An Illustrated Guide to Introverts in a Start-Up

Dear Start-ups,

Introverts are valuable employees. We bring creativity, dedication, and self-motivation to any task we focus on. According to Marti Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage,

“Introverts are thoughtful, imaginative, tend to work independently and think outside the box. Introverts are keen observers and sensitive listeners.”

Famous introvert entrepreneurs include Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, and Mark Zuckerberg.

When we imagine our ideal workplace, it looks more like a library full of quiet rooms and isolated carrels than the ball-pit and bullpen situation start-ups are currently obsessed with. As introverts, we may be outnumbered by extroverts at start-ups. According to Laney, “The introvert is pressured daily, almost from the moment of awakening, to respond and conform to the outer world.” This need to conform can be tiring. But we promise, with just a few tweaks in the workplace, you could make us very happy.

Here are a few guidelines to help us out:

  1. Open floor plans take years off our lives. If possible, give us our own space.quiet1-01
  2. In planning employee bonding activities, look beyond the noisy “all-company mixers.” We can be intensely social, but prefer one-on-one or small group interactions.quiet2-01
  3. If you want us to speak up at all-hands meetings, provide an agenda, and put us on it. We do best when we can think before we share our thoughts.quiet3-01
  4. We don’t rely on external stimulation via ping-pong tables, sound systems, and snack areas. We can give you our best work while sitting in a room by ourselves.quiet4-01
  5. Give us the freedom to structure our own days, and we’ll get the work done.quiet5-01
  6. Recognize our good work through thoughtful gifts or simple acknowledgements, not public toasts.quiet6-01
  7. Team travel takes energy. Socializing after all-day site visits or client engagements burns us out. Let us have down time we need.quiet7-01


An empathetic introvert

Share your thoughts.

Let’s keep our discussions reflective, productive, and welcoming. Please follow our Community Guidelines and understand that we moderate comments and reserve the right to delete comments that don’t adhere to our guidelines. You must sign in or sign up to comment.
  • Gabriel Kauper

    Re: the animals. In tech, we call them HIPPOs. The HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion. Lots of roaring wildlife drowning out the owls, crickets, and meerkats. 😉

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  • Emily Ufkes

    Just coming back to say thank you again…I’ve shared this multiple times and I LOVE the illustrations. 🙂 You speak my language! What a relief!

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  • Pratikshya Mishra

    This was an interesting illustration.. loved it… beautifully portrays the matters of introverts…

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  • BSNees

    Really love the insights of getting personal and acknowledging employees in meeting agendas and the simple notion of keeping success modest. In our society where minute accomplishments are over celebrated and the good deeds and innovations of others are hardly recognized keeping a level head in achievement really helps keep things in perspective and clear headed who to move forward and conquer the next big milestone in your business plan! Thank you for your quiet reveloution. It is a much needed way of thinking in the times we live.??

  • JamesB

    Great list. It feels like social pressure to be “more outward” has increased recently, possibly a result of my company hiring a larger percentage of extroverted people. I’ve never had to self-identify myself as a social introvert before now, but it does help!

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  • Arkadius Jonczek

    Wow! This article describes me very good. Thanks for the value. Keep on going!

  • Maria

    So true. All of them. Great points you bring up, couldn’t agree more!

  • M G

    Some of these points aren’t extrovert vs introvert. They’re just science. Ex: quiet working conditions are beneficial for all, result in higher productivity and less employee turnover. Similar with the meeting agenda, they are a must for all people

  • ñ_ñ

  • This is mostly me. I stand up for myself just fine though in meetings & such, but the rest is spot on. That open floor plan is dreadful! Give me a small cubby closet over that cacophony. 🙂

  • mukul

    All i want to say after reading this, for an introvert this outside world is a challenge.
    Somebody should see it from there prespective or feelings. Otherwise things could go wrong.
    Lets listen to them and feel their feelings

  • Oumoul Sangare

    I discover quietrev not long ago and I am so happy to be part of this community. I feel like I found the right group to be in and I don’t have to pretend to be someone else! I am just me, an introvert who finds her happiness in the others’ and who seeks to help create a sustainable development through education in my country, Burkina Faso and in the other developing countries in general! Any type of help in this regard is much appreciated!

  • Oumoul Sangare

    Great article! It explains exactly how I feel at work! I am a teacher and I remember the first day of school in August when we were having our staff meeting, the director said publicly that I completed my Masters during the summer break and I did not know that he would announce it like that in front of the whole staff! I would have prepared myself to hear it in public if I had known his plan. There was a round of applause and people started congratulating me. This was so uncomfortable and I just wanted them to stop talking about it and start discussing about another subject!

  • Love this! So true.

  • Daniel Powell

    Absolutely, most definitely true. Thankfully I work in a private office at our little manufacturing shop. Unfortunately I share it with my very loud, extroverted boss. Thankfully I’m never needed in the big weekly 3-hour-long meetings, but unfortunately said meetings are usually over the phone and held not five feet behind me with people who are, apparently, all hard of hearing. Or so my extroverted boss thinks.

    Still though, this article is right on point. All I need is to be given a task, a deadline, and a quiet space. Even if the task is a challenge that seems over my head at first, I would rather have a headache from thinking too hard about how I’m going to do that task rather than waiting for two hours as those in management tell me every last detail of how they think I should be able to do it.

    In the three years I’ve worked for my current boss at this company, I’ve gotten the MOST done when he’s on vacation. It’s pure bliss when I’m not micromanaged or interrupted every 30 minutes to assist with the ever-daunting task of Mastering Microsoft Excel.

  • Caroline

    I love it! Now retired, but still working as an editor, And now I can breathe! I loved working and most of my jobs, but work was stressful, particularly because I preferred my own space, hated public acknowledgement of my accomplishments (and rarely got the private ones), but most of all because work was always go, go, go and noise, noise, noise. I was also odd because I hated fluorescent lighting and wherever I worked always had a couple of the bulbs removed. One place, my boss had them put back in— twice– until I got through to her that fl really bothered me. Today such sensitivity is a “known” (accepted) fact! (Oh, I was in the environmental health and safety field!) So, thanks for the laughter!

  • Ray Doraymefa

    The drawing of four animals at the meeting table in part 3 is absolutely hilarious, in part because it reflects reality better than many recognize. Did you conceive and draw these cartoons yourself? Bravo!

  • Steve

    I love reading these articles! They provide me with so much motivation in my work. I no longer feel alone in the extroverted mellee that is my brand new open plan office….I have even found another introvert at my office that I can relate to and share my daily annoyances with! I wonder how many introverts are out there posing as extroverts? So far I have got my self a desk in the corner of the office next to the window and boxed myself in with a 5ft partition wall! Its decorated with plants and a coat stand that act as useful items but also provide an extra layer of privacy. I think its the best I’m going to get until I persuade my boss to give me my own office 🙂 I am a creative, imaginitive, hardworking and completely self motivated person when given freedom to structure and plan my own projects. This all breaks down when I am regularly interrupted in my new open plan…but I have carved out the element of privacy I need to prosper. I was originally plonked in the middle of about 30 desks….after the first day I spent the evening planning how I would get out of there. I decided to go in 30 mins early the next day and move my desk. I did it and people gossiped about it for most of the day…after that they forgot and moved onto the next piece of gossip and I felt free and relieved. My advice is if you feel like I did then just go for it! Do the explaning later…treat it as an act of self preservation. Oh and just a thanks to quietrev for their help and advice, you really have helped me a lot! Keep the articles coming 🙂

  • Megan

    This is wonderful – so perfectly captures how I feel! I love my job (and my colleagues) in so many ways but the open plan office, the meetings where one or two loud voices dominate, the over-structuring of days can be utterly exhausting to those of us who have to work hard to conform to an extrovert world…

  • A quiet observer

    OOOOOOHHHH! I *love* this!! Between the forced social dynamics to someone stopping by my desk every few minutes because they have free time and want to chat about a TV show that I don’t watch while I’m trying to focus on meeting a deadline involving competing needs to being told that it’s “too early to have my earbuds in” when I came in hours before you in order avoid having to have the awkward conversations and concentrate because I’m behind the gun due to all of the above and another shifting deadline or data dump to being told that I’m “too serious” and need to “relax a little”…”Oh why, aren’t you coming out tonight?”s and “you really should be doing some of these industry meetings / lunches / evening gatherings”. UGH.

    I no longer spend time with friends because I’m tired of people by the end of the day. And meaningless conversation. I don’t care what any of the Kardasians do, I doubt I even spelled that right; they certainly don’t need to spend 30 minutes discussing them. But when I do connect with friends, it’s so awesome that I realize how much I dislike manufactured groupy time.

    SF is huge on the open floor plans and they have a great deal to offer, but they are severely disruptive for stream of thought processing. If another managing director comes by and tells me that I look like I’m thinking hard and need to lighten up while simultaneously complaining about the last minute request [just now] sent to me re-evaluate a submitted [to them but weeks back] actuarial table by, essentially, yesterday for presentation to the client tomorrow morning…hmmmm, it won’t result in a swift kick to the crotch, but a note will be mentally taken. Choose your battles and either help me by letting me do my job description or observe the empty desk of me catching up on the PTO that is richly deserved.

    Just remember: those pivot tables don’t write themselves. In the time that you spent with you elbow on my cube wall trying to explain the rules of fantasy football and I should pay more attention to the games, you could have learned to to them yourself! Or just let me do my job.

    • Ninasimone

      Wow I so totally can relate to you. So glad to find people like me out there. That was so funny but true!

      • A quiet observer

        HA! I realized how completely like a misanthropic jerk I sounded after I posted it, but it couldn’t be more far from the truth. They are very, very kind people with wonderful intentions and very dissimilar coping mechanisms and social mores. I’m trying so hardly to play nicely in the sandbox, but every day, I just feel bombarded with by thoughts of, “in what universe…?” and long for us all to be put out of our collective “well, *that* was awkward” moments.

        Meanwhile, hello company Christmas dinner! I will *definitely* be the owl. 🙂

        • Emily Ufkes

          No, you don’t sound like a jerk. You sound like BFF material.
          – A fellow owl

          • A quiet observer

            Oh, do feel free to come sit by me and enjoy not having to fill every flipping moment with talk. I’ll probs have earbuds in and alternating between geek-zoning, getting important owl sh*t done on my presentations / spreadsheets and idly daydreaming, while filling your inbox with weird and hysterical stuff that you are free enjoy at your leisure. Now…next week…no matter. 🙂

      • A quiet observer

        Also, Ninasimone, I meant to add that I got a big grin from your name. She’s the tops!

        • Ninasimone

          Thanks….I’ll have my earbuds in too lol….I can’t believe people have the nerve to tell you that it’s too early for earbuds… People need to live and let live….too many xenophobes out there

  • Hayley Ward

    I and another colleague (both of us introverts) won Colleague of the Year at work. It was announced in front of our entire department during a group huddle, and our reward was a celebratory dinner, which naturally, our department enjoyed without us.

    • Ninasimone


    • Emily Ufkes

      Congratulations (privately and quietly)!

  • This isn’t a challenge just in start-ups with open space work setups. I worked for 5 weeks in a law office, somewhat sheltered by a cubicle, but the toxicity from foul-mouthed, bully, screaming lawyers (even with their doors closed) was a situation that took everything I had to tolerate. By the time it was my turn to be the target of abuse, I had had it up to my eyeballs and stood up for myself. The End.

    I’ll be the one to say, nobody cares about you being an introvert. To most work situations, if you don’t like it, you can leave. Disrespect is rampant.

    • Your last paragraph is all too true, but the middle section makes a false assumption. You can leave, yes.. but where do you go?

      • That is the attitude I’ve encountered in the workplace, as an introvert. For those who don’t consider their impact on everyone in their wake, they don’t care where you go. That was my point.

  • Judy

    I laughed about five times reading this. So true in so many ways. Please don’t gather around my desk and sing Happy Birthday!

  • Kccrush

    This is my daily life at a SF area biotech that is 4o years old and not a start up at this point. It doesn’t matter though. It seems like except for the admins, they only hire extroverts. It is so exhausting and makes me resent my work. I do my best to create time and space alone to recharge and think, but it’s never enough. The demands to be like an extrovert are extraordinary.