For the introverts among us, navigating the complex world of an office space with other human beings in it can at times be quite stressful. Here, The Circular lists some of the everyday challenges that an introvert might face. Maybe consider if any of these scenarios have ever applied to you.
The stereotypical ‘nine to five’ office lifestyle is a subscription to routine. From the moment you get out of bed, if you are running to a tight schedule, your every step until the point you arrive at your desk in work will usually follow an eerily regular pattern.
If the idea of shooting the breeze with your colleagues doesn’t excite you, psyching yourself up for the morning can be a struggle. As you embark on the daily ‘march of the penguins‘, past all of those expressionless faces you encounter on the morning commute, you insulate yourself with whatever audio you channel through your earphones so that avoiding any kind of human contact is socially acceptable.
But once you arrive at the office, all bets are off, and outright ignoring people is likely to cause you some problems. In many workplaces, perception is often the reality, so if you can avoid being ‘outed’ as a lover of solitude, you might just be okay. But that’s easier said than done, and successfully dealing with the following scenarios requires a combination of nous, skill, timing and luck.
The Elevator: When using a podcast to distract your mind from the impending doom that is walking to work, every last second of that podcast is precious. So when you walk into the building and enter the lift, getting an extra 30 seconds of audio goodness on the way up to your 4th floor desk can make all the difference in how you start your day. The more stops on the way up the better. But your morning can take a wrong turn when you enter the lift only to find one of your colleagues, who you’d rather not talk to, beaming back at you ready to start a conversation. So the earphones come out. Nightmare.
‘How was your weekend?’: In many ways, this question has become code for ‘I’m offloading the responsibility for leading this small talk on to you, while feigning interest in your life, to keep the upper hand in this game of social etiquette.’ Have you ever arrived at work on a Monday morning, having had the wildest, busiest, most exciting and interesting weekend of your life, only to be asked how your weekend was, and you answer “ah grand, didn’t get up to much really. Quiet. You?” If so, then you are an introvert.
‘Let’s have a quick call’: Seemingly every phone call in work, although often described in advance as ‘quick’, is never as quick as you would like it to be. Why would anyone insist on having a phone call when typing an email would be just as effective!? The daily challenge of keeping your number of phone calls as low as possible is relentless.
Eavesdropping: Even if you manage to avoid phone calls yourself, being forced to listen to other people’s calls can be almost as stressful. The mundanity of professional ‘small-talk’ really wears away at the soul over time, and while it’s a relief when you’re not involved, listening to others can still make you cringe. ‘How are you? Oh god I know, I can’t believe it’s April already! Where does the time go!?’
Lunch: You’re trying to watch your spending, and maybe eat a little healthier, so you manage to bring in your own lunch from home a few days a week. Not only is it cheaper and healthier, but it gives you an automatic pass when your colleagues ask if you want to join them for lunch outside and chat with them for an entire hour. Genius! But unfortunately your office has a large canteen area, making it more difficult to eat alone. So instead you stay at your desk, because you ‘have a lot of work to get through’, which in reality means you eat in front of your screen, browsing your favourite news sites, talking to no one. Bliss.
Birthday: You know that point in the afternoon when everyone in your office stands up and converges at another person’s desk to surprise them with a cake because it’s their birthday? Then you awkwardly shuffle over for long enough to be seen as part of the celebrations, while escaping back to your desk as soon as it’s socially acceptable. As relieved as you are that it’s not your birthday, your skin starts to crawl at the thought of your colleagues discovering when your next birthday is, so you immediately book some annual leave to make sure you’re not around for it.
Saying goodbye: As 5pm comes around, the office starts to empty out. One by one, each person rises to their feet and as they approach the exit door, they turn to the remaining colleagues and say something like ‘Bye guys, have a nice evening. See you all tomorrow‘ with a natural cheeriness that makes you feel like an alien in comparison. Given that it’s time for home, you consider making a break for it. But then you realise that if you hang back for ten minutes, the rest of them will be gone and you can avoid making your own parting announcement on the way out the door. The final hurdle has been cleared! Now stick those earphones in, enjoy an empty elevator on the way down, march home, draw the curtains and watch some Netflix as a reward for a hard day’s work.