Enterprise Software

Introverts: Managing stress in an extroverted workplace

For introverts, being around people for long periods of time is draining. Here are some tips for making the best of a work situation in which you're surrounded by extroverts.

Despite my propensity to spew the written word at people at what seems like a constant pace, I consider myself an introvert.

This is because I am introspective and energized by being alone. It's not that I'm shy or unsocial; it's just that being around people for long periods of time kind of drains me.

Many people in IT tend to be introverts. They chose that profession because it gives them the ability to explore their thoughts. But those same people realize that it takes a little more effort, or at least a different kind of effort, to succeed in a place where extroverts seem to shine the most.

Sherrie Haynie, a consultant for CPP, Inc., the folks who publish the Myers-Briggs personality assessment tests, offers these tips, or "strategies," for an introvert who is performing an extraverted role:

  • Don't assume extroverts know how best to communicate with you -- teach them. For example, explain why you need time to process before responding to a question.
  • Leverage your natural talent for depth by identifying the goal as far in advance as possible, so you're prepared ahead of time when pressed in a meeting for input.
  • Acknowledge the additional energy required to interact with others for long periods of time and allow yourself to tap into your energy reserve.
  • Pay attention to the activities that require more of your energy, such as insufficient time to work alone, brainstorming meetings, and noisy environments.
  • Depleting too much energy will lead to a stressful reaction, so look for early warning signs, such as withdrawal.
  • If a stressful situation is unresolved, your unconscious functions will take over. We typically act out of character under extreme stress, and for introverts, this reaction may show up as an outburst or other outward expression -- opposite to their normal calm and reserved demeanor.
  • Restore your energy level by finding time alone to reflect and direct your focus on thoughts, ideas, and internal feelings. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

6 comments
cd003284
cd003284

Some clarification and amplification of my pervious post, point by point (original points with hyphens, and my responses without). - Dont assume extroverts know how best to communicate with you. teach them. For example, explain why you need time to process before responding to a question. Don't assume the responsiblities of others, in both meanings of those words. Their growth is their responsibility. If they seek your help in this, and you wish to give it, fine, but don't take on responsibilities that aren't yours, and don't act on your perceptions of other people without careful consideration, and their invitation. - Leverage your natural talent for depth by identifying the goal as far in advance as possible, so youre prepared ahead of time when pressed in a meeting for input. This is good advice for anyone. Even speaking as an introvert (per M-B), I wouldn't assume lack or absence of this talent in extroverts. - Acknowledge the additional energy required to interact with others for long periods of time and allow yourself to tap into your energy reserve. This assumes much about M-B, its definition of introverts and traits thereof. Extroverts have their own stress-related energy-management problems. Again, it comes down to the individual, and the specific situation. - Pay attention to the activities that require more of your energy, such as insufficient time to work alone, brainstorming meetings, and noisy environments. Same as above, and begs questions re: the nature of particular tasks and what they require, the specific character of a given type and instance of brainstorming meeting, and the well-documented medical information re: the effect of different types and frequencies and levels of noise of virtually all people. (That's why we use noise for torture, and it works perfectly well on extroverts). - Depleting too much energy will lead to a stressful reaction... Same as above, whether speaking of homeostasis or allostasis in ref to stress. - so look for early warning signs, such as withdrawal. This assumes a definition of withdrawal that supports the point, while ignoring questions re: the formulation of such a definition. - If a stressful situation is unresolved, your unconscious functions will take over. We typically act out of character under extreme stress... Basic psychology, and when considering the effects of prolonged elevated levels of glucocorticoids (a key class of adrenal hormones released in the stress response) upon the frontal cortex which, among other things, governs impulse control, a virtually universal phenomenon. - ... and for introverts, this reaction may show up as an outburst or other outward expression This is not confined to, or typical of introverts, as contrasted with, or opposed to, extroverts (See above) - opposite to their normal calm and reserved demeanor Which is often misinterpreted/misdiagnosed as withdrawal or even depression. - Restore your energy level by finding time alone to reflect and direct your focus on thoughts, ideas, and internal feelings. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries. This has been among the most basic and universal of stress managment advice as far back as Walter Bradford Cannon in the 1930s. "Nuff" said, maybe too much. But it's hard to have a meaningful, productive discussion of this sort of thing without reference to controversies within psychology, and without the basics of the stress response, including its biochemistry.

cd003284
cd003284

This is a "fruit of a poison tree" situation. It begins with using Myers-Briggs as a reference for this discussion, and then gets worse when it proceeds to use M-B definitions of introvert and extrovert as bases for offering strategies and tips to real people. It's OK to seek to identify elements of personality and behavior, and to compile lists of traits as references for discussing them; but this approach breaks down, often completely, when you look at actual people. It gets even worse when we try to advise these people re: how to manage their interactions with other people within the workplace, ignoring the characteristics of the other people and the workplace. Finally, as to issues of stress, I've been a consultant/tech for close to 20 years, and I've taught stress management for over 25, and with all due respect to Tony Bowers, whose work I appreciate, and Sherrie Haynie, whom I don't know at all, this attempt at discussion of "introverts" and "stress" begs on bended knee infinitely more questions than it answers. All that having been said, thanks for trying.

john
john

to spell extravert correctly.

suzan.reagan
suzan.reagan

There is always a difficult balance between connecting on a personal level and as a team. Many introverts do very well with one-on-one discussion. Because I enjoy dealing with people and even speaking in front of large groups I find many of my co-workers need to take me in small doses. I come in later to work and make sure not to bother some until they have finished that second cup of coffee. In meetings, I try to narrow down what I have to say so that the meeting doesn't drag and so my co-workers have time to speak up (this is hard for me). Strangely enough, I too need to take time and focus my thoughts so that I might not overwhelm my quieter co-workers.

Dyalect
Dyalect

Aslong as you don't get too heavy on the buzzwords extrovert away. Nothing worse than a "chatty" person that can never get to the point. Be concise and filter out the garbage. Going forward, with that being said, proactive not reactive etc. etc.