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Background

On pretty much all tests out there, I heavily score as INTJ in the Myer-Briggs system. Some tests even suggest slight Asperger, combined with what I suspect is a healthy dose of OCD. I don't have a problem with either of these, in particular I don't suffer from them outside the workplace in the same sense as one would suffer from a disease, apart from the non-understanding and occasional head shaking I get from people around me who don't know what makes me tick.

However, it has become an increasing problem in my workplace. My employer is a large tech company, and I am a software engineer. As an introvert SE, I have my style of doing things and getting things done. But I feel that my employer, specifically my boss do not accommodate me even the slightest. Examples:

  • I prefer to work in "the zone". I.e. no chit-chat, no distractions etc. Some people made it a habit to have conversations around my desk. Loud conversations that went on for 20 or 30 minutes, most of the time not even work-related. This impacted my ability to get things gone, as a result I was taking my work home and worked overnight and on the weekends (yes, a mistake, I know). My boss noticed, and after telling him the reason, the response was something to the effect of "We want people to chat, that's our new thing now. This is how are collaborative etc." I did not contest that, I focused on the impact on my work. I expected him to bring this up with the relevant people so these conversations would stop, or at least be moved to a meeting room or the tea room. Instead, his "help" clichéfully consisted of "put on headphones". My argument that I cannot blast music in my ears all day long, and even just having headphones on causes me to develop headache (they exercise pressure on the head) was met with "deal with it".
  • Each year, my performance review never revolves around my achievements or accomplishments. It is always about my "social" skills. I don't know where I stand goal-wise, since the best I can get is "you're doing well", but each time my boss waffles on about "you need to be more active" etc. Ironically I am the most active communicator (I need to be to get things done, this is not a one-man gig), but my boss doesn't see it because it's not "loud" enough, for the lack of a better word. I.e. I get the impression that he wants me to be like the above-mentioned gabbers. Suffice it to say that it is completely demotivating when you get officially told that you need to be another person in order to match your boss' expectations.
  • Related to that, conversations about career prospects are equally demotivating that I stopped having them. "You need to get people talk about you." is a slap in the face after everything that I have done. My boss basically says "I don't care what and how much you get done. If it's is not visible, I won't promote you." But he also won't give me high-visibility projects. I have a very hard time advertising my work and my projects to other people. It's just not me. He promoted a number of social butterflies in the past years, but of course he won't admit that it's because they are more socially "acceptable". Instead, he emphasizes their contributions, and has no regards for mine. The goals that he instead sets for me (which are not even SMART) are intangible and detrimental to what I actually am.

TL;DR: I feel sabotaged by my boss due to my personality and his expectations of what my personality should be like.

Question

How can I cope with this? It becomes unbearable. I like what I'm doing. I can identify with the product and the company. But I have a hard time just being me in that workplace within daily routine, not to speak about imagining having a career in any way. It's demotivating and demoralizing to be shown every day that you're not a good fit. What can I do to grow a thick skin to at least ignore this constant disregard for introverts in a workplace that promotes extrovertism?

Please no "change jobs" advice. I noticed that this site is quick to jump to that solution, but it is not a cure because one never knows whether it's better or worse at the next job. Of course, one could ask in the interview "do you promote introverts; because I am one and also want to have a career", but that'd be an awkward interview...

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    Also, not every employer is ready and willing to accomodate a disability, that's just how it is. And visibility is important, as are social skills. I would say social skills are half of what makes a good software developer. Except for some rare cases - a developer without social skills is a useless one. Part of the job is to explain, promote, and talk about your work. – data Oct 9 at 14:17
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    Try looking into good noise reductionheadphones. You will like them. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Oct 9 at 15:27
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    @Kevin is spot on. If you don't fit the culture and don't see the future on the long run, GET OUT. In my country we say you're punching knifepoints - doing a needless effort that will accomplish nothing and will only hurt yourself. – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 9 at 19:52
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    I might have posted the same question five years ago. The answer was indeed "change job". At the time, that prospect scared me, and it was only when the work environment brought me closer than I care to recall to a breakdown that I quit. In retrospect it's the best decision I ever took. (Also the grapevine delivered a lifetime's supply of Schadenfreude around 18 months later ... it wasn't that my departure blew things up, but that the management eventually drove *everybody" with our mindset away, and the disaster that followed was then inevitable. ) – nigel222 Oct 10 at 11:52
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    MBTI is trash and should not be mentioned in decent community. It has marginal scientific value, it's authors never had relevant education, etc, read full critique on Wiki. If you want alternatives, educate yourself abut real psychometrics, like FFM (aka Big Five) or HEXACO, then never look back. – Shadows In Rain Oct 11 at 4:53

17 Answers 17

173

As an introvert SE, I have my style of doing things and getting things done.

Same here. But an introvert isn't a protected class, nor is it a disability, so anywhere you work isn't going to start running to make special considerations for you based on the fact you "just prefer to work in the zone".

There's two angles I'd take here. Firstly, if any kind of noise really bothers you that much to the point you can't work, then it would be worth getting a professional medical opinion. If you walk out of that process with a diagnosis, then your boss & HR are likely to take your requests much more seriously.

Secondly, you need to decide on what you think would be a good compromise, and directly suggest that to your boss. "Please stop people talking around me" is never going to wash, you're not just going to have a quiet zone implemented within 50 yards of your desk, and if your boss wants people to openly talk, he's not going to suddenly forbid it. Instead, you could suggest things such as:

  • You moving to a quieter room or area in the office for some of the time
  • Changing your hours so you come in earlier (or leave later) so you can have at least an hour or two of solid, uninterrupted work while others aren't around
  • Working from home some of the time

...etc.

If you lead with some suggestions like this, you're much more likely to engage in a productive discussion with your manager, rather than just coming away disappointed.

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    Thanks. I'll take this into consideration. But it would be a bit awkward to waggle with a sheet of paper saying I have a medical condition when all I require is some time to concentrate. I do write code, and that can't be done with noise. I'm not asking for quiet 50 yards around me. But people yapping right next to my desk about the Kardashians is also not viable. – user110725 Oct 9 at 13:15
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    I personally have misophonia, and I agree with this answer. You either deal with it (noise cancelling quality headphones) or ask for help from your employer from a stance of a diagnosis. – data Oct 9 at 14:20
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    "I do write code, and that can't be done with noise" respectfully disagree, I also write code and I concentrate the best when there's noise. Continuous noise (for example people chatting on the background where you cannot tell conversations apart) or music where I cannot tell the specific lyrics. – Francisco Presencia Oct 10 at 1:28
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    "Because we're all different". I'm not – Eigentime Oct 10 at 13:19
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    I came to say this very thing -> introversion is not a disability or protected. You might as well say the company is discriminating against mean people or nice people, or people who follow Sports Team™. That being said, your manager's job is to make sure that you can do your job, and hopefully they're supportive. – Wayne Werner Oct 10 at 15:36
135

Like it or not, social or "soft" skills are more critical than you think. While I absolutely do not subscribe to the idea that a person's thought and behavior can be boiled down to a few letters, being an INTJ or an introvert does not preclude you from being a good workmate. Promotions always come with an increase in responsibility and almost universally will require you to interact with people on some scale. The higher up the ladder you go, the more likely it is that you'll be required to train, lead, or mentor those below you. If you've demonstrated that you can't get along with people, don't enjoy making human connections, and don't participate in socializing, I don't see you getting a promotion to a position that will inevitably rely on you having a connection to your team. If, for example, all you've shown your bosses is that you're a good programmer, then you're going to remain a programmer.

Jobs are often much more than just "do task X". Job culture is very real and having a healthy one can have huge benefits to a company. Refusing to participate in the culture because you don't agree with it shows that this may not be the job for you.

I sympathize with you, really. I'm very introverted myself. I'd prefer to come in, do my work, and then leave. Unfortunately, the world doesn't cater to me. I participate in conversations, make chitchat, and try to ensure that my coworkers like me not only as a coworker, but as a person. There are one or two people at my job that I despise, but I still make friendly banter with them and treat them with respect. I often hear conversations I don't want to hear but I just put my earbuds in (there are headphones/earbuds that WON'T apply pressure to your head and you can often adjust the volume so it's not deafening or doing any damage).

Your boss is not attempting to get you to change your personality. It sounds more like your boss is trying to get you to be an adult, which involves doing things and putting up with things that you aren't comfortable with for the sake of doing the things you do enjoy. You like the job, you like the work, you like the pay. If a couple of coworkers discussing the weather is enough of a hindrance to outweigh the benefits, then change jobs. Otherwise, bring up a formal complaint to HR that you're unhappy with the culture and environment and that you feel disrespected, then watch them do nothing about it.

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    As a senior developer with a similar personality, I very much agree with this answer and it's promotion of soft skills. I learned the hard way that soft skills beat hard skills all the time. As for noise, we have a mandatory open-door-policy and there is a very chatty office next door and the department kitchen just around the corner, so I can't focus very much - until I put on my good, sound insulating headphones and get in the zone. I have made it a habit to only have headphones on half of the day so I can take part in the chit-chat the other half so that I'm not the weird guy in the corner. – Morfildur Oct 10 at 8:57
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    While I agree that soft skills are important, the question doesn't imply a lack of soft skills! OP seems to get the information he needs - and likely can provide the information others need sufficiently clear. It seems way more like a culture misfit, where the rest of the team seems to consider a chatty atmosphere as healthy and OP doesn't. Sure, with better soft skills he could easier see how to manipulate his colleagues into doing what he wants, but that's why he's asking here-basically to improve his soft skills. "You need better soft skills" isn't an answer to that. – Frank Hopkins Oct 10 at 20:12
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    I wish I could upvote this more. The amount of software developers who believe the myth of the genius loner coder always amazes me. It's almost as if they pride themselves on being socially incompetent. In reality any interesting software project is a gigantic team effort not just involving programmers but many different people. If you can't handle people then there's just no point in promoting him - doing so would just be the Peter principle at work. – Voo Oct 10 at 21:01
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    @Voo I totally don't get how you picture OP as the loner. He does work with the team on a professional level, all he wants is not be disturbed by non-professional interaction. That's like blaming someone who doesn't want a dog in the office even though everyone else loves them because he's afraid of dogs or otherwise annoyed by them as being the genius loner guy. A good part of the answers to this question don't seem to address OP but the weird lone ranger cliché guy people have in their heads. – Frank Hopkins Oct 10 at 22:18
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    This answer is at least to a degree patronizing. It has distorted the introvert to being poor at soft skills across the board. Please answer the question if you will without excessive extrapolation. – javadba Oct 10 at 23:02
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One thing that I like to tell people is that "A diagnosis is not a destiny"

For some background, I am autistic, LD, hearing impaired, and have had a lifetime of ill health, so this is not a "toughen up, buttercup" speech from someone who hasn't lived through it himself.

In fact, as a quintessential outlier myself, I heartily understand what you are going through, and that it can seem like the dominant culture is against you. But it really isn't. You're just different from many in your environment.

The workplace has changed, and you need to adapt to what is expected of you. Like it or not, communication is now part of your duties, and you need to fit into the culture as part of your job.

This is not to say that you cannot do your job AND be an introvert, but that you have to learn the nature of; what you can and cannot do, what you can circumvent, what you can leverage, and what you can use to your advantage.

To use myself as an example, there are many things about my hearing that I cannot change, but there are plenty of ways I can change how I deal with my hearing, such as

  • always facing a person, so I can read lips if I need to
  • Have conversations in quiet areas with little background noise.
  • Sit in such a fashion that I can see everyone in a meeting (and read lips)

So, What you need to do is find out what works for you.

Perhaps as a more introverted person, you can do more 1 on 1 meetings with people, instead of getting involved in group conversations. Or, when the conversations start and you feel you can't work, just make that some down time, and go get coffee, join in the conversation, or just take a break, if you can't participate.

My autism is an even greater challenge, and I've had many of the same problems you have articulated.

To help me with those, I picked up the following books

  • How to win friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie
  • Brag, the art of tooting your own horn without blowing it, By Peggy Klaus
  • The hard facts about soft skills, By Peggy Klaus
  • The seven habits of highly effective people, by Steven R Covey

and even some books on how to close sales. Whatever you need to do to become your own advocate can only help you.

Kudos to your management for identifying your problem, now, work on the solution.

Since they're not bringing up your actual output, you know that that is fine, so the soft skills are where you need to focus. Please pick up some, or all of those books, they help. I was at one point so socially backward that I had literally ZERO friends. So, if I can improve, you can too.

I'd start with "Brag", if i were you, because it sounds like you need some help promoting yourself.

Lastly, no matter what happens to you, never assume that any failure you have is due to outside influences like discrimination. Even if people are acting against you, you always have the power to influence your own life. If people are discriminating against you, fight harder, show them they are wrong. Don't give anyone the power to make you feel inferior.

Good luck! Work on those soft skills, and reach for the stars, my friend. You can do it!

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    Based on that first sentence, I knew you were the author of this answer ;) – JAD Oct 10 at 8:44
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    +10 for "you have to learn the nature of; what you can and cannot do, what you can circumvent, what you can leverage, and what you can use to your advantage". The world is the way it is. The sooner you accept that and start figuring out how to leverage it to your advantage, the better. – Kaz Oct 10 at 18:09
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    amazing answer, to the point, with examples and references, and nice and positive attitude. – Quaestor Lucem Oct 11 at 11:55
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    If I could give +10 to this answer I would. Standing ovation – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 14 at 19:28
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"We want people to chat, that's our new thing now. This is how are collaborative etc." [...] I expected him to bring this up with the relevant people so these conversations would stop

Why did you expected him to make people stop if he clearly stated that this is part of new company policy? You expected him to read your mind that you are not happy with it and change the company. For you. "Deal with it" is the proper answer. You have a problem that you want to change into everyone problem, with someone else hands. YOU have to deal with it. Yes, it might mean YOU need to find another job.

performance review never revolves around my achievements or accomplishments. It is always about my "social" skills.

If those social skills are not your personal goals (or KPI's or whatever) then you should make your boss aware of it. You got A things done. If he want you to make B things done there is obvious problem with communication. Or wrong assumptions (might be on boths sides) on what your goals should be. Which you show in the next point

"I don't care what and how much you get done. If it's is not visible, I won't promote you."

And how do you expect us to give you other advice than "change jobs"? You want us to help you change whole company, it's policies (official and unofficial ones). You should realize that your company is not interested in meritocracy. Maybe even is unable to do so.

This is how you can cope with this. Accept it and deal with the fact thet you will never get promoted. That you know you are not a good fit and YOU decide to be it that way.
Because you feel that changing company for you by someone else is easier than YOU changing your workplace that would better suit your needs.

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    "Accept it and deal with the fact thet you will never get promoted." Ok. "That you know you are not a good fit and YOU decide to be it that way." Would you say this to a gay person, too? "You expected him to read your mind that you are not happy with it and change the company." No I had a chat with him. "Because you feel that changing company for you by someone else is easier [..]" I didn't say that. "social skills" It's always easy for extroverts to sumsube all personality-related issues under "social skills". But I get you. I'll deal with it. That's what he said... – user110725 Oct 9 at 13:12
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    Being an introvert isn't a protected class. You shouldn't dismiss our suggestions so quickly. – Donald Oct 9 at 13:35
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    do you want to get promoted? Maybe your manager focusses on these social skills because he thinks that for any step up you need them. Try to find out what lies behind these social skills he think you need (or their goal) and achieve those in your way. Then maybe you can show that you as an introvert do it differently but with the same resutls . So yes get the goals crystal clear – user180146 Oct 9 at 13:48
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    "I don't care what and how much you get done. If it's not visible, I won't promote you." This comment (from your boss) is gold. He is telling your directly he can't see invisible, undetectable work. While there are other things you should do, one item you need to do pronto is to make your work visible. – Edwin Buck Oct 11 at 1:22
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Regarding needing quiet time: Whenever you have a problem, stating "solving my problem requires me to do nothing and everyone around me to change" never works. Never ever, not even a little. So you are already off base here. You don't have to blast music into your head to reduce noise; conversely, you can get headphones with noise-cancelling features, or even well-fitting earbuds/earplugs, which can reduce/mitigate noise which don't require substitute noise (e.g. music) as a replacement/masking feature. You should be able to buy earplugs from your nearby convenience store for a couple bucks, or if you have health insurance you can get custom ones made for you for a fee (which should be covered probably by your insurance). Or you can pay out a bit and get a good set of noise-cancelling earphones, which you can use the noise-cancelling features of without having to use the headphones feature, and then you bonus have a good set of headphones too. The main takeaway is that the noise issue is your issue, and the solution to your issue is never "everyone around me is awful, I did nothing wrong".

Regarding getting promoted, the higher up you go in a company, especially as an engineer, the more people you have to interact with. If you're a manager, you will start coding less and start going to meetings more. You have to show that you can be friendly and personable in those meeting, so other managers will want to work with you. If your goal is "leave me alone, just let me do my thing", that's not a good look for a manager. Even if you want to move from junior/intermediate to Senior Engineer, you will need to provide mentorship, and being the guy who says "sorry I can't mentor you, I'm busy" isn't a good look either. If you want to get promoted, you have to be personable. Yes, this is telling you that you have to change who you are if you want to succeed, because that's the (unfortunate, if you choose to look at it that way) truth of the matter.

And by the way, neither of the things I said above are with respect to your current work situation, they are widely applicable. So my advice here is definitely not to quit your job and find another one, because it's doubtful you will find any job which does not have similar problems to those you've outlined here already. Stick it out, make the changes you need to make yourself to succeed.

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You have to change job Sorry, I know you said "no job changes advise" but there is no another option for you.

This is the culture of where you are, it won't change, its much more probably that you end up fired at first lay offs and that will happen, soon or later.

Such companies like that are very often inefficient and won't thrive because people just talk too much but produce nothing.

The situation you described here I seen so many times specially at big consultancy firms where you are demanded to use fancy suits. You won't change this place, the best you can do for yourself is change jobs for a smaller company. When you'll be inside a small team people will understand your value because they will see what you having be work. It can't happen on big enterprises because there are just too much people and most of them are trying some office politics instead of working. Switch jobs and be happy, you can and I completely understand your situation but there is no solution for this unless you get out there.

"I don't care what and how much you get done. If it's is not visible, I won't promote you."

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    This is probably the most practical answer that doesn't require the OP merely tune everyone out with noise cancellation... I really wish companies and office buildings would have more actual offices with doors so people could focus. This is a much more significant and widespread problem than probably anyone realizes. – Andrew Oct 11 at 17:53
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Your office is doing things wrong. I thought before that there is no "escape" to these wrongdoings of the usual way people work, but now I learned that specially for software development, there are some mandatory conditions that should be met to work properly. I will explain my two experiences and why I learned that.

BEFORE: I worked for the IT department of a financial company in my country Chile. Chileans are very extroverted, easy-going, and social people. My workplace was full of noise, people from other departments chatting loudly, interruptions, etc. Evaluations were done as you described, more focus on "teamwork" in the social way.

NOW: I am working in Germany for a software company. Work conditions are very strict and silence is a priority for the engineering department. Nobody can talk loud and disturb the work of others. If you have to discuss something with a colleague, do some pair programming, reviews, etc, you HAVE to book a room for meetings and go there. Everything is measured. It can be by stories delivered, commits, successful releases, etc but progress and achievements are always measured for the goals that were set on the previous evaluation. Always work-related, measurable goals (i.e: improve our services job processing rate and ensure 99.9% availability of the systems by end of the quarter).

So, some advise to improve your situation:

  • Noise cancelling headphones. Here, they are even part of the equipment given by the company to help focus. Because our area of work not only benefits from focus, but it NEEDS to be done "in the zone" always.

  • Together with more software engineers, propose a better procedure for working, ensuring these conditions we are talking about.

  • Measure, log, and have ways to demonstrate all your work in measurable ways, and present them as evidence during evaluations.

Finally: your company way of work things is wrong, it DOES NOT SUIT software development at all. So, evaluate the worst case of changing jobs. YOU are working in one of the worst places for software development given the current conditions.

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    You appear to have ignored all the things the op requested. No head phones, they hurt, no suggestion to change job. etc. – djsmiley2k - CoW Oct 10 at 17:13
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    there is no way he can deal with it without switching jobs regardless what he requests. – lambdapool Oct 10 at 17:22
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    I disagree that open workspaces are always WRONG. It depends on the line of work and how much crossfunctional work is required. If non-work discussions disturb others from working, that sounds like a problem, though. – Llewellyn Oct 10 at 17:26
  • Ridiculous - I work in software development, and we get stuff done in an open noisy office (60 of us devs), so your mandatory conditions are anything but. – Moo Oct 11 at 8:05
  • "The art of designing embedded systems", 2nd Ed., by Jack Gannsle, in appendix "C.6 - peopleware" states: The results? Well, at first the data was a scrambled mess. Nothing correlated. Teams that excelled on the projects (by any measure: speed, bug count, matching specs) were neither more highly paid nor more experienced than the losers. Crunching every parameter revealed the answer: developers imprisoned in noisy cubicles, those who had no defense against frequent interruptions, did poorly. And goes on about the productivity boost a programmer gets when allowed to work undisturbed. – Lorenzo Donati supports Monica Oct 11 at 14:00
4

This answer assumes your manager is acting in good faith but there is possibly a communication issue; essentially you need to:

  1. Clarify exactly what he wants and action it appropriately, while
  2. Mitigating the personal difficulties you face.

1. Manager's Requirements

Soft Skills - these are important and if your manager believes they need improving, then try and clarify with him exactly what he means with measurable targets you can work towards - this also applies to your career prospects and project visibility concerns. There are plenty of resources you can then use to action that progression.

2. Noise Sensitivity

Headphones blasting music all day: You don't need this at all to cut down environmental noise - alternatives include: decent earplugs and quality noise -isolation and/or -cancelling headphones which then allow you to play things at a lower volume for longer durations; either white noise (e.g. rainfall) or earplugs plus noise-cancelling can be very effective.

As an aside: Myers-Briggs is not without significant criticism; don't worry too much about your rating on it - focus on the things you can solidly identify and positively influence.

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    This is a very good response. As described the OP doesn't have a great manager or the manager is not operating in good faith. If you can't set and agree on measurable goals with your boss, that's a red flag. – Dustin Andrews Oct 10 at 20:44
3

I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but software engineering is one of the most introverted professions. The vast majority of your colleagues you are complaining about are also introverts. So why does their behavior seem so non-introverted? Because they are adapting to their environment instead of futilely hoping for the environment to adapt to them.

What do I mean by adapting? It doesn't mean changing who you are. It means taking steps to help your environment feel more comfortable to you.

For example, if you know collaborating with other people expends your energy, but it is unavoidable, what might you do to feel more comfortable? Perhaps getting to know your colleagues better, so you're not interacting with basically strangers. Perhaps breaking up the intense stressful work-related conversations with something more light-hearted that can help you relax. For introverts, when being alone isn't an option, less stressful interactions are the next best thing. Idle chit chat serves the interests of introverts too.

Something that can help with the idle chit chat is to notice when these mostly take place. It's usually during transition times, like the start and end of the day, and just before and after lunch. If you anticipate them, they are not as intrusive.

If as an introvert you wanted to minimize work-related conversations, what might you do? Holding them in a more public place has a couple advantages for introverts too. Someone might overhear your questions and have a quick answer for you, meaning your conversation is over sooner and you are back to alone time. Someone might overhear your answers and realize they also need that information, meaning you just avoided a repeated conversation by disseminating the information to a larger group. Avoiding repetition means more alone time. People in the room will recognize your contributions in that area, without you having to engage in separate self-promotion activities. Open conversations serve the interests of introverts too.

When people suggest headphones, it's not just a condescending cliché. Most everyone who is suggesting that to you is also an introvert and found headphones very helpful. If you are having comfort problems, try lower volume and different styles of headphones. Headphones that are comfortable for others are painful for me, and vice versa. Also, this is one product where you get what you pay for. If you've only tried cheap headphones you don't know what you are missing.

If you know you will likely be interrupted in a half hour, would you change anything about how you work, to make the interruption less painful to recover from? When I'm having trouble getting into "the zone," I actually do what a lot of software developers consider crazy and set a timer to interrupt myself in 25 minutes. I got this idea from the pomodoro technique. This helps in unintuitive ways. I worry less about responding to emails or chats or other distractions, because I know I have a defined time to get to that shortly. It helps me perfect techniques of keeping my place, such as test driven development and keeping notes. It makes being interrupted by colleagues less annoying, because I was already planning to be interrupted soon anyway. It forces me to keep a list of things to do when my timer is up, which gets them out of my head quickly.

This is what helped me, but you may find your own adaptations. My point is look at things you can change yourself, because you can't control what others do.

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    they are just incompetent people who doesn't have any technical skills trying to show off and justify their jobs and salaries. they are not adapting at all they are cheating. – lambdapool Oct 10 at 17:18
  • This answer would be frustrating to me as the OP, because you seem rather ignorant of what it's like trying to focus on something but constantly get distracted by people talking. I refer you to the cartoon from gidds' answer: heeris.id.au/2013/… – Andrew Oct 11 at 18:03
3

Studies going back to Jung and the formation of the concepts of Introversion and Extraversion describe the amount and type of energy we expend in pursuit of social goals. Introverts typically are required to expend energy when surrounded by large groups or a great deal of stimuli. As an introvert (INTJ no less) myself I use to believe this made me incapable of being in or even thriving in these environments.

Unfortunately many places are not suited to small group, low stimuli environments. There simply are places that either won't or can't accommodate this. Faced with this we can either avoid them or learn to cope.

That said, there are ways to ease the daily strain, some of those have been mentioned in answers already and I would encourage trying many of them out to see what might work for you.

Offering from my own experience I have found gamifying the situation to be acceptable and even enjoyable. You have stated that repeatedly your boss has focused not on your skills as a programmer but on the "soft skills". He is essentially telling you what you need to get ahead. It is not what you want to do, frankly might not even be what's best for the company, but regardless what you need to do IS being outlined for you. So turn interpersonal communication into a game. Learn what topics your coworkers enjoy. Set yourself a goal of a number of daily or weekly conversations. Monitor your progress and set yourself new goals as you accomplish the old ones. Are your co-workers responding? If not seek out new topics, learn how to communicate. Our very own Interpersonal Stack Exchange has a number of wonderful answers that can assist in bettering workplace communication. Like any skill it is one that can be learned and honed. Seek out the projects you want and make interacting with the key principals associated with those efforts your "talk" goals. This has the double impact of giving you a professional thing you want (the visible projects you can shine on) while building soft skills.

I find that after a day of this I have expended a great deal of energy and so I recharge away from it all. This is critical. Allow yourself to do the activities away from groups that fill your battery back up. Doing this makes tackling the next day of "Interpersonal Games" easier. Recognizing that interacting in this way is tiresome but not impossible can help formulate strategies like the above one to get ahead in environments that you might otherwise find less desirable.

2

This could be me posting something similar when I had my first consulting job, though you have the benefit they are not lying to you, as they were to me.

As for people hanging out talking all day around your desk (why?), in my previous job, I would tell them to go otherwise when I had critical things to attend (for instance, a big failure). Here I usually let it go, and put headphones. Headhones do not need to be big, I just use light phones, the cheaper the better and they do not inconvenience me.

As for evaluation, the point is, they have got different core values than you have, and only know and most importantly, only want to evaluate others through their tinted lenses with which they view the world.

More importantly enough, over the years, and I got confirmation of that talking with a couple of old colleagues, they also feel menaced by not being able to do our job.

You are being emotionally manipulated. They do not value you (you already know that anyway).

Although you say you do not want to change jobs, changing jobs also would help you gain more experience into the world.

Although I was always an introvert, and in certain ways, I am still very reserved, I learned to be (or fake to be), a team player, and I am more vocal nowadays. It helps.

There is also the organisation point of view. Non-IT organisations always are bullshit-y when evaluating IT people, which they might even dislike or not trust. Over the years, I found I am so much more happy integrated into hardcore IT organisations, like now where I am working for the major telecom operator here.

As for prospects for the evaluation time, it is all a game to justify keeping you in your place. You need to learn to go past that, and if need be call their bullshit. Though in my personal experience, it did not improve things as much as moving to more technical oriented organizations, where you feel more at home with similar people.

  • Phones? You mean headphones? – Peter Mortensen Oct 11 at 1:37
  • @PeterMortensen yeah, headphones, thanks – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 11 at 1:55
  • @PeterMortensen Hahahaha no he meant for OP to put phones on his head and start calling people. – Andrew Oct 11 at 18:05
1

Ironically I am the most active communicator

This is in contrast with you claiming to be an introvert. Collaborating with other people is essential to success of the project, so if somebody has bad social skills it is a good reason for not promoting them. Be very honest with yourself and think again about your social skills - are they really not lacking? Because being an introvert doesn't justify having bad social skills.

I'd also consider switching to a different team/project, if you see your boss/team being the main problem after all. I know that you aren't looking for a job change, but consider that some roles are very suitable for introverted people and/or require a style of communication that would be more suitable for you.

  • 10
    I don't think introvert means "do not communicate" or "do not collaborate". I communicate so that it doesn't disturb others. I.e. ticket system, email, IM, white board in a separate room etc. Intrinsically, this way of communicating is also rather invisible to those who base their assessment on how visible communication is. But I don't see any technical point of blaring my views across three desks just so that the boss gets to here that I have communicated. It'll equally annoy other people. – user110725 Oct 9 at 13:02
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    Being introvert doesn't equate with being a bad communicator, just that interacting with people drains the person of energy. – STT LCU Oct 9 at 13:02
  • As for lacking skills: That's how we end up with "You need to be more active" because I asked exactly that. But to me this is a non-answer because I am already very active. Also, "lacking social skills" is a bit of a wildcard unless one can pinpoint exactly what is wrong. Not saying I don't lack anything, but when I asked, no specifics have been rendered. – user110725 Oct 9 at 13:05
  • @John-the-Reasonable Have you told your boss that you think that you communicate well enough and explained what sort of communication channels you're using? – Simon Oct 9 at 13:11
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    Please do not confuse introversion with social anxiety or poor communication skills. Those are very different concepts. There are remarkably good communicators among the introverts, they just don't like to do that often or out of their own terms. – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 9 at 19:51
1

I hesitate to suggest this, but could you try malicious compliance?

It seems like you've pretty much been told that collaborating (i.e. chatting) with colleagues whenever they want, socialising more, and getting people to talk about you is more important than the work you're doing.  So why not actually apply that, concentrating on all those things even at the expense of your work?

If your work suffers noticeably, you can explain to your boss exactly why — and having seen the effects, he can then decide whether he meant what he said, or whether to ease up on you and let you work effectively.  (Or you may find better coping strategies, so that your work doesn't suffer too much after all.)

I sympathise with your situation; I too find it intensely frustrating (in both senses) to be interrupted while trying to concentrate on something complex.  (This cartoon explains it better than I can!)  To have your boss show so little understanding must be infuriating and demoralising.  Is there any possibility for moving to another team within the same company?

  • I get the sense that there are a lot of derpheads out there that think of their employees more like cattle than people. Great cartoon. Also good advice. The company clearly doesn't value the work as much as the OP, so I'd engage in conversation myself, maybe even interact with those nearby that are chatting. It's the company's fault, not yours, and the company's time. – Andrew Oct 11 at 18:00
  • I think this is bad advice. People generally want work to be professionally fulfilling, or pay a lot, or some tradeoff between them (ideally maximizing both). By complying maliciously, you're making your own work less fulfilling because you're not doing meaningful work and you're not doing that in trade with more pay. It's likely to make one miserable at work and leave. I think the other answers are better in suggesting that the OP either leave or resolve the situation at work with personal interventions such as noise cancelling headphones. – Greg Schmit - Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 21:58
  • @Greg Yes, that's why I hesitated to suggest it. But bear in mind that the down-side is probably temporary: if it makes the boss realise/admit that the work itself is more important after all, then OP can return to that (the best outcome); or if OP discovers better coping strategies, then OP might be happier continuing. Only if the boss is happy and OP is not would it continue for long -- and in that case, leaving the team or company is probably the only way out. The point of this approach is that it demonstrates to the boss the consequences of his policy. – gidds Oct 12 at 9:46
  • This answer has attracted a lot of downvotes. It would be interesting if people who disagreed with it would explain why. – gidds Oct 16 at 11:30
1

At the next performance review, forget that you are an introvert for a moment and complain to your boss as loud as you can. Tell him how by not accepting and accommodating you as an introvert, the workplace is exclusionary and prevents diversity.

Tell him that you want your unique contributions to be respected and reflected in your ratings and in your next raise. Make sure you have achievements that you can point out.

  • Basically this - and have a backup plan of moving on to another team. The boss does not value the OP. I would find it a bit of fresh air to have the OP on my team: someone who gets stuff done and does not want to toot their own horn. – javadba Oct 10 at 23:07
1

I understand and agree with your concerns, the extrovert agenda can be really frustrating, but you also have to understand the other side as well. Culture is important in the workplace and having coworkers openly communicate and be friendly with one another is considered a positive almost universally. Some people even make a career out of being friendly to the right people. But it makes sense, you spend such a large portion of your life at work that of course people want to enjoy that time and surround themselves with people that make their work experience better. My point is that this culture isn't a battle you want to fight. You shouldn't do anything to disrupt the culture or further isolate yourself.

This doesn't mean you have to change who you are to be a good company guy... just do little things. It's been said in the comments already but invest in quality noise canceling headphones. Seriously, do it!! Given that you are human, you will need to take breaks from your "deep work" and when you do allow yourself to engage with others. Just be friendly, and show some interest to your coworkers is all that is necessary. You don't have to have to become Mr. Social Butterfly. Maybe you eat lunch with others occassionally. Maybe there is some interest or non-work related initiative you can share with your coworkers. These things aren't easy if you are on the far end of the introversion scale, but it's part of the deal and something to work towards. It can be hard, awkward, and draining, but it's necessary.

In your question you are trying to figure out how to change things external to you but I don't think that is the right approach. You should should look inwards and see what you can do better to assimilate with this culture.

1

Is home office an option?

I'm a dev just like you and I spend only a single day every week at the office. It works great for me in terms of productivity yet I'm still regularly available for meetings, discussion and general chat.

In my particular case this arrangement had been thrown off the table as unfeasible the first time I had asked for it. It was only when I came to hand in my notice (and was already well underway with interviewing with other companies) that this option suddenly became available. It didn't take long for others to request some home office time as well, which had been the main concern for my managers, but looking back it turned out to be quite a blessing for everyone.

1

You seem to put too much emphasis on unverified personality/behavioural tests. You mention Myers-Briggs. From Wikipedia Myers-Briggs - Criticism:

Many of the studies that endorse MBTI are methodologically weak or unscientific.

That's a nice way of saying Myers-Briggs is rubbish.

You also say:

Some tests even suggest slight Asperger, combined with what I suspect is a healthy dose of OCD.

A self-test can't diagnose Asperger's or OCD. Only a qualified mental health professional can do that. If you're really concerned about it, get it checked out. I have personality traits that some laypeople have thought was Asperger's and OCD. A mental health professional who I'd been seeing for a long time dismissed both out of hand. Having one or two traits doesn't mean you have the condition.

I don't understand what you mean by "introvert SE". Stack Exchange? South East? A search didn't find any English language results. I do understand the introverted side, so I'll ignore "SE" unless someone tells me what it means.

I am naturally introverted. I like people, but I'm often uncomfortable or awkward socialising. When programming I often use earbuds to play music I like. The music drowns out background noise of telephone calls and work conversations. Because I've listened to these tracks many, many times, I can tune them out. If you asked me to name the tracks I've listened to in the last fifteen minutes, I'd only be able to tell you the last one. I'm listening to music as I write this answer and I can't remember what was played before the current track.

You say:

I cannot blast music in my ears all day long, and even just having headphones on causes me to develop headache (they exercise pressure on the head)

You don't need to "blast" music, and doing so would damage your hearing. Play music at a comfortable level for you. Since the pressure of headphones applies pressure to your head, use earbuds or some other design that doesn't put pressure on your head. At home I have a lovely set of wireless headphones that sit very comfortably on my head without any noticeable pressure.

If people are talking loudly next to your desk about non-work related things and disturbing you, it's acceptable to politely let them know they're disturbing your work and ask them to move. Don't call them out for not working! You're not their boss, but you are responsible for managing your own work, and organising your work environment to maximise your productivity without negatively impacting others' productivity. Another possibility is that by talking near you, they're giving you an opportunity to participate in their conversation. If you never talk to them, eventually they will see you as unfriendly and shun you. It's OK to participate in their conversation as long as it doesn't go on too long and impact your work.

The remainder of your question is about the social aspect. Human beings are social animals. This is a fact, but it can be hard for introverted people like us to accept this in a work environment. Surely a work environment is all about the work? No, not entirely. Getting on with your peers is very important, and this takes emotional intelligence, social skills, or whatever else you'd like to call it. You don't need to be as chatty as the chattiest person in the office, but you do need to raise your sociability to a minimum acceptable level. Ignoring the social aspect in favour of working 100% of the time would be like ignoring logic and program flow in favour of typing at a high rate of words per minute. Work on your weaknesses until they no longer trip you up. You don't have to become an expert, just as long as it's not holding you back.

As for "being more visible", be proud of your successes! Boast about your victories a little! "I'm so happy about the way that last project went! Sally asked me for a way to do X and I think this is a really neat way of doing it. Sally just loves it!" It sounds like this is what your boss wants. Your work reputation is all about what other people think of you and not at all about your productivity. You can argue that this is wrong and that it shouldn't be like that, and I'd probably agree with you. The reality is that looking valuable is more important than providing value to your company. That's not to say they're mutually exclusive. The best way to look valuable is to constantly point out recent things you've done that benefit the company and your team. Lying is also a very successful method that I've seen other people use, but I don't recommend it because some people always know the truth and are resentful of the liar getting ahead without merit. I'm sure your boss would be happier with an employee who everyone likes and gets their work done, than an unlikable employee who gets their work done.

In summary:

  • stop paying attention to the results of dubious personality tests
  • find headphones or earphones that work for you and play music at a reasonable volume
  • politely ask people who are disturbing your work to continue their conversation elsewhere
  • recognise the importance of socialising, and engage with other people without it negatively affecting your work (it's a balance)
  • share your victories with other people!

protected by Mister Positive Oct 10 at 17:13

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