Introverts vs Extroverts At Work

So, on Monday the female tech geek (FTG) took another day off work–this was after leaving early either last Thursday or Friday, as well as taking four days off last month, leaving early another day, etc. The woman who works in accounting came and talked to me about this. And she was like, almost out of nowhere, “I get the sense that you two don’t like each other.” I thought it was hysterical. I flatout admitted I don’t like FTG.

The accounting lady basically did the same thing, and we talked about some of the things that FTG has done that are alienating to people at work. But it seemed like the main problem the accounting lady had with FTG?

She doesn’t socialize.

I thought that was really interesting. In fact, it really got me thinking. As I mentioned in a post months ago, FTG and I do have some similarities. Essentially, she’s how I would be if I had mental and/or emotional issues. Alas, I am relatively stable. She’s generally quiet, but so am I. As mentioned before, I can fake social skills better than she can, though. I have always known that I’m an introvert. I don’t know if she’s an introvert, just crazy or both. I think of her as crazy, to be honest, and I’m not the only one. That’s my problem with FTG, not quietness. But it’s important to note that being an introvert doesn’t automatically mean someone is crazy and vice versa.

Still, when the accounting lady started complaining about how FTG doesn’t socialize, it made me wonder, “Why is it that so many people dislike quiet people?” I started thinking about how so many people harass quiet people, even if it’s just to try to force them to talk or make jokes about being quiet. It happens to me, definitely. It happened at my current job, at my last job, and it used to happen before I moved to the Midwest (I am back in the South now). I think being a quiet person is so much worse in the South because people from the South are so outwardly friendly with even people they don’t know, which is not to say they’re always friendly, all friendly or not fake friendly. But people down here love to speak to people and seem to have more of an issue with people who don’t than people elsewhere I’ve been.

At my last job, there were two guys there whom I didn’t like. There was one in particular whom I didn’t like, and the other one…there was just something about him. Usually I am right on “something about him/her” judgments, but I don’t guess I was that one time. They both turned out to be my “best friends at work” by the time I left. I usually don’t speak to people unless they speak to me, and these two guys really worked hard at speaking to me, haha.

The one guy I really didn’t like rubbed me the wrong way because he is just–no offense intended, which means this will be offensive–a very typical white guy in a lot of ways. To expound on that, he just seemed like an arrogant know-it-all. He has one of those voices that’s very annoying to me, which a lot of white guys have–very confident, “I’m right” type of thing that intimidates some people/makes some people afraid to voice their opinions. He will argue with you and disagree with you with complete certainty. These are not the easiest people to deal with. And I have to care about someone to sit there and argue with them, so interacting with people like that are often not worth my time.

This guy used to come up to me and point out that I don’t talk to people all the time, that I’m anti-social, etc. This is how we ended up interacting and eventually becoming friends, because he just would not leave me alone. The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that when black people [everywhere I’ve lived] notice I don’t talk much, they just get pissed and talk about what they think my faults are among themselves–especially black women. That’s why I hardly have black female friends. Black guys sometimes approach me about it. That’s why I have a couple of black male friends. When white people in the South notice I don’t speak much, they try to force me to talk to them. White people elsewhere generally don’t care, but when black people see me interacting with white people and not them they dislike me even more. Asians anywhere don’t care. And Latinos generally don’t care.

Anyway, so thinking about all this made me do some research on why people don’t like quiet people. With stuff like this, I like to get answers from the horse’s mouth. I found a pretty good thread that has some interesting thoughts about quiet people, introverts and the work environment. I want to address some of this stuff, because it’s very important.

Here’s a piece of the original question about “why do people hate it when one’s quiet at work?”:

No matter where I work, though, people always seem to take issue with my quietness. I focus on my work and refrain from meddling in other’s business. It isn’t like I don’t say a word all day — I talk to and am friendly with them. It’s just that once I get cranking, I like to concentrate on my work. I work among salespeople, many of whom have an active part in office politics, and I just don’t want any part of it. My job requires me to write a lot so that factors into all of this as well — I can’t craft a well-written article if I’m chatting up everyone around the office. Lately people have made such sarcastic remarks as the following: “Supernova, why are you so loud? I’m going to have to get headphones to drown out all the noise you’re making over there.”

This piece is important for some of the responses to the original question that I’ll post in a bit. Right now, I will say, though, that I’ve had someone at my current job joke the same way about my “being so talkative.” Honestly, I laughed it off. It’s annoying, but it’s better to laugh it off. It makes you look better, especially if you’re actually concerned that people don’t like you because you’re quiet. You’re quiet, people know you’re quiet–why get mad? Laughing it off is an acknowledgment that, hey, I know I’m quiet, you’re right.

Here’s one of the responses from an extrovert:

I’m a big extrovert and quiet people make me nervous, you never know what they are thinking. I am excellent at my work, not good, excellent! I am outgoing,hardworking, someone who others rally around and the person who keeps the morale high. People LIKE being around me because I’m friendly. Now, do I tease quiet people? NO. Quiet people have the right to be quiet, but I do try to draw them into conversations because people need interaction with others. It’s fun! Often these quiet people become some of my best work friends and quiet extroverted. I rub off on others sometimes. If you like being an introvert, but extroverts are trying to get you to change, well, talk to them. We don’t bite and, contrary to many views, we are great workers, have a lot of energy, and make very good friends.  

Not sure I understand the “quiet people make me nervous, you never know what they are thinking” line of thought, but I’ve seen that before. I think it’s the same thing as saying, “Quiet people are the ones you have to watch out for.” But just because someone talks all the time, does that mean you really know who they are or what they’re up to? I do think one of the reasons for this thinking could be related to something the same co-worker who joked about my quietness said/joked about another time, which is that I don’t like him. A lot of people likely equate not speaking to someone to not liking that person, which is probably not true even half the time.

To me, it’s all about knowing how to read people. I don’t know if that’s something introverts are better at, but I can read people. Like I said, I feel that FTG is more of the crazy variety among quiet people, and I do think you have to “watch” someone like her. When I sense or hear her moving when we’re alone together, I am alert, looking out of the corner of my eye and all that, just making sure I’m not about to be attacked. Sad, but so true.

I knew quiet people in school whom everyone should have been able to tell were just shy. They wanted to interact with people and make friends but were just shy about it. You can tell these people from the ones who are like me who generally don’t want to interact with most people–they’re the ones who stand or sit there and look at you and/or your group while you talk but they don’t say anything. They might laugh or nod, but that’s about it.

If someone just flatout keeps to himself or herself, including acting like you’re not even there when you’re talking to others, then that’s not necessarily the person you want to try and draw into conversations or interactions. If the person seems to be alone but not lonely, that’s not necessarily the person, either. You can and it can go well, but also be prepared for the possibility of rejection because it might happen. For me, I can take or leave some people, and there are other people whom I just don’t want to deal with. At my last job, I did have a guy whom I basically one day had to tell to leave me alone, which he basically did that from that point on. There was another guy who kind of got the hint on his own.

I became cool with the white guy–to whom I will henceforth stop referring in such a manner and use his name, George–for, I think, three reasons: 1) we ended up having some interesting conversations, 2) he was good at his job and he was of a lot of help to me, including some mental/emotional help when I was going crazy at that place, and 3) it became apparent as time went on that he really respected me. He is actually now one of my job references when I apply for jobs, and we exchanged contact information because he said he’d be interested in working with me if/when he starts his own IT business. And I learned how to deal with his communication style, which I think changed a little bit with me once we started learning more about each other, and that made it easier for us to get along.

And on the point of introverts or extroverts being able to read people…George actually had me pretty well-read. He said I was anti-social, which I did correct by saying I’m “anti-people,” which is a little bit different. I love to socialize with people I like. But he also said at one point that he can tell I have high standards, and he wasn’t just talking about when it comes to people. But I do with everything, including people. I tend to only like certain types of people, and I admit that. Another one of my friends back in high school and college put it even better than he did–she said I was intolerant…either of people’s idiosyncrasies or faults or something like that. I totally am. I am highly intolerant.

Next response that really caught my eye:

I don’t know, quiet people in the office can come across as refusing to contribute. It depends where you work, but I work in a shared office with 8 other people, and it is kind of a team thing, a lot of interaction is informal. You spend 40 hours a week with these people, longer than with friends/family, so it’s important I think that there is a good atmosphere.

We once had a very very shy person work with us (I think she was shy), but to be honest, she was disliked intensely by a lot of people. Her attituded came across as very judgemental and disapproving. She would never say hello, or ask any questions about anyone else. She was such hard work to be around.

I know this isn’t exactly what people want to hear, but at work, you want to work with pleasant, co-operative upbeat people. They don’t need to be loud or outgoing, but they do need to be polite and seem to notice that their colleagues are alive (in my opinion, of course, YMMV). Just a simple thing like smiling at people can change their perceptions of you – what you see as quietness, other people may see as disapproval/hostility.

I think, again, it’s about knowing how to read which type of person you’re dealing with, as well as being careful to distinguish between being one of the more quiet people who does speak and inquire about people vs being one who never does or only does so because he/she’s being nosy, trying to cause trouble, it somehow benefits them, etc. I agree that work places need to be nice atmospheres because you’re there all the time with the same people. But someone’s not talking doesn’t have to take away from everyone else’s enjoyment. Frankly, I feel that if I don’t say anything, you’re perfectly welcome to pretend I’m not in the room up to the point where you talk schitt about me in my presence. I don’t see where that hurts anything, if this is about things not related to the work.

Other than that, what this person wrote has been almost exactly my problem with FTG, and that’s basically what I told the accounting lady. I said that, for me, it’s fine if FTG doesn’t want to socialize. But this is a team-work environment, and she is not a team player. It makes it tough to do our jobs, and it also makes it so that people don’t like her or at least have moments when they don’t like her. I think the accounting lady and I are the only people at work who just totally don’t like FTG. And FTG is the type who asks questions when it benefits her or to be nosy.

I put in my socialization and I do everything I can as far as the work is concerned, but I just don’t talk anywhere near as much as others do and there are certain people I hardly speak with. The guy who made the joke about my talking too much is one of the ones I hardly speak with, but there’s really not much opportunity for me to speak to him. He doesn’t work in the suite with us, although he works for the business, and he’s hardly up here socializing. I speak with the guy who trained me all the time because he totally meets the standards I have for people, and he’s one of the reasons I feel bad about leaving my current job.

Here’s a big one:

it’s not about being introverted, it’s about being friendly and considerate of others. i think you’re being kind of self-absorbed. when you’re at a work place with other people, there’s a social responsibility to make it a fun/easy going place. by being quite all the time, you create this negative uneasy energy and honestly, i hate being around people like that. it’s rude. just talk or smile — even if it’s once in awhile. okay, work when you work but when it comes to social time, make an effort. it IS your responsibility.

my mom is really quiet but everyone at work likes her. i’m also an introvert but i smile and am polite to people. being introverted doesn’t mean you’re in your own world and don’t care about anyone else and their feelings.

I think this is 98% ridiculous. My responsibility is to complete my job duties, or else being “sociable” would be in the job ad under “requirements.” Sometimes, it basically is, and I have learned to not apply for those jobs. I do think work places are moving more towards the kind of thinking in this response, including bosses and supervisors, even if they don’t state it or write it in job ads. I don’t think you should have to come to work and be something you’re not, though, and have your job depend on it. You also shouldn’t have social events or “social time” forced on you at a job. And being quiet isn’t always rude. If you don’t want to speak to someone, then don’t speak to someone. Like someone else said, it’s your right. Just don’t be a jerk towards someone, unless they earned it.

I agree as far as there’s not much excuse to not care about people and their feelings. I can agree if you’re talking about greeting people at work, and I do that with the people I like, haha. And I agree about smiling in theory–although smiling doesn’t come easily if you don’t feel like it, and fake smiles…look fake. But, yeah…being an introvert kind of is about being in your own world. That’s where introverts feel the most comfortable.

As for “negative uneasy energy,” I think that problem tends to fall more with the more sociable people than the quiet people a lot of the time. It’s not our fault that you feel this need to talk or fill the air with noise and believe it’s awkward or something is wrong when there’s silence. Find someone who wants to engage with you or bring some earphones in and go on YouTube or something with them (sometimes I just put the bud in one ear so I can still hear the environment), and let quiet people do their thing. Gosh, what are you going to do–hold a gun to someone’s head and force them to speak to you just because you can’t just sit there or find something else to do? This is your problem.

And another:

My thoughts are very close to Honey Pumpkin’s. There are quiet people I work with who are dears and they make an effort to be inclusive. Then there are others who are downright unapproachable who make others feel uncomfortable.  

You know what? Unless the quiet person is the crazy version of quiet or has said/done something to make you legitimately have that worry, or he/she is the type who makes it hard to get work done…once again, this is a problem with the complainer or the person who feels uncomfortable, not the quiet person. And as I wrote before, I speak to people who speak to me. If you’re someone who has no problem socializing with others, then you need to be the one who is making “an effort to be inclusive,” not the naturally quiet person. Doesn’t make sense to think the quiet people will jump through hoops to interact with people, so if you want them to talk you have to try and if they don’t respond much leave them be. Use common sense. Hating or disliking people because they’re quiet and appear unapproachable is not being inclusive.

Another really good one:

I worked with a girl who was so quiet and never bothered to make and effort to be social and everyone in the office despised her.

There’s nothing wrong with being quiet, but I do think that some introverts think that if you are talking you can’t possibly be working hard.

Also, the girl in my office rarely made any effort to get to know people and you could tell she thought she worked harder than others, which didn’t lead to friendly relations in the office.

Like another person says, it comes across as self-absorbed.

I do notice a bit of the “aren’t I a hard worker” coming across in your post, so I’m sure it comes across to your colleagues as well.

I love this comment, even though it’s partially stupid like the one immediately above it. Why? Because while others kind of indicated they got the sense that the original poster felt people who socialize at work don’t work as hard, this person went ahead and addressed that this is one of the issues between quiet people at work and people who talk. Um…he/she is right.

You know, it depends on the job. At my job, we answer phones and emails. A lot of the time, people who are sitting around talking are not breaking their conversations off to answer calls. That means the people who sit quietly have to keep answering call after call, which results in more work for the quiet people. Someone has to do the work, so the quiet people can’t jump into convos just to avoid phones.

I had an internship a long time ago in which socializing would only hurt if that’s all you ever did. We did legal research and writing. I was good friends with one of my supervisors, so we would sometimes spend an hour chatting. There was another female interning who never did stuff like this, but it wasn’t like she ended up getting more legal issues to research because of this. She had certain lawyers she worked with at this place, and I had certain lawyers I worked with. And the supervisor I chatted with was one of those lawyers I worked with. I got all my work done in a timely fashion, and the lawyers I worked with were very happy with my work.

Even still, sometimes if you notice you’re sitting there working while others are talking, it gets irritating. The others might still be getting their work done, but if the talking somehow means more work for the quiet people I don’t blame them for having an issue with the socializers. Also, it’s kind of hard to talk to others if you’re doing a lot of the work and are busy with that, and I go through that at my current job. It’s pretty much always the case that I just show the “I work harder” attitude when someone doesn’t show up to work, which causes more work for me, or when it’s super busy and people are still socializing or not doing enough.

Last one:

My quietness actually came up on an evaluation at my last job once. I was told maybe I could try to socialize a little more with my co workers. But I really didn’t have much in common with them and it takes me a long time to warm up to people. I learned after getting fired that my lack of social interest at work was one of the main reasons they fired me.

Again, this is ridiculous, but this is where the work place is headed in the US. In general, I don’t have anything in common with my co-workers, either.

Some people who talk a lot also get on my nerves because they talk about nothing or assume we care about the adventures of their lives. If we’re friends, okay. If we’re not, I don’t need to hear all that. A few people at my job just love to talk and don’t care to whom they’re talking about whatever is on their mind, including the accounting lady. I lack patience for mindless conversation or people free flowing whatever they’re thinking. I fake interest in what they’re saying a lot of the time to be polite. But especially if I’m busy at work, it’s annoying. I have a short attention span, low tolerance and am not good at multi-tasking.

The Chatty Cathy co-worker of mine who only works in the suite certain days kind of reminds me of how night talk show hosts have to stand up in front of the audience and do their little random jokes every time the show comes on. She just has to come to the network support area every morning she’s at work around the same time and just start talking about random stuff. And she’ll say something kind of dramatically and just pause and look at you, as if she’s waiting to see how you respond. It’s like how the hosts go random joke–>punchline–>pause–>laughter from the audience. It’s like, “Why must we do this every time you’re here? I’m not an audience to just sit and listen to whatever you feel like saying.”

Clearly, outgoing people and quiet people don’t get each other and are annoyed by each other sometimes. Most of my friends are outgoing and extroverted, so I don’t dislike these types of people, per se. But clearly, they view themselves as normal and problem-free as far as personality goes and quiet/introverted as not.

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One thought on “Introverts vs Extroverts At Work

  1. […] how introverts are perceived at work, and I responded to some of the opinions I found online in this post. One of the points I made is about how employers seem to be incorporating personalities and […]

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