why do the extroverts run the show at work — at the expense of introverts?

A reader writes:

I work in the dreaded open-plan/high-density seating arrangement (but thankfully am able to work a couple of days a week from home, which makes it survivable). I have been told I am friendly and pleasant at work, but I limit my socializing, as I regard work as work and my personal life is my own, outside of work. I also work in a very dynamic environment and we are all at max capacity, so we really don’t have much time to socialize if we want to “work smart” and not stay until all hours.

Several of my coworkers, including our senior manager, are very sociable at work, and seem to regard the open plan as one big coffee klatch. They’re always standing around in the “common space” between desks, yakking, and talking across at each other from their desks. They don’t seem to understand the concept of “indoor voices”. They say they stay until 7 p.m.or later dealing with emails and other work stuff, and say they spend a weekend day working.

That’s their choice, but it certainly is not mine. I did that sort of thing in my twenties, but now work-life balance is essential to me. My style is not socializing at work and then having to work late/weekends.

Despite numerous people asking them to be quiet, saying “shhhhhhh”, speaking to them privately, and talking to their managers — they still do it. I wear Bose acoustic noise-cancelling headphones and have a white noise machine, and it’s still very distracting. I’ve tried, but I’m not able to “just tune it out” as some people do.

It’s gotten to the point where several of us schedule conference rooms during the workday just so we can have some peace and quiet and get work done. I have talked to HR and my director about setting aside a “quiet room” for quiet work, but we literally don’t have the space — which is why we book conference rooms or go offsite.

That said, why should extroverts run the show at the expense of introverts? We deserve a quiet workplace where we can get work done. Why management isn’t listening, I don’t know, but I don’t know what else I can do.

I’m as sympathetic to this as they come — I want to work in total silence, all the time, and I don’t want anyone speaking to me while I’m concentrating — but I actually think you might be being unfair here.

You write: “Why should extroverts run the show at the expense of introverts? We deserve a quiet workplace where we can get work done.” But you could also turn that around, and ask why introverts should run the show at the expense of extroverts, who also deserve a workplace that accommodates their preferred style too.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think this argument is perfect. Ultimately, when one person’s style disrupts others, the people being disrupted should generally win out. But I still think it’s worth thinking about, because — just as extroverts tend not to understand the needs of introverts and the fact that introverts’ style isn’t somehow inferior or in needing of fixing — I think you’re probably not understanding the needs of extroverts. The deal with extroverts isn’t that they like to waste a lot of time and socialize instead of being productive — it’s that social relationships actually make them more productive. (Yes, it’s weird. I don’t get it either. But apparently a large portion of humans operate this way.)

But you’ve got headphones, conference rooms where you can work uninterrupted, and the ability to go off-site. That’s not bad. Using those things might be a reasonable compromise that lets everyone, regardless of where they fall on the introvert/extrovert scale, be reasonably comfortable and productive.

The real culprit here is the open-plan office, which is the enemy of sanity and productivity everywhere.

{ 310 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed

    Would your senior manager be open to allowing people to pick new cubes? You could have a quieter area and let the chatty folks have their own section?

    I do think you’re conflating some issues here, for what it’s worth. Being private and keeping work/personal life separate isn’t an introvert thing – it’s just your preference. And wasting time and screwing around isn’t an extrovert thing – it’s just how this group appears to function. They’re not right or wrong (and I’m getting a strong sense that you think your way is the best way) – they’re just different.

    I’m an introvert but I take a bit of time each day to socialize and chat with my team, and I generally know what’s going on people’s lives because we talk.

    It may come down to this not being the right environment for you. I would curl up and die on a stock broker floor, for example. Some environments just don’t work for everyone.

    1. Colette

      I agree that some of this isn’t an introvert vs. extrovert thing.

      I completely understand the OP’s desire to get her work done so she can leave without worrying about it – but not everyone works that way, and that’s OK. It’s also not clear to me if all of the conversation is social – some of it certainly is, but there may be some significant work-related talk happening too. Even if there isn’t, building relationships can help get the work done.

      Since the people participating in the conversation haven’t been receptive to toning it down – and since a senior manager is one of the offenders – this is likely something the OP has to live with if she wants to stay in this job.

      1. BRR

        I also agree it’s not an introvert extrovert thing. I’m part introvert part extrovert. I like doing stuff but I definitely need alone time at home to recharge.

        It’s a work style thing. I like working in silence and being social with my colleagues. I think the OP has some great ways of getting their work done in their environment and that’s the best solution for the issue at hand.

        Also I like Katie’s idea of possibly rearranging cubes.

        1. sally-o

          +1

          I’m getting irked by the introvert/extrovert dichotomy that is floating around the internet these days. I fall more on the extrovert side, but I also like to separate my work and personal life, and I am not loud or chatty at work. However, my work relationships are important to me, and I would get lonely/depressed if I didn’t interact with coworkers several times throughout the day.

          Introverts can be loud/obnoxious and extroverts can be shy/quiet. The behavior the OP is describing is not an I/E issue.

          1. Neeta

            As an introvert, I totally agree!

            I work in an open office where there’s generally a lot of noise of varied intensity. Sometimes I even contribute to it, when I get fired up over an issue, but I try to reign myself in. A few years ago, I went on a business trip to a client in the US, who also used open offices. Only their office was always completely silent. People were even talking in hushed tones. I thought I would go mad, thankfully I had headphones to put on a bit of background music.

          2. Thomas W

            Completely agree. It is not an absolute trait where you’re one or the other. Most people have elements of both, even if they fall more commonly one way or the other.

    2. Sharon

      The way the OP describes the layout, I don’t think she even has cubes. It sounds like the true open plan office where people work on tables with no dividers between. (She calls it “high density”.) So your suggestion won’t even help. Maybe a spot at the table in the furthest corner of the room, but that’s about all she can ask for. It’s really horrendous.

      1. "The Introvert" (hehe)

        LOL, you hit the nail right on the head, Sharon. I am the person who asked the original question and indeed, we do not have cubes at all. We have no walls, it’s just a bunch of desks. It is, as you said, horrendous, and the enemy of sanity and productivity everywhere — and sadly, more and more companies are going this direction. Saves them money (at the expense of high employee turnover perhaps? I don’t know).

        Anyway, thanks everyone for responding, you all have given me a new perspective and a lot to think about.

        1. Koko

          How long have you been working there? I’m a highly sensitive person–easily overwhelmed, can’t concentrate when sirens are passing until they’re out of earshot, look up every time I see movement, etc. But when I sat in an open layout, I found after about 2-3 months what I called my “tunnel ability” was greatly increased. I somehow developed the skill to concentrate–although the “downside” was that I could only do it by mentally ignoring EVERYTHING that wasn’t on my computer in front of me. (If I didn’t ignore EVERYTHING, I couldn’t ignore ANYTHING.)

          It actually became a bit of an office joke – the fellow who sat at the desk next to me used to play a game of trying to see how many times he would say my name and then start gently tossing crumpled post-its in my direction before I realized he was trying to get my attention and “resurfaced” back into the office from my headspace.

          I still tense when firetrucks and police cars ride by with their sirens and a big sudden commotion will still interrupt me every time, but I got much better than I would have expected myself to be able to at tuning out general office chatter and movement.

          1. C Average

            Heh, you sound like me. I have the “tunnel ability” too. I have a couple colleagues who will come stand behind me and see how long it takes me to notice them.

          2. Observer

            It sounds a lot like ADD. Which is to say that perhaps the kinds of strategies that people with ADD use to deal with this kind of stuff might work for you too.

          3. Neeta

            You raise some excellent points.

            I’ve been working in open office plans for my entire career (7+ years) and now I’m also able to completely disconnect from the world around me. Like you, I used to be distracted by absolutely every little thing, probably creeped out my coworkers at [first job] with my constant staring.

            I still sometimes have trouble fully concentrating, but if I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, a bit of background music too… the world could go under. It’s actually fairly usual in my line of work (software programmer) to have wave your hands in front of someone’s face, to get their attention.

        2. Katie the Fed

          It sounds like an overreaction the much-maligned cubes.

          I’ll take my cube any day over an open plan like that. Oy.

          1. Windchime

            Me, too. I hate even the thought of the “bullpen” type setup. We had that for awhile when I first came here; one long, curving countertop that snaked its way through the room. It was horrible. The people who came up with it all agreed….and then retreated to their offices to close the door and get some work done.

            Now we are in cubes, which is much better. I, too, am distracted by people who stand around and yak all day long. We had some layoffs a few months back, and guess what — two of the biggest culprits are now gone. I hate to see anyone lose their job, but if your “job” consists of standing around giggling and talking and distracting people, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

        3. KTM

          As somebody who works in an open layout plan and likes it (for what it’s worth, I am an extrovert but we certainly have introverts on our team) – I don’t think that it is always done simply to save money. We’re an engineering team and collaboration is often very important to getting our projects done. There are times I wish I had my own cube but I value the (work-related) conversations that occur due to the open layout and wouldn’t want to change it.

          I get the feeling from past AAM threads that many people hate the open layout plan but I do want to defend it since I think in some environments it can serve a real purpose and isn’t necessarily horrendous.

          1. KTM

            Although for what it’s worth we do have our own desks separated around a decent size room. Not sure how well I’d deal with ‘shared spaces’ or packed cafeteria tables.

          2. MJH

            I much prefer an open plan with lots of natural light to high walled cubicles and fluorescents that keep light from penetrating in to the center. It feels so much healthier.

            FWIW, I am a total introvert and don’t really socialize a lot at work. I just hate dim cubes more than anything.

          3. ThursdaysGeek

            Yes, I’ve read that the cubes give an illusion of privacy without actually providing any quiet or privacy while at the same time discouraging collaboration: the worst of both worlds. Either an open plan for the collaboration or a private offices for the quiet. Or cubes, for neither.

            1. Windchime

              “Collaberation”, to me, just means having people constantly interrupt my train of thought. If I want collabertion, I’ll set up a meeting or ask a colleague to join me for a quick (quiet!) chat in my cube. I don’t need people constantly talking to me all day long in order to collaberate, and that’s what the “open plan” seems to foster.

              1. Neeta

                Like KTM says, this is not for all types of jobs.

                I work as a computer programmer, where I often have to implement some feature in a program that communicates with a different feature implemented by a colleague of mine. So in such a case, it would be useful to be able to brainstorm/debug together possible issues.

                This of course doesn’t mean that we’d holler at each other from opposite ends of the office, obviously. But having an completely open office makes it easier to drag chairs around: a very common sight in any company I’ve worked in.

          4. Neeta

            As a software developer, I completely agree. I actually very much like working in an open office plan. It makes interaction with fellow team members so much easier. I’m normally extremely shy, so having to go around knocking on closed office doors sounds very stressful for me.

            Like you said though. It depends on the open space layout as well.
            This would be awful:
            http://images.nymag.com/includes/3/news/2010/09/establishments/bloomberg/bloomberg100927_960.jpg

            But this one, is actually nice:
            http://www.getitdonecleaning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/office-cleaning-fife.jpg

            1. KTM

              Yes exactly – my office’s set up is much like the second picture.

              I think it also works for our office because in general we all still work pretty quietly. We do have impromptu chats and discussions and phone calls but I do not have a constant parade of chatter-boxes hovering near my desk.

            2. SL

              My company works with an open floor plan (totally open, shared desks/spaces/couches) and at my previous job, everyone had cubicles or offices. The idea of knocking on someone’s office door or even popping my head into a cubicle was nerve-wracking, but I’m so much more relaxed now that I can just walk up to a coworker to ask about something or talk to my manager when she sits directly across from me.

    3. Jen RO

      I came here to say this too. I’m not extremely introverted, but I definitely need my recharging time. Except I do it at home, after work – at work I am very social and I would honestly seriously consider quitting a workplace where everybody just works, with no chatter. Yes, it can be distracting, yes, open space offices make it harder, but it’s not related to being introverted or extroverted.

    4. NewishAnon

      Yeah, it doesn’t seem like an introvert / extrovert issue to me. I’m an introvert but I like being social at work. It’s actually one of the only times I get to be social BECAUSE I’m so introverted. It’s a reason to talk to people and get friendly.

      I also love overhearing conversations at work, whether social or work related. It was a little like tuning into talk radio. At last job I worked with engineers and very technical people. The conversations were always super interesting. Or if it was just about social stuff, I found it interesting to learn stuff about my coworkers. People tended to whisper or duck into a conference room if they wanted to keep something private. Otherwise the culture was such that anyone could just jump into any conversation.

      Also, total silence in the workplace feels oppressive and sad to me. So even though it may not feel that way to you, OP, it’s one thing to consider that you may just need to find a compromise with your co-workers.

      1. JB

        Eh, I don’t know. If you frame it is a matter of liking or not liking to socialize at work, it’s kiiiinda of a introvert/extrovert thing. I enjoy socializing while I’m doing it, but as in introvert, it’s draining for me (sort of like how I love eating candy, but it leads to a crash from the sugar high). So even though I’d love to sit around chatting with my coworkers all day, working collaboratively on all of our assignments, I can’t. If I did that, I wouldn’t have the energy to get all my work done. And I wouldn’t have any energy left for when I got home and wanted to spend time with my family, or do laundry, or anything but stare at the wall. So although I *enjoy* being social at work, I don’t like to do it because I know what the end result will be.

        1. Melissa

          That’s not what introvert/extravert means, though. Extraverts are people who are preoccupied with and draw energy from social interaction and connectedness, whereas introverts are predominantly concerned with the inner life and draw energy from solitary thought. You say yourself that you enjoy being social at work even as an introvert, but you choose not to simply because you believe it would be disruptive. So this particular case isn’t necessary an introvert/extravert thing – it could be that some of the chatters are introverts who don’t have families at home and recharge their batteries at night, and/or who aren’t productive at work in general, and/or who are actually talking about work stuff. Conversely, many extraverts are gregarious and outgoing but only or mostly in social contexts and may actually act quite reserved at work. Thus, some introverts may enjoy socializing at work and some extraverts may not like it.

          1. JB

            I think maybe you didn’t read my comment very closely? I said: “I enjoy socializing while I’m doing it, but as in introvert, it’s draining for me (sort of like how I love eating candy, but it leads to a crash from the sugar high). So even though I’d love to sit around chatting with my coworkers all day, working collaboratively on all of our assignments, I can’t. If I did that, I wouldn’t have the energy to get all my work done.”

            That *is* what an introvert is–I enjoy socializing, but it saps my energy. That is why I prefer to do it in my free time and don’t like doing at work–not because I feel uncomfortable doing it but because I like to spend my social energy on my personal life, and I can’t if I use it up at work.

    5. Nerdling

      I agree. It’s really not about introversion or extroversion at all. You just have some folks who are completely inconsiderate.

      We have an open floor plan now, with a small “teaming room” off near the kitchen and a (too small for everyone to fit, but that’s a different story) conference room. It vastly cut down the amount of space — and therefore rent — the office required. And, because so much of our jobs are collaborative and occasionally frenetic and often involve phone conversations going on all over the place, there are times when the noise level gets completely overwhelming — strictly with work-related stuff! I almost marched myself to Best Buy in the middle of the day before the holidays to get noise-cancelling headphones. Nobody really likes it that much, introverts or extroverts.

    6. Nisse

      Something we did at my previous company was to have silent rooms and/or silent times. This was mainly to allow the more senior people to have some time to not have people walking up to them asking questions and be able to do their tasks.

      The way it worked was that say between 13-16 you’re not allowed to walk up and talk to people other than in the coffee area. Or with the silent room you’re not allowed to go in and talk to the people there.

      Silent rooms does of course depend a bit on what infrastructure you need (land lines, laptop or desktop computer etc) and having a spare room. Silent times might also be hard to implement if you’re having people who has to take phone calls throughout the day but could be solved by moving people around.

    7. Vicki

      There are no “cubes” in the “dreaded open-plan/high-density seating arrangement” workplace. That’s part of the problem.

  2. Beyonce Pad Thai

    For the first time in my life I’m not working in an open plan setup – we work in smaller rooms with 3 or 4 people. I’ve been enjoying this relative quiet for a couple months.

    Our Office Manager came in this morning to announce they’re taking down all the walls between the individual rooms to create an open space, so we can accomodate all the new hires who will join in the next months. I’ve worked in open space before and I’m pretty good at tuning out noise, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll miss the privacy more than the quiet, I think.

    1. mweis77

      I just want to thread-jack for a moment to compliment you on your screen name. Love it.

      To stay on topic – I could never work in a totally open floor plan. For some things some of the time yes, but as a general rule all the time -no way.

    2. Jen RO

      At a previous job, I got a desk in one of the smallest offices (it was just me and another coworker)… and I hated it! I felt left out of every conversation (both work-related and not work-related), and I moved into the open space the first opportunity I got.

  3. illini02

    Alison, thank you for flipping the question around. I’ve seen so many things recently about how “Extroverts need to be sensitive to the needs of introverts”, but it never seems to work the other way around. I’m definitely an extrovert, and luckily many in my office are similar so it works fine. I think everyone needs to be respectful of others, but part of the deal with working in an office is compromise. I would have no problem having “quiet hours” or something like that at work, but don’t expect me to be silent all the time to meet your needs. Its a give and take, and it seems people on each side just want the other side to give in to their “needs” (which to me are more like preferences).

    1. HM in Atlanta

      never seems to work the other way around
      That’s because (in general) US culture has usually valued extroversion over introversion. It just pressures people who fall on the introversion side of the spectrum to act more extroverted, while true extroverts get positive reinforcement from the culture that their temperament is the default. We’ve more recently been seeing people understanding that recognizing how people work best gets better results (and that introversion isn’t a trait to be fixed).

      1. AnonEMoose

        I agree so much with HM in Atlanta. I’m introverted, and like to keep at least some of my private life, well, private. And I’ve been accused of being “not a team player,” “unfriendly,” “unapproachable,” and so on. Not in my current job, which is a much better fit for me, fortunately.

        Now, please understand that the following is not true of all extroverts, all the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, having to interact with extroverts for an extended period can feel kind of vampiric to me. The extrovert is getting energized because he/she is interacting. I’m feeling drained because I’m interacting. And no matter how much I may like the person, I just want them them to Go. Away. Just for awhile. It’s sometimes hard not to feel like “You want my limited energy for this kind of thing, and YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!!”

        It’s not difficult for me to understand the need to interact. And there are times when talking something through with another person has been a good problem-solving strategy, and so on. But for me, feeling like I have people in my face all the time is kind of like having a constant low-level noise that I can hear but can’t quite make out. And that seems really difficult for a number (certainly not all) extroverts to really “get.” Which can leave those of us who are more introverted feeling defensive or like we’re being told there’s something “wrong” with us. So I think we’re seeing something of a reaction to that now, which I don’t think is entirely a bad thing.

        1. Brigitte

          AnonEMoose – This is the kind of thing that polarizes the extrovert/introvert discussion and makes extroverts feel like we’re now expected to apologize for existing:

          But sometimes, just sometimes, having to interact with extroverts for an extended period can feel kind of vampiric to me. The extrovert is getting energized because he/she is interacting. I’m feeling drained because I’m interacting. And no matter how much I may like the person, I just want them them to Go. Away. Just for awhile. It’s sometimes hard not to feel like “You want my limited energy for this kind of thing, and YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!!”

          I don’t think it’s another person’s responsibility to know what you need, no matter where you fall in the spectrum. If you want someone to go away, politely ask them to. It’s that simple. Will some people be ruffled by it? Maybe — but that’s because she’s a jerk, not because she’s an extrovert.

          One thing I’ve noticed in the current dialogue is introverts refusing to take responsibility for their self care and expecting other people to cater to their needs and preferences. This is where it can start to feel like extroverts are being asked to make all the concessions — and that introverts aren’t willing to have a healthy dialogue about the issue.

          1. AnonEMoose

            And where did I say that it was the extrovert’s responsibility to know what I need or that I’m not responsible for my own self care? I explained how it can feel sometimes to be in my shoes. That’s it, that’s all. (And yes, I agree that someone who gets offended because I enforce a boundary that is necessary to my emotional health is a jerk…sadly, a lot of workplaces have exactly this kind of jerk.)

            What I didn’t add is that, when I start feeling that way, I know it’s past time to make sure I get some recharging time. Luckily my current job allows me the occasional work from home day, which is great. And my husband is understanding when I tell him I need “introvert time.” So my current situation works pretty well for me, fortunately.

            I don’t expect or want extroverts to apologize for existing. But I would like them to be aware of the basic disconnect: What energizes them wears me out. That’s not their fault, but it’s not mine either; it doesn’t mean either of us is defective; just that a little consideration on both sides is a good thing.

            And sometimes I need a little time to gather my thoughts before I answer a question or contribute to a problem solving discussion. I try to understand the need to interact and putting not-fully-formed thoughts out there (the latter is totally cool with me, by the way, because sometimes it triggers things for others in the group, even sometimes for me). I don’t always succeed, but I do try.

            I think of it a little like this: For quite some time, extroversion has had a privileged position in US culture. Introverts are starting to speak up more, which can feel like an attack, even though it really isn’t one.

            1. Brigitte

              Can you not see how calling the behaviors of extroverts vampiric is insulting and polarizing? That is not the path towards common ground.

              1. Introvert

                Except that it’s actually pretty true. As an introvert who functions in an open office environment, I periodically need to take time away from the hubbub of the floor to work in quiet, and working from home about once a month really helps me recharge (which I’m not allowed to do). I work at a company that condemns introverted behavior and bans headphones in our open office because they “isolate one from the group”. Since I started working here, I get home exhausted, unable to function in a social setting, and even unable to be with my significant other on a regular basis because work drains me so much.

                Basically, the bottom line is that there are different people and work styles, and all people should feel comfortable working with their employer and coworkers to compromise on what’s needed for everyone. Maybe quiet hours can exist for an hour every morning; more social birthday celebrations in the office where people are expected to come can be left after 10 minutes once the cake is cut.

                I think a lot of times introverts feel like so much nowadays, from the work types that pay more to modern office environments, tend to benefit extroverts and give introverts the shaft. It honestly does get frustrating.

          2. EvaR

            Please explain to me the socially acceptable way for a person to ask someone to leave them alone because they don’t have the energy to interact with them at this time, and I will concede the point.

            Because generally, you either offend them, they think you are crazy, they brush off your polite request to be left alone, etc.

            That’s a cultural bias. It’s not the individual extroverts, it’s that the entire culture is set up full of little things like that which are considered the normal standard of behavior and they tend to strongly favor the work and cognitive style of extroverts.

      2. JB

        This, exactly. We have the “extroverts need to be sensitive” conversation because so often, for so long, extroversion has been seen as the standard we should all conform to. Look how much we prefer leaders who are charismatic over those that are introspective. And so many people mix it up with shyness–I had a boss who, for years, kept telling me how she also used to get nervous speaking in front of groups, but she got over it with practice, and I could, too. I could never get through to her that I wasn’t at all nervous about speaking to groups. It wasn’t a matter of shyness. I just do better in writing, and I don’t like having to give presentation every week because it exhausts me. But so many people have, for so long, treated introversion as a disability to be gotten over.

        And as an introvert, I can say that my need to have alone time to recharge is not a “preference,” it’s a need.

        1. Melissa

          “And as an introvert, I can say that my need to have alone time to recharge is not a “preference,” it’s a need.”

          I’m not challenging you with this, but I do want to mention that the I/E scale as Carl Jung originally imagined it *were* preferences, not needs. The idea is that whichever way you leaned was how you preferred to operate – specifically in the professional sphere, but the MBTI stuff has leaked over to other things. Jung’s original theory was that everyone had an extraverted side and an introverted side, simply that one was dominant.

          1. fposte

            I think this is one of those areas where the popular notion of a concept is breaking its ties to the scholarly one. At least you can tell who’s who because we layfolks go for the “extroversion” spelling. (I like that one for its symmetry anyway.)

        2. Brigitte

          I haven’t experienced this black-and-white preference for extroversion, and a lot of environments actually reward introverts. The classroom environment I grew up with, for example, catered to introverted tendencies: sitting quietly in class, solo assignments, and a strict line around cheating (which, as adults, we call collaborating).

          And trust me, as a shy extrovert, the recess environment wasn’t any more fun for me than for introverts.

          In the workplace, extroverts are often criticized for too much socializing and not enough working. Are a lot of CEOs extroverts? Yes, but research indicates most have a very specific profile: ENTJ. So it’s not “all extroverts” are in power, but this one personality type tends to rise in our current environment. I’m not that type, so as an extrovert, I don’t benefit.

      3. Anonsie

        Eh. People say this, but I think that’s the perspective of people who see themselves as introverted.

        I can tell you, as a very chatty person who really likes engaging with others, we get in trouble for this all the time. Plenty of people dislike of those they think talk too much, or who talk to them when they don’t want to be spoken to, etc. There is definitely a tendency to assume someone who talks a lot is dumb and/or self-centered and rude regardless of what you’re saying.

        And I don’t mean at work, where maybe you’re wasting time or distracting people. It’s true all over the place.

        So yeah, people who are engaging and charismatic can get perks for it. But being extroverted != being charismatic. Just enjoying talking to people doesn’t get you fancy perks or praise.

        1. Melissa

          Right. In fact, I think the most valued leadership/business type is really a hybrid of some extraverted and some introverted traits. I think the perception that extraverts dominate the business world also has a lot to do with people’s misunderstandings of what it means to be extraverted. You can appear charismatic and gregarious without actually being extraverted; you can be an excellent and eloquent public speaker without drawing energy from that kind of interaction. Not only that, but a lot of the U.S. ethos is centered on the (imaginary concept of the) solitary, independent individual who draws strength from themselves and needs nobody, and those are definitely not extraverted traits.

          1. Anonsie

            Agreed. Fact is that people are going to nitpick your social style regardless of what it is, no single thing is entirely dominant over another, and desirable traits are not exclusive to any specific group of people.

            I also think people are buying way too hard into the idea of a personality dichotomy right now with the whole introvert/extrovert thing. People are varied.

            1. C Average

              Haha, yeah.

              I also think it’s sometimes a convenient dodge for unwanted social situations.

              If you’re a bore and draining and I don’t really want to hang out with you, I may cite my introvert tendencies and my need for a quiet night in.

              If you’re fun and upbeat and know how to give and take in a conversation? Well, we might not ever get around to discussing personality types.

              “I’m kind of an introvert” is sometimes just another way of saying, “it’s me, not you.”

      4. illini02

        I guess I get that to a point, but I think lately we have been going all most too far the other way in “You need to respect the needs of the extrovert, even if it makes your work suffer!”. Again, I completely think everyone needs to find a way to work with everyone, but in recent times its like extrovert = bad guy

      5. INTP

        This is very true. It’s not the case for this OP but in many offices, you’re simply regarded as not likeable, snobbish, invested in your work or workplace, or a “team player” if you do not socialize at work and after work. (While extroverts can of course prefer not to socialize with their coworkers it is more demanding on introverts as our energy is often already depleted just from being at work.) And all of this stuff gets you branded as “not a cultural fit” which can literally get people fired. While there are many offices that are quieter than others, with more privacy, and extroverts might not find them as conducive to productivity, I have never heard of an extrovert feeling like they need to act like an introvert just to keep their jobs whereas introverts in many industries will know exactly what I am talking about.

        1. TrainerGirl

          I am an extroverted introvert, and I have often been accused of being snobbish and not a team player. But it’s because I’ve worked in environments where I didn’t want to blur the lines between work and personal life. But I worked with an extrovert who was definitely encouraged to “rein it in” and respect others’ styles. Granted, she was an EXTREME extrovert, but we had a manager who respected those who liked a quiet, less disruptive environment.

    2. Windchime

      I don’t think that anyone is expecting total and complete silence. But hours and hours of people laughing and talking loudly and kidding around is really, really distracting. Quiet conversation? That’s totally fine (at least with me).

  4. Paul

    I’d actually say this is less about introverts versus extroverts and who gets to “run the show”. I think it’s more about a minority of people being disruptive assholes. Surely even extroverts should be perfectly capable of letting others get on with their work in peace.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      +1 million.

      I like to chat sometimes, but enjoying the company of others and being inconsiderate are not necessarily the same thing.

    2. Laurel Gray

      Strongly agree. Extrovert here who closes her door 65% of the time at work to work on projects quietly, listen to music at a low and considerate level, and let my space heater turn this office nice and toasty how I like it. I chat with coworkers during the day. My glass door may be closed but I ALWAYS wave people in. I definitely do not think that extrovert equals disruptive and inconsiderate and I think these loud coworkers behavior have nothing to do with being extroverts.

      1. SJP

        Yup all of the above.. i’m an extrovert and i’m in a part of an open plan office where they put the more chatty social people and the other end is for people who enjoy a more quiet surroundings. Even the extroverts around me get busy and need quiet, even I do.. so we all just get the unspoken hints when we want to knuckle down but even when busy we like to take 5 minutes to just chat quietly to get a small relief from stress..

        1. jordanjay29

          Whoever designed your office needs to redesign every other open office plan in existence. While open office plans suck (and need to die a quick, painful death), for those businesses that insist on using them, providing smart seating arrangements like this would make a world of difference.

          1. SJP

            Yea it works really well.. We have a great office where everyone gels with each other but way bcack before I started I think HR conciously had a rejig and put people with similar personalities/social styles/extroverts etc in one end as to help those who are more introverted and enjoyed quiet to be able to focus better down the other end.
            Everyone mills about to go and talk to each other about projects and work but for those who need a quick response then we have iChat and email if you don’t want to get up and disturb others around.
            It works really well, and with new starters they already try to gauge the people and how they like to work and put them and desks in the appropriate area so they don’t have to ask to move later on. Well, they can ask if they wanted to but generally everyone is very well placed..
            A+ to our HR and Office facilities people!!

    3. OhNo

      I agree. To me it sounds like the real problem here is that you have a group of people who talk loudly and ignore requests from coworkers to tone it down or move the conversation to another area. Their behavior sounds quite rude. Ideally, I would hope that management would have words with them about accommodating others’ working styles when requested. It doesn’t have to be chatty social hour all day every day, they can do their thing sometimes and then let the others have quiet sometimes, too.

      Sorry to say, Alison, but I think I disagree with your response here. I don’t think being required to move out of your normal workspace in order to be able to work productively is a fair compromise. There has got to be a better solution here.

      1. Melissa

        Well, to be fair, she didn’t say that it was fair – she simply said it was a reasonable compromise that would allow people to be reasonably productive. Given that at least one of the people involved is management and that these people have been spoken to several times and either refuse to or are unable to reform, and the management does not seem interested in trying to quiet these people down – what else *is* there to do?

        1. fposte

          Yes, this is one of those situations where what’s fair and what you can achieve are unfortunately two different things, and to move forward you really have to focus on the second and not the first.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I just don’t think it works in practice. It ends up requiring the quieter person to ask them to move every time; in my experience, the people being louder tend not to be as self-policing on it as you’d want them to.

            1. Brigitte

              I think the challenge with this is that the conversation may have evolved spontaneously, and someone has to trigger the move to the conference room. That’s a habit that needs to be developed, and it won’t happen overnight.

    4. S

      This is totally the case with my work area! I’m getting really fed up with those people but there’s nothing I can do since I’ve been there the shortest. They’re extremely unprofessional and disruptive. They laugh loudly, even start singing to a song, say inappropriate things for the office like “I like drugs” and “I want to get drunk now”, shares their personal business with everyone, etc. Problem is management has put up with it so long that to tell them anything now will be met with resistance and “you’re too strict and micromanage too much”.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        Do you work in my office? Sounds like my cube-neighbors. The other day they started singing songs from Annie…

      2. "The Introvert" (hehe)

        Hi S,
        I would check with HR or your employee handbook. Talking about drugs, alcohol, etc. is crossing the line into inappropriate workplace behavior. I’m not saying you should mention harassment or hostile workplace, but it may well fall into those categories.

        Good luck.

        1. S

          They’re always joking around, goofing off, and management knows it, so they accept the inappropriate things they say as not serious. They’ll even say mean things and laugh it off so everyone knows it’s a joke, and the managers don’t think anything of it.

        2. Natalie

          I’m having a hard time imagining what protected characteristic would make talking about drugs a (legally) hostile workplace. Inappropriate, sure, but probably not meeting the legal definition of workplace harassment.

          1. Anna

            If you’ll notice, the post said it may, but not necessarily, and either way it IS inappropriate behavior. So no matter what, if management isn’t taking care of it, talk to HR or someone who might.

            1. fposte

              I don’t even think it may, though, and I think that’s what other people were thinking as well.

              1. jordanjay29

                I wish we’d stop jumping down each other’s throats when someone brings up hostile workplaces. The way it’s approached seems to be fairly snobby from those who know the legal definition to those who know only a layman’s. It’d be nice if the commenters here would be more willing to educate about hostile workplace terminology than simply assuming someone is knowingly using the term incorrectly.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I didn’t read any of this as jumping down anyone’s throat — just explaining that what was posted wasn’t correct.

                  That said, I’ll plan to do a post on hostile workplace soon so that we can easily link people to it in the future.

      3. BritCred

        I had to ask for people not to watch comedies on streaming during lunch without using headphones and for conversations which involved lots of raised voices and swearing to be moved away from my desk as I worked non standard hours and didn’t have a break. When talking to the accounts for a company that pays you £500k a month you don’t want them to be hearing studio laugh tracks and cackling or “Well if X pulled his **** fingers out…” in the background to my side of the call.

        When a caller actually paused because of one conversation happening across the room I had a quiet word with my manager and asked if he could ask for a bit more care to be used…

        1. jordanjay29

          People actually play audio without headphones when there are people on phone calls in the room? That’s beyond rude and I can’t imagine how management would put up with that.

          1. BritCred

            Yep, loudly and also cackling to the content too. For reference one of the programs that got him going the most was Mrs Brown’s Boys – not something you’d want to be overheard. Because “everyone” was on lunch he didn’t care about the noise he was creating. In fact not only was I still working as I should be but my line manager and some of the admin/accounts/management staff didn’t take lunch and would work through too – often taking phone calls. Unfortunately those other workers were more quiet types and would rather put up with stuff like that than actually give someone a heads up and say “this is disturbing my work in X way which is important because Y”.

    5. Anonsie

      This. I’m extremely extroverted and these people sound A) annoying and B) really unproductive. I want to do my work and go home just like anyone, I don’t want to stand around chatting and then stay late to make up for it. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

      1. Anonsie

        Also, being extroverted doesn’t mean you have the magical ability to concentrate when people are causing a ruckus around you.

        1. ReanaZ

          In fact, I would argue many extroverted people tend to have LESS ability to concentrate when people are causing a ruckus. Obviously, we’re talking very broad categorizations here, but it’s my general observation that many extroverts hear people and their default internal response is “Where? Oooh? Is this a conversation I should be part of?” If they are trying to knuckle down and not socialize, the temptation and desire to get involved in that conversation is much higher than it is for an introvert whose default response is “Oh, god, don’t let them come over here. Why are they talking? I don’t want talking.”

          That is to say, handling interruptions and working through distraction…. also not an introvert/extrovert thing. And introverts are likely to have less temptation to join the distraction and more practice trying to stay on task in the face of distraction.

      2. Not So NewReader

        That hit me, too. I would not want to work nights and weekends to make up for the time I spent chatting. That seems to be what is going on here.

  5. long time reader first time poster

    I hate open plan workspaces with the intensity of a thousand white hot burning suns.

    In the OP’s position I’d set up camp in the conference room as much as possible.

          1. jag

            When I hear/read it in a professional setting it gives me the impression the person using it has poor judgement or is incapable of expressing things strongly but accurately. Being able to express oneself strongly but accurately is an important professional skill.

            1. MsM

              So is knowing when to leaven one’s conversation with a bit of humor or colorful description, IMO.

        1. Heather

          Probably Harvard Business School-grad extroverts, too.

          (I got mentally exhausted just reading that chapter in Quiet. Then I put HBS on my list of places to stay far, far away from.)

  6. BRR

    I like the concept of flipping it around. I also work in a pretty open space and there is a large group of people who are able to do their job well while talking. It can be very difficult at times to get my work done. This is a particular problem because I don’t like white noise and I do a lot of editing and I can’t edit with music on. I finally thought of bringing in ear plugs. On the other hand I do socialize with my colleagues at times and I would be rather annoyed if somebody kept telling me to cut it out (I had a coworker who despised other people making any noise, meanwhile she spent at least 30 min a day on personal phone calls at her desk).

    I think part of the problem is the default tends to fall against your preference if that makes sense. My husband is a pack rat and I like to get rid of things we don’t use. I can’t just throw away his stuff so by default he gets his way. There are also times I would like to go out and do things while he wants to watch netflix. If I propose something and he doesn’t want to go I can’t drag him out, so the default just is what he wants. It feels unfair and I totally get it.

    1. tt

      My husband refused to throw out a blanket that was ripped almost entirely around the seams. At one point, I insisted that he at least had to wash the thing. Suspecting what would actually happen – the blanket ripped even further and the stuffing all came out of the blanket. Ruined. ;)

    2. AdAgencyChick

      Off topic, but are we married to the same man? We live in New York Freakin’ City so I don’t understand the desire to hang onto things we no longer use.

      We are fortunate enough to be able to afford a three-bedroom rental (no kids) at the moment, so my solution is that although every other room in the apartment is covered in his stuff, MY office is pristine and clutter-free. I have no idea what we’re going to do if we spawn. At that point we won’t be able to afford having more bedrooms than people and my head might explode :P

        1. BRR

          I will get my talking points ready. To be fair my husband grew up pretty poor and in a huge house (rural so it was cheap) so it was tough to get rid of anything that worked. They could find a space for stuff. When we moved in together we had three slow cookers. I finally got so mad at storing them and not being able to get to the stuff I do use I convinced him to get rid of two (which are now at his parents house slow cooking dust in the attic). Guess how many times we used the one slow cooker we still have in 2.5 years. 4 times. So we definitely need three.

          1. the gold digger

            My husband still has his employee manual from when he worked at Apple in 1992. And he has his phone bills from 1997. And the tuition receipts for his stepdaughter, who is in her mid-thirties now, married, with two kids. She is way out of college.

            Oh – and he has moved this stuff twice: the first time across the country and the second time from his apartment to our basement.

            His only defense is that he is not as bad as his parents, which is not much of a defense, as there is not a single useless, needs to be dusted item that they will not buy and display on any available horizontal surface. The prize is the bag of newspapers – ordinary newspapers – that his parents paid to have moved (along with the rest of their stuff) halfway across the country when they retired. Not special newspapers. Ordinary.

            1. Nerd Girl

              OMG your last paragraph described my mom. I honestly think she’s a hoarder. It’s bad. We’re not talking piles of trash, but narrow paths through too much furniture, bric-a-brac, appliances that are never used, broken items, etc. My sister (who lives with her) adds to this junk as well. They’ve only lived in the house 4 years and it’s currently so full that they’ve run out of room for anything else and yet they keep bringing junk in

            2. BritCred

              Ex hubby? Still got all his Trade School papers and essays…. Since then they’ve updated the codes they used at least once so most of it is actually so out of date its not funny…..

              And employee manuals for a company that went bust in the late 80’s too.

            3. Not So NewReader

              My father had a blank 1040 from 1945. He also had every single piece of paper that entered his life. I want to frame the 1040 from ’45 and put it on the wall, as a reminder of “DO NOT DO THIS!”

        2. Lizabeth

          +1 on this!!!!!! Have a pack rat as well. Need some new coping strategies…

          BTW if you want to go to a movie or something and he doesn’t GO WITH FRIENDS AND LET HIM STAY HOME. My SO loves, loves, loves IMAX and 3D – I hate it with a passion. And with the price of movies these days I can wait for “most” movies to come out on DVD and get them from the library (free!) plus not deal with cellphones, scream kids who shouldn’t be there etc, someone with a cold coughing & sneezing down my neck (yes, really…) etc. So he goes without me most of the time.

          1. Ezri

            Ha, I love this. My husband loves going to the movies, I hate it. Now when he goes we both get alone time. :)

    3. Gene

      If I propose something and he doesn’t want to go I can’t drag him out, so the default just is what he wants

      So don’t drag him out. Just leave and do what you want to do. I’ve never understood the mindset of “we’re a couple, so we have to do everything together.”

      1. BRR

        We are definitely not a couple that does everything together but I do want to do some things together. There have been months when we have literally done nothing outside the house. A variety of circumstances has actually fixed this so it’s not really a problem anymore and we’re on the same page.

      2. Anonsie

        I don’t know, I don’t think my partner would be super happy if I went to dinner and dancing with another man.

        1. TychaBrahe

          Then the solution is to get into social dancing, where you go dancing with many other men. The point of social dancing is to change partners for each dance. It’s considered rather rude to just dance with your own partner.

          1. Anonsie

            Oh gosh, I once tried to get into the social dancing circles in my city and found that the men who frequent those are really invasive around here. It’s like it attracts guys who are looking for whatever avenue to touch people, it’s kind of skeezy and uncomfortable. Really unfortunate because in my old city it was not like this at all and a I had a lot of fun at those!

            Anyway, social dancing clubs are nice but not a substitute for a date with your significant other.

    4. hermit crab

      I always think of this principle as the “creamy peanut butter effect.” In my experience, people tend to like either only creamy peanut butter or both the crunchy and creamy kinds. If you have two kids, and one likes both kinds of peanut butter, and one only likes the creamy kind, you are going to buy the creamy kind to make their PB&J sandwiches. This is obviously a simplified example, but there are definitely lots of similar situations where it’s easy for one preference to become the default.

  7. TOC

    I wonder if OP is also misunderstanding what makes someone an “introvert” versus an “extrovert.” I’m not sure that’s really where the line should be drawn in this particular battle (though I agree there’s a problem either way). I think the better question (and one that doesn’t blame people quite so much for having one personality type or another) is “Why do people who want to socialize at work get to do so at the expense of others’ ability to concentrate?”

    I’m an extrovert: I often come up with my best ideas when I’m thinking out loud and collaborating with other people. Group projects often energize me. So yes, I sometimes do talk more in my office than some others do, because “talking it out” and getting others’ input is really helpful when I’m stuck on a task.

    But that’s not necessarily the same as socializing. I like to socialize at work, but not to the extent that it keeps me from getting my work done and going home at a reasonable hour each day. Sometimes others’ talking or music distracts me, too.

    Fortunately my workplace has a private office for everyone(!) so it’s pretty easy for us to balance everyone’s needs here. Doors are usually open and people do come by to chat (about work or not) but it’s totally okay to close your door if you need quiet.

    1. hildi

      “I’m an extrovert: I often come up with my best ideas when I’m thinking out loud and collaborating with other people. Group projects often energize me. So yes, I sometimes do talk more in my office than some others do, because “talking it out” and getting others’ input is really helpful when I’m stuck on a task.”

      A million yeses to this. I can sit by myself and think all day long and I won’t be able to come to a conclusion, but if I physically say my thoughts out loud to someone I can usually get unstuck in a matter of minutes.

      But like you point out, that’s not the same as socializing. I flipping hate socializing because it’s annoying and forced and expected. When I feel like sharing something with someone I will and I because I know the convention is if you share with someone you have to listen to them, I just avoid it entirely. It’s so weird, but I understand that about myself. I don’t want to be the annoying jerk that only talks about herself, but I also don’t want to hear about everyone’s long and detailed stories about what they did this weekend so I just don’t socialize at all unless I’m really, really in the mood.

      I would agree that socializing isn’t necessarily the barometer for introverstion & extroversion.

    2. Anna

      Absolutely this. I need to bounce ideas off people and I find that when I’m working in a group, I get inspired in ways I don’t when I’m working on a project on my own. However, I need my downtime to get details done and I generally like to do those on my own. I am fortunate enough to have my own office, but meet regularly with coworkers (my office is, unfortunately, separate from the rest of the offices because of geography) and that allows me those “a-ha” moments I need.

    3. Ezri

      “Group projects often energize me”

      It’s interesting that you phrased it like this. I think the best summary I’ve seen is a comic (no idea where I saw it, unfortunately) that said something similar. Basically that extroverts ‘gain’ energy from social interaction and introverts ‘lose’ energy. Extroverts tend to be productive around people because it keeps them up; introverts, while perfectly capable of being collaborative and social, will eventually want time alone to recharge and focus. It probably doesn’t apply perfectly to everyone, but it describes my introversion well.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        Zomg! I’m an extrovert, and I loathe group work. Always have. There’s always a jerk who coasts on everyone else’s work. Group work de-energizes me.

        1. Ezri

          To be fair, that kind of experience associated with ‘group work’ isn’t really the same thing as collaboration or even just being in a social environment. People being lazy jerks will irritate an extrovert just as much as an introvert. :)

          1. So Very Anonymous

            Yep, I’m an extrovert and I loathe that kind of group work. I love working with *good* collaborators, not lazy ones who jut want me to do all the work for them. In much the same way, I find working with hostile patrons/customer absolutely de-energizing. For me it’s good energy in, good energy out; bad energy from people gives me bad energy.

              1. So Very Anonymous

                Yeah, and it’s a hard thing to explain to non-extroverts: because I’m extroverted I have to be very mindful about not just picking up on bad energy, because I’m sort of wired to feed on energy. Hostility, excessive demands, too much actively-being-ignored (I work in a department that is almost all introverts), and other exchanges where I feel like I’m putting out a lot of energy and getting none back will completely wipe me out. And then I either need to be around good-energy people or alone to recharge.

    4. catsAreCool

      I’m an introvert, but I find it helps to have background noise while I’m working. If I’m in an office alone, I have music playing.

  8. Apollo Warbucks

    I love this

    “The real culprit here is the open-plan office, which is the enemy of sanity and productivity everywhere.”

    I’ve not long started a new job in an open plan office and the lunch time activity is an Xbox FIFA tournament that I kid you not lasts 2 hours, complete with far to much shouting and screaming at the TV.

    Headphones are a god send.

    1. Natalie

      Within a month of moving to an open plan office, I started wearing headphones nearly all day. Of course, the headphones irritate my boss, too, but we’ve talked about it and she’s at least willing to accept that if she wants me to sit in the middle of the room and actually get anything done, I’m going to have headphones on.

      At least I’m not facing the back wall anymore. People were taking years off my damn life sneaking up on me.

      1. Meredith

        Someone I know used to have to face a back wall, and hated that people (by default) had to come up behind her. Her solution was to attach a small mirror to the upper corner of her monitor. That way, she could see that someone was standing behind her and wasn’t as startled.

        1. Natalie

          I tried that, but unfortunately the mirror I got was so small that I had to be looking at it to notice someone appearing behind my shoulder. A bigger mirror probably would have worked, though.

        2. Wonderlander

          OMG this is genius! I currently sit with my back to the back of my cube-mate (our backs face each other?) AND my back is angled to the hallway behind me. People are always sneaking up on me without meaning to. Makes it really hard to read AAM during the day ;) A mirror is the perfect solution!

        3. Hlyssande

          I have a tiny mirror that does this, but I really need a bigger one on the wall that I actually notice the movement in. If it’s too small, I don’t usually catch the movement out of the corner of my eye as easily.

        4. catsAreCool

          I used to have several of those CD’s that companies send in the mail and used them as sort of a mirror – not very exact, but it helped me spot movement.

    2. Hotstreak

      “Headphones are a god send.”

      Absolutely this!

      I think LW should look in to better ear phones. You don’t have to spend lots of money to get a nice pair, just drop by the hardware store. I got two pairs, and doubled up the noise canceling foam in to one set (taken from the other), for extra noise reduction. Between that and ear buds playing white noise I am able to work all day!

      Also if there is any flexibility in your schedule, would you consider working a slightly different schedule? If the loud folks are staying late, could you come in an hour early to have some quite time? I’m lucky that most of the loud people around here leave at 5pm, so I can stay late (and come in late) if I need some time alone and/or am tired of wearing my Home Depot headphones!

      1. Natalie

        And if music is distracting, maybe a white noise or background noise station would help. Songza has one that is the background noise of a park and I love it.

      2. just laura

        She’s already got the fancy ones– but the earmuffs you wear when leaf-blowing is a smart idea!

  9. Laurel Gray

    “The real culprit here is the open-plan office, which is the enemy of sanity and productivity everywhere.”

    THIS.

    It’s 2015 and I am still not sold on them, no matter the industry, specific department or team. Not sold on this work space/environment/layout. I have my own office (one glass wall and door) but even then, I still feel like I have a buffer. Cubicles provide a buffer. Open floor plan reminds me of a class room – which is mostly productive when all the students are quiet and listening to the instructor or a fellow student that has the floor.

    1. Jady

      You can’t be sold on them! Every study that has been done has determined they are a complete negative in almost every aspect of work. They are disruptive, people are less productive, they increase blood pressure, people take more sick leave! Why on earth they are becoming MORE popular is complete insanity. I’ve worked in open offices now for about 4 years and I’ve hated every second of it. And with the economy, negotiating things like remote working is almost laughable right now.

      These are just a couple of articles, but there are so many more.

      http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/02/25/study-open-offices-are-making-us-all-sick/
      http://www.newyorker.com/currency-tag/the-open-office-trap

      1. Judy

        At a former workplace, we were told as renovations were done that the reason we were getting open plan offices was to get more points on the LEEDs score. (One of the ways to get points for a green office is the percent of employees that have direct line of sight to natural light from their desk.)

    2. Anna

      An article was just published the other day saying they aren’t working. I was surprised it wasn’t referenced. I’ll need to dig up the link.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        I think a couple of different media outlets have written about the evils of the open office lately.

        Not that I think those articles will change anything, much as I’d like them to. At least in my industry, the bigwigs who are at the level to be able to decide what plan the office should follow are bigwig enough that they’ll have their own offices no matter what. So all they see is how much rent we’re saving by shoving us into smaller and more open spaces. They don’t see *themselves* the impossibility of securing a conference room (because they can call meetings in their offices, so they don’t see that the lack of closed spaces means that even the smallest meetings need conference rooms, thus cutting down on availability of rooms) or the difficulty of concentrating when you can hear every word your neighbors are saying.

        I think more of these articles need to come out — with numbers attached to them. If someone were able to quantify lost productivity due to open-office plans, then those of us who sit in them MIGHT have a chance of turning the tide.

        1. Jady

          ” think more of these articles need to come out — with numbers attached to them. ”

          Already done. These are just a few articles with numbers. I’ve seen articles stating these layouts also increase stress, blood pressure, and sick leave.

          https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/open-office-backlash-seeking-productivity-in-a-noisy-world/

          “workers in two-person offices took an average of 50 percent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of 62 percent more,”

          ” That freedom increased the likelihood that people would report being happy with their job by 12 percent and increased overall job performance. ”

          “Even so, collaboration isn’t happening as often as open offices were planned for: It dropped by 20 percent between 2008 and 2013, while time spent focusing has increased by 13 percent, according to the Gensler survey.”

          http://ideas.time.com/2012/08/15/why-the-open-office-is-a-hotbed-of-stress/

          The participants who’d been treated to a quiet work setting kept plugging away at the puzzles, while the subjects who’d endured the noisy conditions gave up after fewer attempts.

          while conversations are indeed frequent among employees in open offices, they tend to be short and superficial — precisely because there are so many other ears around to listen

          http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20140911-open-office-victims-push-back

          More than two-thirds of US employees are unhappy with noise levels at work, and 53% say other people disturb them when they try to focus, according to a 2013 survey by Gensler, a global design firm.

          Surprisingly, the Gensler study found that people reported doing more focus work than they did five years earlier — 54% of their time vs. 48% — but less collaboration — 24% versus 30%.

          Already, workplace performance has dropped 6% since 2008, driven largely by the inability to focus, Gensler’s research found.

          1. fposte

            Oh, that’s a great round-up–thanks for posting those. It’s particularly interesting that open-plan seems to inhibit collaboration rather than increasing it.

            I’ve always presumed cost-cutting is a major driver behind open offices, despite the occasional ideological reason; I wonder if anybody’s ever done a money lost on productivity vs. money saved on cube walls exploration.

            1. Jady

              It’s probably possible given the data we currently have, but it’s a number that would vary a lot by industry and would take a lot of effort to calculate, plus you have to decide if intangible items are worth counting as well – like employee happiness and figuring out how to measure that in a number.

              1. fposte

                That’s probably true, and things like employee turnover would vary depending on the economy.

                But I will continue to believe depriving people of walls is a false economy.

          2. Poohbear McGriddles

            Well of course collaboration hasn’t increased – everyone’s wearing headphones now!

            Naturally, the answer is to ban headphones.

            1. fposte

              It’s like some horrible office version of the Pythons’ Four Yorkshiremen sketch. “Ah, I used to *dream* of having headphones…”

        2. Elizabeth West

          It would be nice if they had to sit in those spaces for at least a week before approving any of that stuff. If I ran a company, I’d make them.

          I’m reminded of the time long ago when I worked at a cafeteria for a food service company and we got the Coke machine replaced. Some engineers from Coke came along to supervise its installation. I opened it up and was like OMG–there were two rows for product, stacked vertically, and one in front of the other. So basically, you would have to empty out the front row to reach the back row to put product into it, which would make the stocking process take twice as long. When I pointed this out, they got snippy and then pooh-poohed me, saying that “You can just put the ones that don’t sell as fast in the back.”

          I tried that, and guess what? It went exactly as I had predicted. Clearly they hadn’t thought about that. >:(

  10. danr

    I’ve always worked in a open plan type office. The trick is to have an office culture that values quiet work and soft voices. And one that values leaving on time. People who always had to stay late were seen as not being able to manage their time well.

    1. Natalie

      The type of work probably matters, too. I am the only person in my office who’s job doesn’t involve a lot of phone-based client contact. Even if they were all super quiet, the nature of their work means lots of talking around me, so I’m stuck with headphones.

      1. long time reader first time poster

        My current open-plan office is full of quiet workers and ONE guy that makes cold calls all day.

        Forget a bunch of socializing coworkers, my setup is the most excruciating combination on earth.

        1. Natalie

          Oh, that poor guy. On the rare cases my office is quiet, I hate making a phone call. I can’t help but think all of my co-workers are listening to me and it makes me nervous.

          1. long time reader first time poster

            I ALWAYS go to the conference room for work-related calls, or if it’s personal I’ll sometimes go out to the lobby with my mobile.

            Even so, a few weeks after first started, one of my colleagues complimented me on my professional phone manner — and I’d never been on a shared call with him. Ugh. I hate being eavesdropped on!

    2. Observer

      That’s all good and fine, but in many situations it’s just not practical. If you’re doing work where people just rarely need to interact with others, this can work. But if people need to interact with others on a regular basis, forget about it. Some people just don’t have “soft” voices and there is not all that much you can do about it. I’m not talking about screamers, but people for whom talking “softly” is whispering loud enough to be heard. That’s a lot of effort if you need to do it a lot. Then you have the people who are a bit hard of hearing or that have a poor phone connection. No matter how much you value speaking quietly, practically speaking, you have to speak up.

  11. LBK

    I don’t necessarily see this as an introvert/extrovert thing. I usually come down pretty hard on the introvert side – I am a textbook example of “needs time alone to recharge” – but I’d still prefer to run at about 80% energy over a longer day than run at 110% in order to minimize my time spent in the office. It’s how I prevent burning out, because I’ve been a sprinter who didn’t take a second out of work time and after a year I had to quit because I’d permanently fried my batteries. Even doing a job I absolutely loved, I just had no energy or motivation left to do it anymore.

    Now, I’m more likely to do something like read AAM than talk to coworkers when I’m taking a breather, and that’s where I think the introvert vs. extrovert thing comes into play. But I don’t know that the idea of red-lining your engine falls in line with the description of an introverted personality.

  12. JC

    I feel for you, OP! I’m a total introvert who revels in having a private office now after working in a cubicle.

    FWIW, I view the act of having an open office plan as “letting extroverts run the show.” Extroverts can still extrovert in a non-open plan. There are plenty of people in my private office workplace who constantly make the rounds to BS in people’s offices. The huge difference is it that it isn’t constantly bothering the introverts who don’t want to hear it. When the office Chatty Cathy makes the rounds (I call it “time goblining”), they stay in my office for a few minutes, but then I can get back to my work. That is so, so different than having to hear it all day long.

      1. AVP

        To be fair plenty of extroverts hate the open plan as well. If anyone is running that show it’s the cost consultants.

    1. Jennifer

      True enough. The sucky thing is when you literally cannot get away from everyone else’s noise. There are times when my coworkers are having a conversation that I really don’t want to hear about (the condition of someone’s husband’s toenails, for example), and I literally can’t get away from it, other than to “go to the bathroom” and then try to think of some excuse to stand around by the fridge or otherwise kill time until that conversational topic moves on. I used to have a coworker who’d bug my cube neighbor for 15 minutes at a time about his dying mother and I got caught hiding in the supply closet waiting for that lady to go away. Fortunately, the lady who caught me hiding understood after I explained what was going on.

  13. HR Manager

    My own theories: leadership is 90% communication, and this is where extroverts have an edge. They have a tendency to communicate more and more frequently (debatable as to content and worthiness, but I digress). Being an introvert, we tend to communicate only when we need to – the problem is that this doesn’t work as well when you have a diverse workforce.

    Warning: This is going to have some broad generalizations. In an organization, no one can do everything alone, so getting work done through others is critical to the work’s success. Introverts like to hunker down and crank it out. Extroverts often get work done through others – not by just socializing per se, but by building strong, trusting relationships. Let’s admit it, fellow introverts. We are far more willing to do something or go out of the way for someone who friendly to us, than the guy who just buries his nose in work and lives in his own world.

    I saw a great post today on LinkedIn – that a team isn’t a group that works together; it’s group that trusts each other. I think this is exactly what helps extroverts succeed and often land in management, where they tend to promote those like them. Extroverts ‘socializing’ is often building relationships and building trust in others and this is also important in getting work done.

    1. Judy

      I think you’re confusing introversion/extroversion with task oriented vs. relationship oriented culture.

      In task oriented cultures (generally US, northern Europe) trust is gained by completing work correctly and on time. In relationship oriented cultures (generally Latin and Asian) trust is gained by creating a relationship.

      It is all obviously a continuum, but knowing someone is rooting for the Cowboys, in the US engineering workforce (ultra task oriented), is not going to build trust when someone can’t be counted on to do their work.

      I’m not sure where the “introverts like to crank it out and extroverts get work done through others comment” comes from.

      1. fposte

        I think there are connections, though. There’s a lot of relationship-oriented work in my field, and there are also a lot of introverts in my field; junior people can really struggle with negotiating the seeming contradiction there (I know I did). I’ve seen introverts tank because they couldn’t accept the relationship-developing necessity, and I’ve seen extroverts tank because they couldn’t manage the getting things done part (and last for longer than they really should have because their relationships were so strong).

        It’s not so much that introverts can’t A and extroverts can’t B, as each tendency has its own likely inherent failure points and advantages.

      2. HR Manager

        My post borrows heavily from the MB-Type definition of introvert vs extrovert, but not the definition of task vs relationship in Western vs non-Western world. Unfortunately, being Asian – I know way too much about that version of relationship building and it’s highly hierarchical in nature and very conscious about ‘your relative position’ and how to use your position effectively. I don’t think that particular model works well in the US/UK (France on the other hand is hierarchy-conscious, but less so than I’ve found in Japan, HK, or China, and combines a task focus).

    2. Helka

      What the OP is talking about isn’t trust-building, though — if anything, it’s the opposite. Your theories are nice, but they’re not really applicable to the situation the OP is talking about.

      Despite numerous people asking them to be quiet, saying “shhhhhhh”, speaking to them privately, and talking to their managers — they still do it.

      Maybe they’re building relationships with each other, but they’re destroying relationships with the other people whose ability to focus on their work is being destroyed by the noisy socializing. That’s not “how extroverts are” or “being friendly.”

      1. HR Manager

        But why does socializing mean noisy or disruptive? Most of those extroverts that I know and respected weren’t noisy co-workers at all. They built their relationships with folks by discussing work over a cup of coffee or dinner, or just took the time to get to know employees on a personal level without being disruptive and taking interest in them as people, in addition to their role at work. The effective extrovert isn’t the person shooting NERF balls at people or the gossiping about coworkers behind their back. Those are just jerks – you can be extroverted and not a jerk in the office.

        By the way, “my theories” are also heavily tied to various type/style indicators, so they’re not really unique or my own theories at all. But they have corresponded to what I’ve also observed in my own work environments.

        1. Anna

          Excellent points. It’s possibly the OP is associating the chattiness of their coworkers with being extroverted when in reality they’re just thoughtless. You can also be a thoughtless introvert. Introspective or introverted doesn’t automatically make you the best person to sit beside in the office because you’re so thoughtful and conscientious of your surroundings. It’s not a halo; it’s a personality trait and probably exists with a lot of other personality traits, like trimming your nails at your desk or always refilling the coffee pot.

        2. Helka

          But why does socializing mean noisy or disruptive?

          Because that’s what’s going on here. We’re not talking about “most of those extroverts,” we’re talking about “the people that the OP is having a problem with,” who are being noisy and disruptive.

          1. HR Manager

            I get that – but then it’s not fair to label and lump them all as extroverts. Being disruptive has nothing to do with being an extrovert or general socialization. I have plenty of people who interrupt me who are introverts because they just walk right in and start talking, regardless of what I’m doing or stand very awkwardly waiting for attention, not noticing that I was heavily focused on something else. All those who did these things were introverts.

            Some of the behavior that OP describes are not disruptive in that weirdly rude way. She even notes that they are in common areas. Short cubes are designed for partners to talk to each and chat because they believe the collaboration and talking through projects is helpful. Others have pointed to the office design as the culprit and I think that’s very much true, but it’s unfair to take issue with those who are using the space in a way that is specifically what it was designed to facilitate. I’ve worked in open office space, and I neither love nor hate it. It has it’s pros and cons, but I have seen the open office space work for certain environments. OP is choosing harsh words that I don’t think is indicative of a lot of extroverts.

    3. jordanjay29

      HR Manager, have you read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”? She talks about introverts, and also talks at length about leadership styles of introverts. If you haven’t read it, you should, she has some interesting points about introverts in leadership positions, and how the balance of introverts and extroverts in leader and follower positions make for a good team.

  14. Snowball II

    I’m so profoundly extroverted that I actively dislike silence (I know, introverts, I know – I’m annoying! :P), so I just wanted to weigh in on the “they’re not working right” aspect of OP’s post.

    The reason I’m talking “so much” at work is because I process things verbally. I make connections better, understand things better, remember things better, and formulate plans faster when I talk out loud. My best grades in school were always in classes where I was tutoring a classmate or working with a study group, because I got to talk about my understanding of the materials out loud. I’m not talking to be annoying, and I’m not talking to waste time or even just to be social (although I certainly get a “hit” from the social contact that keeps me energized) – I’m talking because talking helps me figure things out more quickly and come to better/more efficient solutions than I could sitting quietly at my desk. When I worked in a “be quietly alone all the time” environment for a while, it was a disaster – my work quality suffered, and it took months to figure out a workaround that allowed me to produce at the level I had at my previous, more extroverted, workplace.

    Ultimately, as Alison said, both groups have to try to accommodate each other – maybe you could agree on a set of “quiet hours” each day so the introverts don’t always have to be the ones to leave the shared space (I had a lot of success with that when I shared an office with a less-extroverted coworker). Another idea would be to agree that, after a certain length, a conversation becomes a “meeting” and the meeting has to be taken to a proper location (conference room or similar). Otherwise, a lot of the workarounds I’d normally suggest, OP is already using, so I’m not sure what else to say here. I would ask OP to think about her attitude toward her extroverted coworkers – the disdain I’m getting from the letter is palpable, and it seems like approaching this problem from a “Look, you’re noisy, this place is not a coffee klatch and I’m sick of you turning it into one, so why don’t you just sit down and *work* already, because some of us actually value our free time and don’t want to be here until 7 like you, loudmouth” place wouldn’t be terribly helpful.

    1. hildi

      Did you talk to someone about this comment before you typed it out?? :) :) Because it is incredibly articulate and really conveys a sense for what the extrovert’s brain needs. Your second paragraph, especially, is so spot on.

      1. Snowball II

        Hahaha, thanks. Writing things out was actually my workaround for not being able to talk in my old super-quiet workplace. When I absolutely can’t talk about something, I just pour all of my thoughts out, stream-of-consciousness style, in a blank Word document or on a legal pad, and then prune it back into something that makes sense (which is why I’m all about internet commenting).

        1. So Very Anonymous

          I do this too — I also work in a non-talking space and I have to write things out. +1 on your second paragraph.

    2. Samantha

      I’m an introvert but have no desire to work in a completely silent environment all day. What I desire is a little bit of consideration for the many people who simply cannot be productive while others nearby are chattering all day long. For example, don’t have a lengthy conversation with some across the room – get up and walk over to them instead of yelling across the room. If a meeting room is available, take the conversation in there. I totally understand the need to talk things out – just do it in a way that’s considerate of your fellow coworkers.

      1. Snowball II

        Absolutely! I wasn’t suggesting extroverts get to have conversations shouting across the room, apologies if it came across that way.

        Given the tone of the letter, I found myself wondering if OP was fairly representing what was happening (people “shouting” “all day”), or if the floor plan is just creating a situation where reasonable talker-behaviors are driving the OP bonkers through little or no fault of the talkers because OP has basically no tolerance for sound/social conversation in the workplace. OP seemed so hostile to “extroverts” that I felt like I could add something to the conversation from my own experiences.

    3. Nichole

      As a hardcore introvert, I love these suggestions. I can adapt to a certain extent, but this office environment sounds absolutely untenable to me. I just wouldn’t be able to process everything around me and still work at 100%, and one of the hallmarks of a strong introvert is that we can’t “turn off” irrelevant stimuli, no matter how much we want to. With designated quiet hours in an open office plan, I would be able to plan out my activities to save quiet time for work that really needs to be uninterrupted to be effective. I also love the idea of giving a time limit designation between chatting and meetings. It creates a culture where the extroverted bouncing of ideas is facilitated, but in a way that introverts can predict and work around without constant, all day disruption. It would probably also have the introvert-friendly side effect of limiting chatter without shutting down actual productive extroverting-people would be willing to say “let’s take this to a meeting” for a work discussion, but would just cut off a discussion about their vacation plans at the end of the allotted time. I’d love to see how these ideas would work in practice. Snowball, can you tell us more about your “quiet hours” arrangement with your coworker?

      1. Snowball II

        Basically, we had an agreement where she could ask for a silent office for a set length of time when needed, and during the set timeframe, if I needed/wanted to make non-essential noise of any sort, I’d leave our shared office and go to a small conference room, or another coworker’s office, etc. (Or just wait to do the noisy thing until quiet time was up if the other options weren’t available.) Since it was only the two of us, it wasn’t done on a set schedule, but I imagine with a larger group you could probably do something like “okay, between 8:30 and 10 am it’s quiet hours, so no non-essential talking/noise/etc.”

        We also both had noise-cancelling headphones, and would wear them as a proxy for “no talking directly to me unless it’s critical, but if you’re talking quietly on your phone or to another person, I’ll deal.” Last, we had agreed-upon “noisy times” as well, which really made the whole thing feel more balanced and comfortable for me. (We may or may not have watched parts of the Olympics on her second monitor together while working.)

        It also helped that we had a friendly relationship and were both pretty self-aware about our needs around communication & silence, and also that we both made requests for accommodation from a place of “I know this is not ideal for you, but would you mind if we…,” rather than a place of “OMG how can you WORK like this?”

      2. Windchime

        Everyone would need to agree to the notion that there is a time limit after which a “conversation” becomes a “meeting”. In the past, people have become highly offended when I have tried to gently suggest that loud conversations be moved elsewhere. To be fair, there is a person here who is many levels of seniority above me and has a very loud voice (and an office), and he is fine with any of us closing his door when he is engaged in a loud conversation. He seems to just forget, which seems odd to me because yelling instead of speaking is just a foreign concept to me.

    4. Bwmn

      I completely relate to everything written here in this comment.

      But based on my personal experience of recently switching from an office with a relatively crowded open floor plan surrounded by lawyers and talking nearly all day to an office that’s a mix of cubicles and offices, but paper thin walls – now conversations bother me far more. Instead of there being a few people on the phone and a conversation happening steadily all day, I find it the case where it’s more noticeable when there’s just one person on the phone or one conversation happening.

      So perhaps this is a case where the talking has actually decreased in total, but that makes the individual conversations pop more against the relative silence?

  15. Kai

    I’m also strongly introverted, and agree that this doesn’t seem like an introvert/extrovert issue. But I feel for you, OP. It sounds like you’ve already done a lot to try and make the environment more workable for you.

  16. Lily in NYC

    To me, this is not about extroverts vs. introverts; it is more about people being inconsiderate to their coworkers. I’m an extrovert and would hate the atmosphere described in the letter. Just because I’m social doesn’t mean I expect to hang out and loudly chat all day.

    1. Laurel Gray

      +1. My other issue is that coworker chit chat usually begins to cross over from work-related to personal and it’s amazing what inappropriate and TMI details (that weren’t meant for your ears) you can pick up in an environment where people are talking loud. I’m sure in an open floor plan this increases.

      1. BritCred

        I’ll agree. I always knew which employees were on the trouble list because our HR clerk sat a bit behind me. No matter how quietly they spoke I could hear her. Even when I tried not to.

  17. CaliCali

    Chiming in to say that as an extrovert — yes yes. Social interaction does make me more productive. Often at work, if I’m stuck on something, I’ll talk the problem through with a coworker. I’ll chat with someone quickly to clear my head and to prepare for diving into a project. It’s not just that extroverts find other people energizing, it’s that being alone can be draining. Honestly? Many times, I wish I skewed more introverted, since self-reliance is a fairly vaunted quality in the workplace, and (as has been conflated here) a few disruptive a-holes tend to be the default of how people understand extroversion. I don’t want to be an inconsiderate jerk. I just want to feel like my need for interaction is valued (and not at the COST of other people’s need for alone time — I’m talking about a short meeting, or getting lunch, or a 3-minute water cooler chat, not an all-day gabfest).

    That being said, I also dislike the open plan office, because it actually makes all that interaction harder if you’re trying to be considerate, and it either ends up with the more talkative pissing everyone off, or the quieter people being pissed if you make so much as a peep.

    1. So Very Anonymous

      Yes! I would so much rather have an office where fellow extrovert colleagues and I could hash things out without bothering people.

  18. Scott M

    I just have to say, I love my cube. As Dilbert said “I am the king of my cubicle, the absolute ruler of this tiny realm. And these are my subjects: Mister Stapler, Mister Computer, and the Binder Family”

      1. Scott M

        When Wally approached, looked at the floor, and said “Who spilled coffee?”, Dilbert thought “The barbarian is thwarted at the moat”

    1. Jady

      I loved my cube when I had a cube. Now it’s just getting worse. I worked in a cafeteria-like setting for a year. Now, I just have two walls and a desk. My space just doesn’t feel like my own space. People just standing around talking are standing in MY space to talk to my neighbors.

      I had a cube once. I miss it like a leg has been cut off.

      1. the gold digger

        I had an office once. With windows. Wait – many times. An office used to be the standard.

        But now, it’s all cubes or even worse. The only saving grace for me now is that I work with very quiet, considerate people. But I don’t even have a wall any more.

        1. long time reader first time poster

          Yep. My first 10-12 years in the workforce, I had a private office for almost all of my jobs. My last few jobs have been open space. I’d give my left arm for a cube at this point.

        2. Jady

          Oh man, an office seems like a dream.

          My new years resolution last year was to find a job with an office. I failed. It’s the resolution this year too. And probably next year.

          Not sure if it’s even possible anymore, though. In the current office I work in, there are no actual offices. There are “special” leader cubes at the front of the cube line. These cubes have sliding frosted glass doors and walls that are a foot higher. It looks incredibly stupid, but I’d cut off my arm to even have that.

          1. Sharon

            Oh, we have those in my current job. The walls of the leader cubes are no higher than ours, about 4 feet high. But they have sliding doors. I was laughing with someone once that the doors are only symbolic, “I’m busy, leave me alone”. Because they absolutely don’t stop anyone from talking to you over the wall. Or even over the door!

        3. Elizabeth West

          I would LOVE to have an office. It sucks trying to edit with people talking and laughing and talking and making phone calls and talking. Even headphones with music don’t always help. But I don’t rate one, sadly.

      2. ReanaZ

        I had an amazing cubicle back in the day. Walls taller than me, sliding door, inside covered in whiteboards. It was a dream. After some horrible times in an open-plan office, I’m back to sharing an office with a couple of people (pretty standard in the NFP land… pretty much everyone who is not an exec shares an office or has a fairly open-plan cubicle, including every boss I’ve had here). But honestly I’d rather have the cube.

        But at least I don’t have to hot desk! I’ve had several employers suggest we switch to hot desking. When I said, “Oh, my god, I’d quit immediately.” they laughed as if I was joking and then were not amused by my deadly serious expression.

  19. nyxalinth

    I’m an introvert, and I agree with Alison and many of the other comments here. I will say it can be worse, though: you could get fired just for being an introvert like myself and a couple of others once were at a job I had ten years ago. We got a new manager in, and he didn’t like or trust introverts, so out we went.

    1. Lia

      Or lose out on a job because you are an extrovert, and “extroverts are not good at working quietly and alone on research projects”, even though you had specific, successful experience at a job that required just that.

      I went on to land not one but two research jobs, where my extroverted nature has helped me build connections throughout the company and field.

      1. nyxalinth

        That would suck badly. I have friends who are extroverted, and they’re not glad-handling loudmouths like the stereotype presents! I’m sorry you lost out on the job. People need to realize that extroverts are not all human versions of Geico Hump Day Camel, nor are introverts sitting in the dark being all emo.

  20. Virgo

    I totally agree with the OP. My area is an open space even if the office isn’t, and it’s dominated by chatter all the time. It’s not so much extroverts needing to talk and socialize but it’s a few certain people who like attention and speaks loudly, shares their lives and their friends’ and families’ lives, throws their weight around, tells others what to do, etc. One even makes social calls and chats on the phone to her mother everyday (which she can do at home). As for productivity, they spend a fraction of their time looking up celebrity gossip and YouTubing stuff and talking about them.

    The only good thing about what they do is that it makes me look really good because I don’t do what they do. But I’m also getting increasing resentment and even jealousy from them because the managers like me and are giving me more responsibilities… and I’m the youngest and newest out of my coworkers.

    1. Jady

      “But I’m also getting increasing resentment and even jealousy from them because the managers like me and are giving me more responsibilities… ”

      It sucks short term, but long term it’s a really good thing. When it’s time for reviews and promotions, you’ll have a lot more ammo to get higher raises and positions. And if you don’t get them, you’ll have a stronger resume and can move up faster.

      1. Virgo

        “It sucks short term, but long term it’s a really good thing.”

        Exactly! It’s my only comfort that I’ll be out of this place in a year or 2. I like this place and it’s a good fit for me (aside from the obnoxious coworkers) but it’s really just a stepping stone to where I want to be.

    2. Laurel Gray

      Are the “more responsibilities” their work since the managers know they goof around and you will actually focus and do the work? If so, isn’t this some bad management at play? I may be confused here, I’m just trying to understand because what you described is an environment that should easily be shut down by a manager, unless they are partaking in the shenanigans.

      1. Virgo

        My managers are too “nice” and I honestly question their management capability because they can’t really give bad news or negative feedback. My manager has told me outright that she doesn’t want to be a strict, micromanaging boss, which is why the culprits, who’ve been here from 4 to 8 years, have been getting away with it for so long. The loudest and most obnoxious of the culprits have even said that when she gets negative feedback she doesn’t agree with, she challenges it. And my boss is too nice to override her… for 8 years.

        As for workload, we have the same work to do, which is why I look good because I am more productive and careful with my work than someone who’s been here for years. I haven’t been here even a year and in that time, I’ve learned my job quickly and my managers have praised the high quality of my work.

    3. fposte

      I think that your terms might be more apt for the OP’s office, too–it may not be about extroverts vs. introverts but chatterboxes who’ve gotten into an intrusive habit (I suspect some of the shushers may be extroverts as well). I’m an introvert and I’ve had overtalking habits with some colleagues; we’ve been in offices, so they’re not disruptive, but it can be a really powerful pattern that’s hard to break.

  21. puddin

    I used to be a very strong E. As the years go by, I am retreating into a much less E person, perhaps a mild I. Because I currently feel like I am straddling the two positions, my thought was to join in on the conversation when you can. Then, after a bit of back and forth you can control the ending of the conversation by suggesting that “we all have been gabbing enough, time to roll up the sleeves right?” Not sure if this is in your comfort zone or if you can make it so, but it could be a viable solution.

    Oh and not to mention, that the rapport you build in these conversations might gain you credibility/agreement when you ask for quiet (with a smile on your face) in the time when you cannot join in for a minute.

    1. Beverly

      All this about extroverts needing to talk and form relationships to work is well and good. But my problem, and that of those expressed here, is that they so often do it in the most inconsiderate manner possible. First of all the VOLUME. They seem to have no concept of an “indoor voice.” Even after being tutored on how to talk without screaming, many people refuse to reduce the volume of even the most mundane exchange. Add to that the “party” phenomenon whereby they congregate and try to out-scream each other in bursts of cackling and sound effects. The availability of break rooms, cafeterias, or hallways for these impromptu “parties” is irrelevant to them. They won’t use them. No amount of polite requests, management counseling, or constant “reminders” will phase them. Their desire to party trumps your desire to work every time. If you want to work, you have to play policeman all day long, reminding, asking, pleading with them to keep it down. And you end up being the bad guy, the party-pooper who ruins everybody’s fun.

  22. Oryx

    This isn’t really an introvert v. extrovert issue. Introverts feel drained after too much social interaction and need alone time to recharge whereas social interaction leaves extroverts feeling energized. That’s the real core difference and it doesn’t necessarily translate to a work setting and someone needing quiet all the time. I’m an introvert but I also will socialize with co-workers and even with Alison’s example, talking it out with people in a small group with 2-3 people will make me more productive than if I’m sitting in a room alone.

  23. Stephanie

    I actually worked in a mausoleum-quiet office and hated it (and I’d say I’m introverted). I usually ducked into a conference room to use the conference room phone and had to almost whisper to coworkers. I actually brought in headphones with music just so I could have some ambient noise. It can go too far the other way, trust me!

    I wish I could find this; I read an article somewhere about office designers coming up with new office designs that were more like a library and offered different work settings dependent on the amount of concentration needed.

    1. fposte

      That’s brilliant, and it makes me think of one of my favorite books, Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language; which takes apart architecture and urban design into pieces that matter in creating a workable whole. One of the big things is that there need to be different spaces suitable to different kinds of intimacy and togetherness (front porches, for instance, allow for an informal exchange that’s not as intimate as having somebody inside the house). If offices could be built that way, that would be amazing.

    2. LS

      There’s been a push a bit in the interior design/architecture industry to provide more options in open office plans. The article below helps to sum up the conclusion that a lot of us are coming to, which is, it’s nearly impossible to accommodate everyone and everyone’s varying work styles (just look at the variety of responses on this thread) and the best way to accommodate this is to provide a variety of types of work spaces. Which means not being in your workstation (or even office) 8 hours a day. Moving to a quiet/focus room, working in a break room that has a more cafe setting, meeting in an open collaboration booth and providing a variety of conference rooms sizes – small and large.

      http://www.steelcase.com/en/products/category/architectural/archwalls/via/pages/quiet-spaces.aspx

      I’d love to work in spaces like this. Being in the design industry, I work in a very open office environment, with constant noise, conversation and music. Most times it’s great and I really love it and can’t imagine working any other way, but I would kill for a little room I could hole up in to do focus work and not be bothered from time to time.

    3. Golden Yeti

      I’m an introvert, too (I actually think I’ve gotten more introverted lately). I’m in that kind of “mausoleum” situation now, except the office is open plan, too, which magnifies the problem. When it’s quiet, you can hear *everything*–typing and mouse clicks, phone calls, etc. Usually, I can even hear phone conversations on the other side of the office building. And headphones were officially revoked a couple years ago, but because I’m sharing desk space with someone, I don’t want to play music over my speakers they may or may not like, because it’s not considerate. On the other hand, because it’s open plan, you constantly feel like you could be sneaked up on at any minute, and as others have said, there’s no “buffer” between you and the rest of the work environment–you’re in the middle of everything all the time, whether you want to be or not. I don’t aspire to a corner office someday–just 4 walls and a door.

      It’s too bad more places either can’t or won’t consider letting employees customize a work space that they would work best in (even if it’s like putting a cubicle in an open plan office). To me, it seems like it’d be in the best interest of everyone: offices want productive employees, and employees want to be productive so they keep their jobs.

      1. Stephanie

        Yeah, that office was quiet enough that someone complained I typed too loudly. I had no clue how to remedy that and just ended up feeling really self-conscious.

        1. jordanjay29

          The self-righteous part of me would have gone out and bought a mechanical keyboard with extra loud switches (like Cherry MX Blue). Then whoever complained would have something to complain ABOUT.

    4. Rebecca Too

      Oh, I worked in an office like that too, and even though I’m an introvert, it was a total nightmare. I felt so guilty when I did anything that made noise, whether it was opening a pack of post its or asking the person next to me a work question. People barely spoke and yet still half the staff wore ear plugs. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, especially once we got out of the office and into the kitchen or common spaces, but it was horribly stressful, and I felt on edge there so often. I was so happy when I switched roles and moved to a different floor that was still very quiet but less tomb like, where I could say hello in the morning to people without getting death glares.

    5. Elizabeth West

      That’s great, because libraries aren’t as quiet as they used to be. But in the newer ones, they add study rooms where you can go if you need to shut out the rest of the chit-chat and ambient noise.

  24. MaryMary

    I read an article a couple of weeks ago on how men can better work with women (http://www.wsj.com/articles/women-at-work-a-guide-for-men-1418418595). One of the things that struck me in the article was that most of their tips would apply to working with anyone who isn’t an extroverted, alpha personality (and, for the record, some women are extroverted alphas and those tips would not be helpful). It’s more “how to adjust your communication and management style” than how men should work with women. People tend to gravitate towards people who are like them. Western business is currently run by extroverted, alpha personalities, but slowly the rest of us are getting a foot in the door because another perspective can offer so much.

  25. Jennifer

    “why should extroverts run the show at the expense of introverts?”

    I think it’s the same reason that early birds run the show at the expense of night owls.

    1. jordanjay29

      Excellent point. I think I would love to find a job that started around 11 AM and worked into the evening hours. But I don’t think I’d like the kind of work that would entail, the few job postings I’ve seen for that in my field are fairly unappealing.

  26. Graciosa

    I, too, hate open-office designs with a fiery passion (despite being blessed with a fairly nice office). My sympathy for those who have to work even in cubicles with moderately-high panels is such that I make my office available to anyone who wants to get some privacy when I’m not in it.

    One thing I’m wondering about in light of all the headphone comments is whether anyone has tried to get the employer to provide them? It seems to me that if this is equipment necessary to get the work done (which I absolutely think it is) the employer should be paying for it rather than expecting employees to supply their own.

    I assume this argument has a better chance of success in California, but I think it has at least moral validity anywhere an employer was stupid enough to set up an anti-productivity open office plan. Do any employers supply them? Have any employees asked?

    1. PEBCAK

      You can get headphones for like $2. Asking an employer to provide them would look silly enough to do you far more than $2 worth of reputational damage.

      1. Graciosa

        Good noise canceling ones retail for more along the lines of $200 – but I admit that if I was going to ask I would ask for good ones (which may be just me).

        1. JC

          My old job was in a cube farm. We begged for help with dealing with the noise, and the administration actually responded by putting out boxes of those $2 headphones for us. It seemed very tone deaf (no pun intended). It helped to listen to music or white noise with the $2 headphones, sure, but noise-canceling headphones would have been a much more meaningful gesture.

    2. Jennifer

      Also, not every job is okay with you having headphones. They WANT you to hear everyone else.

      Or in the case of my job, I have headphones, but I cannot have “noise canceling” (it’s not forbidden, but it’s impractical) because people interrupt me and start talking behind my head and and expect me to hear them all the time. I would be In Trouble if I was literally blocking anyone from talking to me when they want to.

      1. jordanjay29

        Now consider being Hard of Hearing (as I am) and having that feature built-in. I’ve worked in a place like that before, and a month in HR came and talked to me about the “problem” of not hearing my coworkers. Thankfully, it worked out positively, I was able to switch desks from the outskirts to someplace in the middle, so I was closer to the people talking to me. Unfortunately, as an introvert, that was worse for my concentration, as I sat between the social guy and his frequent target.

    3. Jady

      I tried once. I also suggested a lot of other possible solutions, like white noise machines in the ceilings, working quiet offices, higher cube walls, as well as headphones.

      Pretty much laughed out of the room.

    4. Sharon

      Heck, It’s been pulling teeth to get my last few employers to pony up for phone headsets because I’m client facing and work on the computer nonstop. They apparently think it’s fine to hold the phone in your neck for a 1 – 2 hour conference call while typing. Seriously, one company got them for administrative assistants who didn’t need them, but refused to get them for the customer support/tech people. An admin loaned me hers with a wink and “don’t tell anyone where you got it”.

      Music headphones? I can’t even begin…..

  27. soitgoes

    I’m confused as to why OP is presenting this as introverts v. extroverts, since she claims to have formerly behaved like an extrovert at work. This isn’t about core personality traits (and IMO it’s not cool to falsely label yourself with a popular buzzword in an attempt to garner sympathy). This is about the OP trying to drum up ways to present her particular preference as being objectively superior to the current status quo. People prefer different types of workplaces, but the OP doesn’t actually seem to be an introvert, so I find the focus of this email to be in the “asking the wrong question” category.

    1. "The Introvert" (hehe)

      Soitgoes, you couldn’t have misunderstood my posting more. I’m very surprised at the tone of your response; way out of place. Being pleasant to my coworkers is not an extrovert/introvert trait, it’s a professional trait that’s necessary in a workplace. I didn’t falsely label myself with a, what is it you claim, popular buzzword? In order to garner sympathy? To being “superior”? Wow. And, LOL. If that’s what you read, that’s about as far from it as can possibly be. Thanks anyway though.

      1. soitgoes

        I’m reading a whole lot of condescension in your response, perhaps because it’s not what you want to hear. I stand by my claim that you’re likely not a genuine introvert and that casting this workplace conflict as an issue of personality types is the wrong approach.

      2. Colette

        A lot of people have pointed out that the question isn’t about introverts vs. extroverts. You may not like that message (or soitgoes’s comment about falsely labeling yourself an introvert), but your response is unnecessarily harsh.

        1. JC

          To be fair, I think soitgoes’s response was unnecessarily harsh, too. In my read, soitgoes essentially called the OP a liar and said that they were wrongly using a buzzword label to garner sympathy.

          Yes, many posters here have commented that they don’t view this as an introvert/extrovert issue, but it seems like the comments are pretty evenly split between that view and the view that the problem is related to introversion/extroversion. I am a textbook introvert and (obviously) am very sympathetic with the OP. I find the different opinions on this comment thread fascinating! I also find it fascinating to read commentary from self-labeled extroverts on how they best work, because some of their view points are so, so different than how I operate.

          It is also difficult for me to remember that my introverted tendencies are just one style of working, and are not necessarily the best tendencies. The working style of needing to talk through problems is the complete antithesis of how I work, and it can be difficult to imagine that someone can have such a different style. I imagine that many extroverted types reading this post also have the same type of reaction to the OP.

          1. Colette

            I don’t read soitgoes’s response as harsh at all. The OP said “That’s their choice, but it certainly is not mine. I did that sort of thing in my twenties, but now work-life balance is essential to me. My style is not socializing at work and then having to work late/weekends.” – that implies she used to socialize at work, which means the issue is not an innate personality type, as soitgoes pointed out.

            Introversion/extroversion is about how you recharge – it’s not about whether you ever socialize, it’s about whether doing so gives you energy or saps your energy. Introverts can value relationships, and extroverts can focus on wanting to leave on time.

      3. illini02

        Sorry, but you do come across as if your style of working is superior to the others just because its your preference. Even your response here is condescending. There is also a bit of “woe is me, I’m trapped in a world only catering to extroverts” in your email.

    2. JC

      I am also confused by soitgoes’s comment. How did you read from the original post that the OP used to behave like an extrovert at work? They say in the post that they are always friendly at work and perhaps used to socialize more, but socializing in the workplace is not their complaint. The complaint is constant noise when they are trying to work. I also socialize more and less at work at different times, but I always prefer a quiet environment for when I am working; I imagine the OP has similar feelings, from my read.

  28. HM in Atlanta

    I’m a super-introvert, and I can’t work from home on a regular basis. My employer would let me, but I need the social interaction of the office to get things done. I’m an outgoing introvert (when I recharge, I need to be by myself). My mother, on the other hand, is a shy extrovert. I think people have really started to realize that introversion/extroversion is a flexible scale (introversion doesn’t always mean shy or unable to communicate and extroversion doesn’t mean talking to the walls and inability to manage details).

    1. MJH

      I am the same way. If I work at home, I get much less done. Getting up, going to an office (where I don’t even chat much), has a positive affect on my mental health and helps me actually work.

    2. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)

      Me too! My most productive days are actually in a hospital surgery waiting room–yes there’s the tv, but it’s mindless.

  29. Formerly Bee

    I actually don’t think introversion or extroversion is relevant – this is just a simple distraction that is bothering you. LW, it looks like it isn’t going to change. You’ve tried just about everything to deal with it. Where do you want to go from here?

  30. LawBee

    I loved working in a cubefarm, back in the day, and I really miss that interaction. I was more focused with a low hum of chatter. I’ve got the vaunted Office With A Door now, and I hate it. I love my office, it’s gorgeous, but there are many times when I wish I could require my paralegal to set up her desk in here with me.

    Actually, we all have our own offices in this setup, and I have to say that I don’t spend 100% of my time in mine. I actually need that chat time with my coworkers to clear my mind for the important work that needs to get done. OtherAttorney, otoh, prefers to barricade himself behind his door (with the understanding that it’s not a sign not to bother him with work stuff) and he rarely chats with us.

    And I have just given up working from home. I get literally nothing done, it is the worst. If I have to work@home, I actually work@the bookstore cafe. Again, it’s the background noise and the energy of the people around me.

  31. Danielle

    I had a similar open-plan environment at my last job. As the newest member of the team, I preferred to sit at my desk during business hours and get my work done so I could leave on time, while my team preferred to wander around the office, shop, chat with each other, etc, and then stay until ~8pm every night. Unfortunately, the office culture glorified staying late – whether it was warranted or not – so the fact that I was the only one actually working during business hours meant next to nothing. The team went so far as to call me out for “not being friendly” because I didn’t wander around the office looking to waste time. It was one of the main reasons I left that job after just a few months – it made me feel so uncomfortable. OP, if you’re not able to get by with ignoring and/or using other space, it might be time to look for a new environment that works for you.

    1. April

      Good for you for leaving! Staying late when there’s an actual business reason is one thing. Staying late because you’ve frittered the day away in a ridiculously inefficient manner is something else entirely.

    2. MissDisplaced

      Ick! I just want to go to work, do my work, and leave. Eight hours is more than enough time to be someplace that is not your own house. It’s not that I hate work. I just don’t want to live there.

  32. C Average

    Conversations about open office plans really interest me.

    I can complain as much as the next person–it’s practically a hobby!–but I find that I like working in an open office plan. And it’s interesting to me that so many other people hate it so much.

    It’s well-known that coffee shops are wonderful creative environments, at least for certain people. There’s something about the ambient chatter that isn’t YOUR chatter, the conversations and the music and the making-coffee noises, that blends into a perfect white noise.

    Some of the architects of the open-plan office envisioned it as such a place. (The cost savings associated with going open-plan are factors in its development and popularity, too.)

    Sometimes when I’m really in my groove on a project, it’s like the voices around me are just chatter. I hear them, but I couldn’t tell you what they’re saying. They’re like TV in the next room, or the chatter of strangers.

    If I’m feeling stuck, I can participate. But it’s rare for me to find these background conversations actually distracting. I only really hear them when I’m not focused on my task and I’m open to distraction.

    We’re free to listen to music on headphones, but I rarely do. The sound of voices and the click of keyboards is actually my preferred soundtrack. The only time I retreat to a silent space is when I want to read my own content aloud to check the flow.

    I wish I had some brilliant stroke of insight I could share that would help others find these spaces more tolerable. I’m sorry open plans are such an awful environment for so many people.

    (For what it’s worth, I’m an introvert, too.)

    1. LawBee

      “It’s well-known that coffee shops are wonderful creative environments, at least for certain people. There’s something about the ambient chatter that isn’t YOUR chatter, the conversations and the music and the making-coffee noises, that blends into a perfect white noise.”

      Right now in another tab, I’ve got https://coffitivity.com/ running – perfect background cafe chatter with the clinking of dishes. No music either, which works for me.

    2. Natalie

      IMO the stroke of insight is that open plan isn’t ideal for every type of work or worker, and as a company you have to be aware of that. What you’re describing sounds like an office I’d be perfectly happy in, while I hate my open-plan office. We have a lot fewer people, so the background noise isn’t varied enough to be a low hum. And culturally, when my office converted to open plan they expected all of us to be able to work in a specific environment, and were initially perplexed and/or irritated that I couldn’t do that. (My job is fundamentally different from my co-workers, a la a single IT person in an office of sales people.) A year later, we’re finally ironing out the bugs and I feel like I’m getting my ability to focus back, but it’s hard to shake the bitterness that my boss essentially ignored me when I said “I can’t work this way”.

    3. Kelly L.

      My first instinct is that the difference is this: I know the people in my office. I recognize their voices, and I’m also always on semi-alert for one of them to suddenly address me, and for me to have to interrupt what I’m doing to listen. So I’m tuned in to my co-workers in a way I’m not tuned in to strangers in a coffee shop. I don’t know the strangers’ voices, and it’s almost always a safe assumption that they’re not talking to me.

      1. Sizzy

        Kelly: yup and yup. And some folks might say, “Oh, just tune your co-workers out anyway.” I’ve tried that and my supervisor ended up asking me if something was wrong with me because every time someone approached me they’d have to say my name a few times to get my attention.

        So I’m expected to fully focus on lengthy texts (I work with content and copy) while being totally “available” to all the people who may or may not stop at my desk, or who may or may not be talking to me from 10 feet away.

        One size does not fit all. Managers and employers go on and on about performance reviews and efficiency and other buzzwords, but how about listening to your employees and allowing them to have an appropriate work space for a change.

  33. Pollution

    The issue here is noise pollution that is disrupting a public workspace.

    Instead of framing this issue as an introvert vs. extrovert issue, what if we were talking about smokers vs. non-smokers?

    Isn’t it more natural to politely ask the smokers to smoke outside, as to not burden the rest of the office?

    The same logic works here. The talkers can talk during lunch, or outside during a walk or something. The expectation should be that the office is a relatively quiet environment to get work done, just like it is expected that office air be smoke-free and clean to breathe.

    Noise pollution and air pollution, both should be treated with the same logic.

    Why should everyone else be forced to buy $300 Bose noise cancelling headphones because of their rude coworkers?

    Poor advice on this answer.

    1. LawBee

      That’s not a true comparison – smoking v non-smoking is both a health and a legal issue. This is coworker behavioral norms, and as the comments have shown, different people need different environments to be productive. It sucks to be the chatty person in a quiet office (ME) and it sucks to be the quiet person in a chatty office (OP). Workarounds are what you do.

      And my headphones cancel out even airplane noise, and didn’t cost remotely near $300.

    2. jordanjay29

      And just like loud talkers, smokers can be just as rude and “offended” if you ask them to take their smoking elsewhere. Even if it’s just twenty feet away to the DESIGNATED smoking area with the ash tray provided. Some people just have an inflated sense of entitlement.

      1. jordanjay29

        On reading that the second time, it seems like I’m talking about all smokers/loud talkers. I intended to say some smokers/loud talkers.

  34. Snarkus Aurelius

    I’m sorry but I had to get really mean at my last job. It was a small open office, and I needed to be on my computer during some calls.

    First I tried slamming my hand on my desk to get attention. I’d motion to zip it, and theyd pipe down. Later it’d be back to normal so I’d throw pens over my cube wall. They’d pipe down only to get louder. Then I’d have to wait for a break in conversation, put the phone on mute, and say, “guys, seriously I cant hear anything.” Cycle would stop there usually. One time, I told a conference call, “I’m sorry but there’s so much noise on my end. Can you say that again?”

    Breaking several times to get a quiet space drove down my productivity. This isn’t introverts vs. Extroverts. Its just inconsiderate coworkers.

    1. April

      Yes, absolutely. Inconsiderate, and, from the description (stay til 7 pm when others don’t have to and work an extra day each weekend), inefficient.

  35. just laura

    I don’t see this as an introvert vs. extrovert issue as much as it is a work style issue. Regardless, I do think OP should work to find a better solution. Can you work from home 4 days a week? Can you get your desk moved to a far corner? Can you work more frequently in the conference room? Good luck!

  36. Noah

    Lots of hate for open plan offices here. My company moved to a new building, that is all open plan, even the CEO. We each have a 3×6 desk and a file pedestal. The desks are in rows, filling various rooms, generally keeping departments together.

    I actually like it a lot. My assistant sits right next to me, and it is easy to see if he is busy or if I can chat about something. I can look around and speak directly to others in my department.

    Here’s what makes it workable for me though:
    -In general, people are quiet and talk in low voices.
    -We have lots of conference, huddle, and telephone rooms. Some can be booked, some are first-come, first-served. No one is allowed to just set up shop in one all day.
    -We have common areas away from the offices for people to do things like an XBox tournament or eat lunch.

    1. AVP

      I think it helps that you all have your own 3×6 desk. A lot of the open-plan offices I’ve seen just have long tables with all the computers in a row, which seems to ratchet up the noise, especially if the floors are made of a “hip” material like poured concrete.

      1. jordanjay29

        Or wood floors. Seriously, I worked in an open office with wood floors, and I can’t tell you how annoying that was. I got to know several people by their footsteps as they clomped by (or in one woman’s case, as she hurriedly walked past me several times a day in high heels).

        Whatever happened to good, old, sound-absorbing carpet?

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had an interview in a place that was all concrete floors and large, industrial rooms. Even walking to the conference room was noisy. I felt badly for the people trying to work at the desks in the shared space. Thinking about it later, I was glad I didn’t get that job. The clomping of everyone’s feet would have driven me crazy.

      2. Noah

        Well they are essentially really, really long tables because they are 3×6 desks in long rows with no cubicle like dividers. We also have carpet though, I cannot imagine the noise reverberations if it was a hard surface.

  37. April

    This letter was framed as an introvert/extravert issue, but the situation actually described in the letter doesn’t sound like it actually is. What’s described is one worker who’s figured out what he/she needs to do to get work done in a timely fashion and other workers who waste so much time that they are constantly having to stay late and even work extra days. That’s an efficiency issue, not a work style issue. If both were getting the same amount of work done in the same amount of time, we’d be looking at a mere difference in style, and yes in that case the introvert should be just as accommodating of the extravert. But that’s not the case here.

    When people waste time, it’s often that they are doing their preferred leisure/recharge activity to excess. Introverts can be lazy time-wasters, just as much as extraverts, but perhaps their time-wasting might tend to be on more solitary activities like reading blog posts or playing minesweeper, not loud conversations. Extraverts like talking to others and that’s fine here and there on a quick coffee break or whatever, but it’s very possible to indulge in it to excess just as much as somebody else can browse the internet to excess.

    The question is, does it really matter what people are wasting too much time doing? What matters is that they are wasting time. That by itself is bad. If in the course of wasting that time, they also disrupt an entire room (you don’t have to be an introvert to find loud conversations disruptive to concentration!), that’s even worse. OP, I am very sorry you are having to deal with that and if I was manager there, you sure as heck would not have to!

    1. Desiree Renee Arceneaux

      Except we don’t actually have any reason to believe that the more extroverted coworkers are staying late and/or working extra days *because* they are wasting time; that’s purely speculation on the part of the OP. It could equally be the case that the coworkers are simply willing to put in extra hours and the OP is not.

  38. illini02

    Whats funny about people labeling things as inconsiderate, I feel like many of you would think my whole office is inconsiderate, which couldn’t be further from the truth. But we talk A LOT. Some people, myself included, are loud at times. But if someone just asks us to quiet down, we will. Sometimes you don’t realize that you are disturbing people, but its not necessarily inconsiderate

    1. Kelly L.

      I mean, if you’re (general you) not considering the effect of your noise level at all until someone points it out, that’s pretty much inconsiderate by definition. But “inconsiderate” doesn’t mean “devil incarnate.” It’s a fairly mild term as they go. If you kept being loud even after being asked to pipe down, that would be something more like rude or obnoxious, which are stronger terms IMO.

    2. jordanjay29

      If I were working in your office, and I knew I could ask you to quiet down (and knew that I wouldn’t get glares, snide remarks or unfriendly demeanor from doing it), I’d happily join in the conversation when I felt like being social and ask you to be quiet when I needed to concentrate. I probably wouldn’t think you were inconsiderate at all.

      I think there’s a world of difference between loud socializers who can’t police themselves, and can’t be policed (take offense, make rude remarks, act like scolded children, etc), and those who are aware of the needs of others and will acquiesce when asked.

  39. So me

    This is SO me – but I’m not even in an open floor plan situation – I have an office, but closing the door is HIGHLY frowned upon and actually leads people to knock, try the door and barge in if its not locked. I’ve even had people go outside and knock on the window! Our office culture is ‘open door’ and if the mood strikes just go to an office and walk in. It is also extremely loud. I’m toward the front of the building – people gather in the hallways conversing on personal and company business – and I may actually be the only introvert in the whole building – or it at least feels that way. I too wear headphones but get eye rolls and frowning because of it. People make comments about me ‘hiding’ in my office (because I don’t walk around chatting with coffee cup in hand – ever). If I do mention how I really need quiet and non-interrupted time I again get the eyerolls. The type of work I do can mean literally an hour to get back where I was before an interruption and still I can get no relief. I too can work from home from time to time if needed, but I do manage people and need to be in the office a lot. It is frustrating but I just keep trying to manage it. I can totally understand the extroverts – I get it – but it doesn’t seem like the reverse is true – they just want me to ‘change’ to be like them.

    1. jordanjay29

      I’m actually surprised your office hasn’t gone to open floor plan. It seems like that would be a haven for these folks.

      There’s a book by Susan Cain called “Quiet” that explains how introverts work (and why they’re different from just, plain shy people). Maybe your managers and coworkers need to read that so they can ‘get’ why you need to get away sometimes.

  40. teclatwig

    I think Alison’s answer was great, so I am just going to toss out some other confounding variables.

    First of all, I am strongly introverted, MBTI-wise. It has been a great gift to understand my deep need for extended alone time, as well as the funk I get into after too much socializing. I also love people, and get way amped up when socializing (before the aforementioned crash).

    There are two things about me which make casual work-type acquaintances surprised to learn I am introverted: 1) I process my thoughts by speaking them out loud. This is partly because I am inclined toward verbal processing, and largely because of executive function issues which mean that I can’t really identify categories and key aspects of a situation until I have sketched out all the details and their relationships to each other, at which point I have to verbally state my new understanding in clear terms or else I will lose all the mental work. (And yes, writing can serve the same function, but I generally have to be writing to a known, specific audience.) 2) In women, in particular, the hyperactive aspect if ADHD can manifest verbally.

    1. MsM

      Yeah, as another introvert who talks through stuff out loud and appreciates getting collaborative feedback, I’m a little surprised to see so many people trying to put those traits on the continuum.

  41. MissDisplaced

    I thank my lucky starts that I am fortunate enough to have my own office! Generally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I can be social, but need quiet time for certain aspects of my work. My workplace has a lot of extremely social people, and they can get loud at times, so I’m glad I can shut my door when I need to focus.

  42. Lana

    It sounds like you have the same issues with noisy environments that I do. In the first place, my threshhold for “noisy” is much lower than it is for other people; and on top of that, I have an auditory processing disorder that basically means that my brain does not process anything as “background noise” — it’s all heard on the same level, and I can’t just tune things out the way other people can. Even with noise-cancelling headphones and white noise, a lot of the chatter and other environmental noise still got through when I worked in the office, and I’m not sure what I’d be doing if I weren’t working from home full time now.

    It can be really frustrating to talk to other people about it, because people usually assume (reasonably, I think, because CAPD and SPD are relatively rare, especially if they’re not tagging along with autism or ADHD) that noise-cancelling headphones or white noise or music will fix the whole thing, and what those things don’t cover up you can just tune out or “deal with”, but it isn’t always that simple! I have heard that using earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones over that works, and I think someone else here suggested the earmuffs that people use for things like leafblowing, which I have also heard are pretty effective.

    1. jordanjay29

      I have a similar problem, but it stems from being Hard of Hearing. My ‘noisy’ clearance is very low, it’s extremely annoying to hear extraneous sounds when I’m trying to concentrate.

  43. Not So NewReader

    When I first started supervising, I noticed that in my group there were some people if they were not talking then they were not productive. The faster they talked the more the completed work flew out. Then I had other people that talking meant work had stopped, cold turkey. This was all very interesting to me. Personally, if I am going to crank out a lot of work, I am quiet. But if the work is relatively repetitive, other people’s conversations make the day go by for me. It took me a bit to realize which people actually needed to talk in order to complete more work.

    And this is where supervisors can seem unfair. “NSNR, how come you bug me about talking so much and you never bug Jane about it?” hmmm. It did make me think about the setting in general. Sometimes the REAL answer was that Jane had streamlined her methods so that she was doing more quicker with higher accuracy. The person complaining actually needed help with reducing the steps in the method they were using. In other cases, the complainer had a good system but just stopped working whenever there was a conversation going on, each. and. every. time.

    I am seeing more of this type of thing (some folks need to talk to be productive and some folks need to be quiet to be productive) in the comments here and I don’t doubt the differences in needs at all.

    It’s just a guess on my part, but I think OP’s boss really does not think too much about who is actually producing results and who is spending the day visiting with everyone. Perhaps, OP, you need a work place that has a stronger sense of collective goals or sense of mission. It almost sounds like “eh, if you get the stuff done, fine, if you don’t get it done, that’s okay, too.” I’d have problems with that because I like goals and I like the feeling of completing something. I would have difficulty working in a place where the attitude was “if you get it done, or if you don’t get it done, no one cares.” That comes from the management, not the workers. I wouldn’t last long in a place like that.

    1. soitgoes

      Actually, I think a bit of an issue when the extroverts v. introverts thing comes up is that it’s largely an online thing. I genuinely don’t know which type I am (sometimes I get energy from socializing and sometimes I need to stay inside for a whole weekend to recharge), and I don’t know anyone in my real life who identifies in those terms either. I’d guess that most people fall somewhere in the middle. The intro v. extro thing is kind of like Dr. Who fans: overly represented on the Internet.

      1. jordanjay29

        I’m definitely an introvert offline. I hate loud spaces, big crowds and being around overly-social people just drains me. There are people that I can be with (usually small crowds, by which I mean no more than 5 or so people) that I know well and can have an energizing conversation. I can walk away from a small dinner party with friends feeling refreshed and new. But if I go to a large party, or have to meet someone new, I feel like finding someplace to get away and hide after a few hours.

        I’m probably a more outgoing introvert than some of my introverted friends (I have a friend who is THE stereotypical introvert), a bit more social and who needs some social interaction to keep going. But that doesn’t make me an extrovert by far, I’d much rather stay home and relax on a Friday night with a nice movie, a video game or a book than go out to a party with strangers.

  44. INTP

    Maybe I have had some truly awful workplaces, but if the OP is allowed to wear noise-canceling headphones, work from home, use a white noise machine, go home before the office socializers, remain private about her private life, and abstain from socializing with coworkers who apparently socialize with each other quite a bit, all without being officially or unofficially penalized for it, I’d say that’s a very introvert-friendly workplace. And I am such an introvert that the fact that most people in my profession work freelance and remotely was one of the reasons I chose it. I’ve worked places where all of these things would be either banned or majorly frowned upon (sometimes to the point of becoming “Not a Cultural Fit”).

    It does sound like the people in question are being a little loud, but at the same time, if someone is using a noise machine and noise canceling headphones and still can’t concentrate, the issue might be that they need silence to work and they need to find an office culture that can accommodate that rather than expecting the culture to change.

  45. Anon this time

    Not using my usual username, as this (rather unique) suggestion would out me to any coworker reading this–and I recommend AAM to everybody I know.

    So, I work in an open floor plan. Most of the time I can tolerate it pretty well. Occasionally there are noises that are disruptive. As a manager, I mostly dislike the fact that I have to leave my desk, or keep checking over my shoulder, for sensitive types of work I don’t want passersby seeing (e.g. writing performance reviews).

    However, my office has a unique aid for the noise problem. We have white noise generating speakers placed all over our office. Yup. It really cuts down on how far voices or other noise can travel through the open space. (A couple times, the speakers have accidentally shut off for a few minutes–it’s remarkable the difference it makes.)

    So, OP–my suggestion is to get your office to install white noise generating speakers.

    1. Anon this time

      Hm, reading further up, I can see this was already somewhat suggested. So I guess the addition I’m making is: get speakers placed all over the office! Not just one at your desk.

      1. April

        This might help some people, but it might just add to the problem for others. I think it would help if what was distracting someone was the understandable words of conversations; blurring those might make things easier to tune out. But if the individual’s problem is just noise in general, then these machines would be adding to the problem, not diminishing it.

  46. A. D. Kay

    So, have any of you worked in an environment where there was THAT ONE DUDE who always sang karaoke in his cube? Example: the chorus of “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners… sung randomly and ad nauseam. For an entire Friday afternoon. Except… this was back in 2005 when Tropical Storm Arlene was trying to decide where to come ashore, so Karaoke Dude sang “Come on Arlene” instead.

    1. BritCred

      Same workplace as above. Had one colleague who only attended the office irregularly and would play about and sing carols all. year. round. Not only disruptive to work patterns but annoying to all but the most christmassy people…

  47. Vicki

    “The real culprit here is the open-plan office, which is the enemy of sanity and productivity everywhere”

    So, this being the problem, is there anything we can do about it? It’s not an Introvert/Extrovert issue. Many extroverts hate these as well and they’re standard in many tech companies these days (and tech companies have a larger proportion of Introverts than 50%).

    The open plan office is (supposedly) good for “spontaneous collaboration”. It’s (again supposedly) cheaper. It’s something that managers think is a good idea. It’s something that many employees hate (but don’t want to say so because then they don;t appear to be ‘team players’)

    At a previous company where we worked in cubicles, I complained about noise. We had no soft surfaces, few intervening walls (think 80 cubes in a section with no walls above 5 feet), hard glass “bulletin boards”, people on speaker phone in the cubes, NOISE all day. When I sent a note to our director asking if we could do something (e.g. replace the hard glass bulletin boards with sound absorbing material), she forwarded it to the VP. The VOP responded that the environment sounded Great For Spontaneous Collaboration and he Planned to Visit Soon!!! (He didn’t actually capitalize like that but the effect was there.)

    I can no longer work 5 days a week in a cubicle environment. I _CANNOT_ work on an open plan environment. I interview at companies, look at their office layouts, and send a polite note after the interview thanking them but telling them the job would not be a fit.

    I’m unemployed and looking for work and don;t want to have to ask my physician for a prescription for Xanax to get through a day in a “modern” office layout.

    How do we stop the madness???

  48. The Original Poster (aka "The Introvert")

    An interesting update. Today, all the people who like to talk/be loud are out of the office. All of the people who like to work in quiet are in the office. All day, it has been like a church in here. It’s fabulous.

    I can hardly believe the difference … it doesn’t even matter that we are squished in like sardines and have no walls … because everyone is quiet, working quietly, and nobody is disturbing anyone else.

  49. scott

    Well, I’ll tell you this. The benefit to endless socializing at work, and lunch with others, (anyone), is it makes working an extra day to be more productive, much more bearable.

  50. Tikki

    “The deal with extroverts isn’t that they like to waste a lot of time and socialize instead of being productive — it’s that social relationships actually make them more productive”.

    OK. So if they’re more productive why do they need to stay late every day and come in on the weekend to get their work done? If this were a classroom situation the offenders would be separated so that the entire class would not be dragged down by their inability to govern themselves.

    1. Sizzy

      It does seem that point was overlooked.

      I’ve a similar situation at work and the chatters are the ones complaining about how busy they are and how they had to work till late at night or over the weekend. Somehow the folks who come to work to actually work seem to be getting on just fine.

      The trouble is that the people who want silence need to go out of their way to be able to work – at work. It shouldn’t be a matter of introvert/extrovert or right/wrong: if the point of being at work is to work then the work environment should be conducive to getting work done. Likewise, if the point of going to a cafe is to socialize then that environment should be conducive to that.

      Being at my job, for example – and maybe the OP can relate – is like being back in high school where the “cool kids” live on a separate plane from the “nerds,” which includes pretty much anyone trying to work. Except you’d think that when someone comes to work and tries to get things done they’d be praised for that. Alas, the GM gives the “cool kids” special treatment and they even play loud, insulting rap music in the open plan office because “the GM said [they] could.” Go figure.

      1. Desiree Renee Arceneaux

        Except that’s not actually a point, that’s a biased assumption on the part of the OP. There’s no actual evidence cited by the OP that the extroverted coworkers are actually less productive; the OP simply claims that the coworkers “say” they’re working longer hours.

  51. Tanya

    Wow Allison, you summed up my entire world in your article and am so grateful I found someone else who could understand. Thank you for publishing this. I have no idea how to address the issues in my office anymore but everything I’ve felt and thought for the last year was validated by reading your article.

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