Let’s start this blog with a confession: I am an introvert. Now that I’m a full-time remote professional, it’s safe to say that nothing motivated me to leave the office forever more than having to work in a start-up. Working in a start-up may sound fun to a lot of people, but in my experience, when start-ups say “our culture is fun and awesome,” they tend to mean “fun and awesome for extroverts.”
If you’ve ever worked at a start up, you probably noticed some of these common features:
- Open floor plans
- Peppy team brainstorming meetings
- Public praise
- Ping-pong tables
- Loud music
- Passion, which is typically demonstrated in bombastic, ostentatious ways, especially on social media
- Mandatory social gatherings (typically involving copious amounts of alcohol)
Again, these things may sound fun to a lot of people, but all of them are pretty much worthless when it comes to motivating introverted employees. At worst, these “fun” mainstays of the start-up can make work feel uncomfortable or even hostile. However, the biggest threat to an introvert’s success is the underlying bias many companies have against introverted people.
Why Do We Celebrate Extroversion…
Most simply, extroverts are people who gain energy from social interactions, and introverts are people who lose energy from them. Like most things in life, this difference boils down to chemistry. Extroverts have more dopamine receptors in their brains than introverts do, meaning that they are more likely to seek dopamine, because they require more of it to feel “happy.”
And what’s one of the most commonly encountered and widely available sources of dopamine? You guessed it— social interaction. Given the purely biological and chemical reasons for extroversion, you’d think we’d take a more scientific view of personality. However, we don’t— especially at work.
In my experience, the social expectations in companies (usually) favor extroverted people because society as a whole favors extroverted people. But why does this happen, and where does it stem from?
…and Punish Introversion?
Most likely, the problem starts earlier than the workplace. In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain argues that bias toward extroversion starts in schools, where children are taught to shun traits associated with introverts and embrace extroverted behaviors. For students to fit in, they’ll have to act like extroverts, even if they aren’t.
Once these kids reach adulthood, they’ll find that this bias is ingrained in some companies the same way that racial or gender bias is. This means that it can be hard for introverts to crack the culture and truly “belong” in a meaningful way, which can obviously have a detrimental effect on their careers.
This bias against introversion also affects the way companies plan strategy or develop new ideas. According to Cain, working alone actually inspires more creativity than team brainstorming meetings that are typically dominated by extroverts. Working alone, especially in a quiet place free of distractions, is seen as “anti-social.” However, it should actually be seen as “highly effective!” Naturally, this is one big reason why remote work has been such a game-changer for introverted employees.
I guess the question I most want to ask is: why is forced socialization seen as “good” while being left along to do your job is seen as “bad?”
Remote Work Can Even the Playing Field
As you can probably tell by reading our blog and LinkedIn feeds, Verbalize Now vehemently supports remote work for several important reasons. Remote work seems like a fantastic solution in every imaginable way— from improving our air quality to reducing corporate expenditures.
So why is there so much resistance to it? One of the anti-remote work arguments that I find most ridiculous is “if you work from home, you tend to slack off more than you do in the office.” It makes sense, until you remember what the modern office was like before Covid. Speaking from experience, do you have any idea how little work I saw some people do in the office? Between talking about current celebrity gossip or debating about the merits of a certain craft beer or sports car, I saw a lot of people doing things other than working, a lot of the time. And guess what? Most of them were extroverts.
One great thing about introverts is that we simply don’t have the social bandwidth to engage in irrelevant conversations. However, this lack of “social bandwidth” is one of the primary reasons why introverts often aren’t seen as “culture fits” despite the great work they do. Remote work takes that social discrimination factor out of the equation.
Remote work actually helps introverts and extroverts alike focus better and produce more than they ever did in the office. That’s probably why 74 percent of introverts have no interest in going back to the “good old days” of full-time, in-person work. (Most incredibly of all, extroverts don’t either— 85% of them prefer a hybrid model instead.)
A Remarkably Easy Solution
There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert. However, we need to acknowledge that there’s also nothing wrong with being an introvert. Remote work is a natural solution, but an even simpler way that companies can do this is by recognizing the fact that intrinsic bias against introverted people exists. Once this happens, it’s easier to take steps to actively avoid it— just like companies (hopefully) do when it comes to toward discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
It would take serious effort, but I can tell you one thing: it would accomplish a lot more than a ping-pong table and drunken “team bonding events” do when it comes to making introverted people feel welcome and accepted.
No matter who you are, Verbalize Now is your online business English school. We pride ourselves on fun, inclusive English conversation practice for tech professionals. Check us out on LinkedIn or contact us on our website to schedule a free consultation. We teach winners— that’s why we want to teach you!