Working with an Introvert: Here Are 5 Things We Wish Our Colleagues Know About Us

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If you’re a Pos Laju guy searching for me in my workspace, the receptionist will point you to the corner of the office.

That’s me, right there – sitting in a corner where it’s quiet and peaceful. A location isolated from disruptions and chatters. It’s the best feng shui an introvert could ever ask for.

Extroverts like to be boxed by people. They’re always chatting away at the water cooler, or hopping from one desk to another.

Introverts like me? Well, we prefer to be boxed by walls. Better yet, cubicle desk with really high walls, so we can hide from the marketing team when they need volunteers for a Mother’s Day Roadshow.

Introverts have our own discreet ways of navigating the noise, and it’s challenging to find calmness amid the chaos in our workspace. If you have an introverted colleague who you’d like to know better, here are some interesting facts about us.

1. We live for our earphones

If there’s ever a loud drilling, a raging fire or a crocodile chomping down the photocopy machine, we won’t notice it because our earphones are on.

With it, we create a cosy bubble to escape the daily chatters and stresses. When we slip on our Bose headphones, our concentration magnifies and slaying our tasks becomes effortless. It also helps us appear calm and collective while being productive in front of the bosses.

Music keeps me going any time of day. When I’m motivated to work, indie pop is good. When I’m chasing a deadline, alternative rock is great. When I’m having a rough day at work, I’ll count on Kendrick Lamar to curse at my reports and paperwork.

While this may sound a little anti-social, do know that when we have our earphones off, you’ll have our undivided attention. Work remains a top priority in our books. We just need our quiet moment when we’re focused on our task, that’s all.

So guys, feel free to tap our shoulder if you have work to discuss, or tell us that our Zalora parcel is waiting.

2. We do party, when there’s a familiar face

Parties, social gatherings, and invitation cards make introverts shake in their boots. While I have introverted friends who love to let their hair down, the rest of us generally don’t warm up to the idea of parties.

When we do, we prefer small and intimate gatherings. How about office parties? Well, that depends on who will be attending.

A few years ago, there was an office dinner party that everyone was required to attend.

I didn’t know a lot of people at the time. Plus, socialising isn’t my strongest suit. Naturally, my initial plan was to fake an excuse and get myself out of the RSVP list, but my close colleague convinced me otherwise.

“If you go, I go,” said my introverted colleague, Judy. “I hate office parties too, but the boss wants everyone to be there.”

After going back and forth about it, I showed up and surprisingly had a good time. Although I mingled within my circle of close friends, we laughed and danced to our hearts’ content.

I had so much fun that I joined my colleagues to the nearby bar for post-dinner drinks.

Of course, I didn’t raise my hand when they asked for volunteers to sing on stage or participate in a game. One party won’t change an introvert overnight.

When it comes to social gatherings, our companions matter. It’s easier for introverts to let their hair down when we’re in good company. All we need is a friend or two to say “Let’s go!” and we’re on board.

3. We enjoy desk lunches

Even without distractions, there are days when our work gets the best of us. One of our many ways of coping with stress is having desk lunches.

When everyone is out and the office is quiet, I’d spend my lunch hour zoning out for a while. For desk lunch days, I only need three things: Youtube, headphones, and chicken rice. Then, I’ll set aside my work for an uninterrupted hour of videos.

I normally wolf down my lunch with The School of Life, Great Big Story and Jimmy Fallon on loop. Other times, I watch Song of Style telling me what’s in her bag (spoiler: a lot of lip balms).

Sometimes, the desk lunch situation persists for days. It doesn’t mean we hate you. We just have a lot going on in our Gmail. Some are ad-hoc projects, some are bosses’ complaints – it’s overwhelming, especially when we tend to bottle up our feelings a lot.

So, don’t be offended if we turn down your lunch invite(s). We just need some downtime to untangle the mess in our heads. Once we’re on top of our work and our chirpy self returns, we promise – we will hit the mamak for Maggi goreng with you like good old times.

4. We think before we speak

Have you ever caught us staring and nodding while you explain a new project? We may seem disinterested, but don’t worry, we were genuinely listening.

Generally, introverts are deep thinkers and great listeners. We listen before contributing our opinion.

My former boss once pointed out that I look dazed in meetings. I wasn’t sure if I have RCF (resting confused face), but I was listening attentively.
Fearing that my dazed expression will appear in my performance review, I brought along my notebook and pen to all meetings that followed. Even though I had nothing to jot down, I pretended to scribble something anyway.

“What do you suggest?” and “What are your thoughts on this idea/matter?” are the two questions that I’m often being shot with. I honestly think that’s a nice way for a boss to get their introverted employees to share a few words. We might not be the most eloquent speakers, but having a chance to be heard during meetings means a lot to us.

I understand it’s easier to be heard by simply raising our hands, but it’s challenging to speak up when others are dominating the discussion. We value their ideas and opinions. We speak when needed or asked. We respect everyone’s opportunity to speak their mind.

If you’re open to hearing what we have to say, shift the spotlight on the introverts for a while. Behind our deep thinking and analytical minds, we always have something valuable to add.

5. We work independently

We’re the behind-the-scenes people who gather ideas, work hard, and produce results. Give us a chatter-free workspace and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves to work. We thrive better when given a solo task to energise our personal creativity and independence.

You won’t see us running around frantically or throwing paperwork in the air. We’re resilient on a stressful day, and the calm in the eye of the storm. Hand us a project and we’ll prepare the slides. Assign us a report, and we’ll crunch the numbers. Give us a new product, and we’ll present three names better than Chicago West.

Working with a group of writers is one of my favourite experiences. One time, we were slammed with a last-minute task that needed to be done within three hours. Our leader distributed the tasks among us, and we typed frantically to get all content uploaded on time, or risked having to do overtime.

We had our earphones on and concentration locked to our computers like true introverts. Two hours later, we completed our tasks ahead of time and went to the convenience store to gloat over ice creams.

Magic happens you have an introverted colleague on your team. Behind our reserved demeanour, we’re a force to be reckoned with. We may not be the best party-goers or reliable lunch buddies, but our work ethics, listening skills, and analytical minds speak volumes. Our social shyness is just the tip of the iceberg.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at chengsim.com
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