog

    January 22, 2017

    Some days I feel like an introvert. Some days I feel like an extrovert. I feel as though I vary depending on the kind of environment I’m in. Is that normal?

    • Reply

      Robin

      January 26, 2017

      Hey Divya – COMPLETELY normal! It helps to think of introversion & extroversion on a spectrum, rather than being black-and-white categories. We’re all somewhere in between the two poles, and it’s incredibly variable based on how comfortable we feel in a given environment!

  30. Reply

    Kristine-Bites of Flavor

    March 9, 2017

    Wow, this is spot on! I was a Human Resources Manager (before blogging) and constantly had to fake that I was an extrovert. It was exhausting! Now that I am out of that job, I take pride in being an introvert 🙂

  31. Reply

    Kaycee

    March 17, 2017

    This is TOTALLY ME! It takes me a while to open up and get comfortable, especially at work being one of the few millennials among all the Baby Boomers/Gen X’ers.

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