Work culture in 2022 is in flux – some teams have moved completely remote, some are returning to the office, and some are doing a bit of both in a hybrid model. Regardless of whether your team is hanging out by the water cooler or on Zoom, everyone has moments where it feels like we’re balancing over tough water on the plank of our personality types. For extroverts, this may be trying to focus on heads-down work when you are jittering to collaborate or craving any sort of feedback. For introverts, this could be trying to navigate the dreaded moments after everyone has sat down in the conference room, but the meeting hasn’t started.
“Whether you’re trying to limit the side conversations to tackle that report or racking your brain for what to say during pre-meeting small talk, adjusting to your office’s work environment doesn’t have to be a matter of fighting your instincts. In fact, it can be an enjoyable opportunity to highlight your strengths while also brushing up on focus and socializing skills.” Says Abby Prince, ProSearch Director
The following tips are divided into introverts and extroverts, but keep in mind that the Introvert-Extrovert Spectrum is exactly what it says: a spectrum! It’s not always either/or and, in most cases, you have tendencies of both sides. So consider all the qualities that make you you and read on for our tips on how to navigate your personality type in the office:
Put the small back in small talk
The most exhausting part of small talk is the idea that we have to do it, or that it’s a social necessity for building networks and strengthening relationships. While it is great for building rapport with teammates, small talk can also be a break from the mundanity of everyday tasks. Try reimagining these moments as brain breaks, or a mental recess from all of the more intense conversations that we have at work.
If you don’t have the energy, learn to pivot
For those days where small talk seems impossible, here’s a tip: you don’t have to do it. Find friendly but definitive answers to questions so that you can either safely move on from the conversation or pass it on to your more talkative colleagues. If they’re extroverted, they won’t mind! For example, if someone asks how your day is going and you don’t want to brush them off with a curt “Fine,” answer with a small detail about your day (one that won’t require follow-up) and then pivot the question to the asker. Something like “Good but busy! Just working on emails, what about you? How was that meeting last week?” hints to your colleague that you don’t have a lot of time for chitchat but you’re still considerate of their day. And it gives you a perfect segue back to your emails!
Stay prepared with “Talking Lists”
If you’re dreading that upcoming presentation and the inevitable Q&A that comes after, it’s normal to take some time to go over potential topics that could come up and think of how you might respond. This same strategy can be applied to most social situations. It might feel silly, but it could save you a lot of anxiety and stress to go over typical small talk questions that could come up in meetings or social situations and how you could answer. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list of your favorite animals ranked in height order or your top 50 novels, but maybe before the weekend ends you could summarize the highlights in case someone asks on Monday, or you could keep a list of your favorite books and movies mentally on hand if the question ever comes up.
For those moments of brain fog when someone asks a question where you know you know the answer but just can’t remember, use the pivot from our previous tip! “What’s your favorite movie?” “I can’t remember right now, but I saw this great one over the weekend!” or “Hmm, I’ll have to think on that! What are yours?”
Keep your quiet time sacred with a schedule
Whether it’s working from home or at the office, we all feel the need to be constantly on and available for our teammates. Sometimes you just need a break from the bustle and noise to get your work done, and that’s completely understandable! To set these boundaries online, set up some time during the day or week on your calendar for heads-down or individual work so that your teammates can schedule meetings around them. Drawing these lines in person might be intimidating at first because you’re afraid of offending or crossing someone, but it can be as simple as asking if you could get back to your colleague at a later time: “Hey, this is really interesting! I’m actually doing some personal/project time right now, but could we talk at lunch?”
Silence doesn’t have to be scary
Extroverts are known for their energy and talkative nature in a group setting. While this is wonderful for creating dynamic and fun work environments, sometimes you can feel that your team’s vibe and attitude rests on your ability to keep the energy going. As a result, you find yourself trying to fill every dead space between conversations or feeling insecure about either having too much or too little to say. During these moments, take a step back and read the room. Because extroverts channel their energy outward to others, sometimes you might be imagining dead spaces where there are natural silences, which are necessary to process information and think of responses. Give others and yourself this time and remember that we typically talk a lot faster than we think we do. Conversely, the spaces in between can seem longer.
Background noise for crunch time
One of the common challenges in being an extrovert in the workplace is focusing on heads-down work. Whether you’re working in a team or on your own, there will eventually come a time when you have to step back from the collab space and finish work at your desk. When much of your energy bounces off of others, having to focus on your own can make you feel anxious and claustrophobic. While this is completely natural, finding ways to remedy this nervousness will set you up for success and help you navigate all the different types of team and individual work that may come your way in the future. To fill the silence and keep your brain engaged, try listening to low-fi instrumental music or a lowkey podcast that’s interesting but not too thrilling. (Remember, you’re at work!)
Respect boundaries: others and your own
Because extroverts are known for their ability to engage with others and adapt to dynamic situations, sometimes these qualities could be misconstrued as a lack of focus or independence. But you don’t need to limit yourself to what others think of you. While bouncing your energy off of your teammates is a great way of building and maintaining rapport, consider also that you don’t always need to be the team pep rally. As an extrovert, you might often feel that everyone else’s energy and happiness levels are your responsibility. When this anxiety comes up, and as we mentioned earlier, take a step back and read the room from a bird’s eye view. It might be quiet, but does that necessarily mean that the team is unhappy or discontent? It could be quiet because everyone is focusing or resting – after all, not everyone has something to say in every situation! You should also extend this grace to yourself by letting go of the idea that you need to constantly be “on.”
What’s your type? We’ll help you find it!
Oftentimes and especially in career circles, advice for introverts and extroverts tends to focus on suppressing or “fixing” the qualities that make up your personality. Instead of looking at your personality as something to work on, consider it what it is: a unique mix of skills and preferences. For those who are more introverted, the abilities to hyperfocus and make in-depth analyses are boons in delivering high-quality results. For those more extroverted, being able to make new, meaningful connections and multitasking allows you to thrive in dynamic work environments.
Wherever you fall on the Extrovert-Introvert Spectrum, your personality is a unique fixture that can transform your team’s workflow for the better! At CSS ProSearch, we understand the importance of finding the best fit when considering your next role. We take a consultative approach in placing you in the best teams for long-term success. Read our blog to learn more tips on how to move forward in your career or contact us and see how we can help you find your perfect role.