Surviving a Startup as an Introvert


So you’ve joined a startup, or a midsize company that works at a startup’s frantic cadence. The hours are long, the tasks and deadlines are soul-crushers, but the rewards are potentially vast. There’s just one issue: You’re an introvert, in a job whose particulars demand pretty much near-constant interaction with other human beings.

What to do?

Fortunately, this is one of those situations where you can start prepping the solution before you even walk through the door on the first day. When you’re negotiating the terms of employment, ask for flexible hours and the ability to work from home; that will allow you to accomplish your tasks without overloading on the whole human-interaction thing.

In a similar vein, recognize that not every meeting needs to take place face-to-face. The rise of Slack, HipChat, and other communications platforms has made it possible to really dig into the weeds on issues without actually speaking to another person. There’s just one caveat here: Some people enjoy meeting in the flesh—you may want to tell them (nicely) about your introverted status, so they don’t try to ask for your attendance on calls or in conference rooms every other hour.

Lastly, you can try to create a little physical space for yourself, although this is easier said than done in an era in which many workspaces are “open,” as opposed to divided into discrete rooms and offices. (And no, that doesn’t mean creating a wall of boxes that separates you from your co-workers.) If your office has cubbyholes or more isolated areas, the glories of Wi-Fi mean you can probably work there, instead.

2 Responses to “Surviving a Startup as an Introvert”

  1. Mr. Scott

    A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones (it’s worth spending $200..300; I like Bose and dislike the ones that add pink noise) and an MP3 player with a Background playlist of instrumental, familiar, or otherwise non-distracting music really helps me. In very noisy environments, foam earplugs too.

    Be willing to spend some money on your comfort and focus – this can improve your job performance by at least 10%.

  2. scrmonster90

    I don’t see telling people you are an introvert as being a viable solution. I believe many would scoff at this & feel that’s your issue, not theirs? I would suggest more of taking time for yourself once HOME. Do something you love to do by yourself, take a bath, read a book. The business world is rather cut throat, and if you can’t “step” up to the plate, there are several others that will be glad to take your place. Just my input.