Work environments are social experiments that cause more harm to certain individuals.
My worst experiences at work were professional development days where the training was designed by an extrovert. There were for sure going to be skits and a lot of forced participation.
When someone failed to participate they were called into the bosses office and reprimanded. They were told that they needed to be a team player.
Eventually I began asking who was leading the training. I started using PTO depending on who was leading the training. The amount of energy it took to get through the training was not worth it for me.
Of course in the early days, I blamed myself for everything I was feeling. I had no empathy or compassion for myself because I was uninformed.
Once I learned more about myself, I realized that I was not only a result of what happened to me, but also of my internal biology. You can try to be more extroverted, but the truth is that you will always come back to your true nature.
We need to normalize accepting ourselves for who we are and asking for what we need.
What can change in the workplace to accommodate trauma victims and introverts? I understand these two things are not the same, but they sometimes do require the same work accommodations.
In a time like today, this is even more important. Work becomes an unsafe space when one feels that the environment caters to only one group vs. a mixed unique group of individuals.
Steps must be taken to identify who is coming into the building and create a structure that feels safe for all.
Here are some of ideas:
- Meetings: The purpose of meetings is to provide important information that cannot be in an email. They should be short and to the point with opportunities for questions throughout. Sharing should be by choice. There are various ways that one can share. Introverts don’t mind sharing. They just don’t want to do it in front of a large group.
Seating should be arranged in a way where those that have suffered from trauma feel comfortable. These individuals usually do not like people sitting behind them. They usually will go for a chair along the periphery of the seating. You will not catch them in the middle of anything unless they are surrounded by people that they feel very comfortable with.
- Staff Events: Events that include more than one’s immediate team should be optional with no punishment for not attending. Large events are triggering for some because of many reasons: room set-up, pressure to be “social” can make one say something they will regret or be fidgety and awkward.
Zoom was the best thing to happen to introverts and trauma victims.
- Special Work Hours: Introverts especially work best in quiet environments. They can possibly be allowed to go in early or later than the majority of the agency.
Trauma victims may prefer to be in the office when everyone else is to not feel alone. They also may want to be home by dark so they may want to beat traffic.
- Recognition: An individual should not have to walk up in front of a group to receive an award. They can be recognized without having to do anything that puts them front and center. Everyone loves to be recognized for their efforts. How can that be done in a way that does not make one want to hide under a chair.
- Remote opportunities: Individuals should be given the choice of a hybrid schedule. Going to the office is very draining for this group. It requires socialization in the bathroom, staff lounge, lunch and meetings. They get home exhausted and often need a day of recovery.
- Ice-breakers and group sharing: It is always awkward to be in a group and not even be able to focus on the discussion when you have been told that you will have to present your findings. There should be alternative ways of presenting. Where those that feel comfortable sharing to large groups can do so and others can do it in a way that is more comfortable to them.
How much time does the group spend fighting over who will share with the large group instead of doing the actual assignment?
A lot of great workers have resigned due to the inability of an organization to accommodate different personalities and acknowledging that most of their workers have suffered some sort of trauma.
This needs to become the norm. There is no one size fits all.