How To Work On A Team As An Introvert
Thriving At Work As An Introvert
The year was 2013, and I had secured a sweet job at a media startup. The workplace culture was what sold me—all the Keurig coffee you could imagine, monthly full-company meetings with beer and games, and an intriguing open-floor office plan. The vibe was youthful, energizing, and for an introvert like me, intimidating.
It took me several months before I was invited along to after-work drinks, which was a godsend since I had been in this new job in a new city all alone. Even though I’m a shy-at-first introvert, I still found myself craving some human interaction.
I finally started to get in my groove. I made friends, had a consistent work routine, and began to thrive in my fairly independent role. Then we underwent some restructuring, and I moved to a team full of people I had never worked with before. A team of talented people who worked together closely and had developed a rapport; a team full of—you guessed it—extroverts. Fortunately, my new manager was a staunch introvert that helped me ease into life in this new group.
But there were still days when I left work with an empty cup—I was pushing up against my limits of team time. I often couldn’t get on the same wavelength as my extroverted teammates, and soon realized that my best work happened when I embraced my introversion. Instead of trying to out-speak my colleagues, I let my work speak for me. This lead to more genuine connections, a better relationship with my manager, and a more cohesive team.
So here are some of the best strategies I learned for thriving in a team environment as an introvert.
Schedule decompression time
One of the most important self-care practices for introverts is to have time to recharge—away from people. It’s an unspoken rule in my apartment that the first fifteen minutes after work (whether I’m commuting or working from home) is my time to curl up on the couch and play a game or swipe through TikTok. This quiet time alone helps me calm down after being in LA rush hour traffic or after a day of Zoom meetings.
You can do this during the workday, too. Spend your lunch hour on a solo walk outside, or put Slack on “Do Not Disturb” and plug into work (and a good playlist) while you recharge your social batteries.
Structure is your friend
Knowing what lies ahead gives you more information on how you’ll need to manage your energy for the day. Ask for meeting agendas ahead of time so you can feel prepared—and come into the meeting with ideas for how you can contribute in ways that best use your talents without draining you.
If you’re working collaboratively, set clear roles within your team so you all know who’s doing what, and when it’s expected to be done. Set yourself up for smooth operating so there are fewer last-minute meetings or phone calls that take you off-guard.
And if you’re not sure your voice is being heard, let your body do some of the work for you. Take up physical space in your meeting by filling up your chair and not shrinking into it. If you’re on a video call, practice physical cues, like unmuting yourself or waving your hand, to let others know that you are going to speak. Because it is your turn gosh dang it.
Connect with your team
If you’re feeling the open-office drain, Zoom fatigue, or email anxiety, connect with other members of your team who identify as introverts and discuss how they handle things. Set up coffee runs or lunch dates with people who will give you the space and presence you need. Or, asking people to not set those things up with you works too! 😜
You can even ask for help from your extrovert colleagues—any team worth its mettle will take its members seriously and identify new ways to work better.
Connect with your manager
Personally, I handle one-on-one meetings much better because I feel seen and heard—and am more comfortable being honest. Chat with your manager about how team meetings can be better structured to allow everyone to shine, not just the extroverts. Ask them to create space in your meetings for everyone to speak, to ask more direct questions to the introverted team members, and to help reign in any conversation monopolizers.
But we can also adapt ourselves to more extroverted workplaces, as well—it just takes practice. One thing that helps me the most is to ask directly and frequently for feedback. It allows me to be in control of my progress, rather than wondering constantly if I fall short of expectations. Most of the time I get a warm response—but when I do get constructive feedback, I’m able to prepare for it and process it in my own time.
Ultimately, asking for help is the most important takeaway. It’s scary to admit your “vulnerability” to others, but the truth is that introversion is as much of an asset to your team as extroversion. Don’t work against it—own it!
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’d love to know your favorite strategies for working with teams (especially in the Zoom era) in the comments below!
Emily Torres is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.