I recently had my first work trip in over 2 years and it was so joyful to experience the energy of a team, real hugs, whiteboards, and sticky notes. It was a reminder of what makes work joyful and meaningful to me – a great team coming together to tackle an interesting problem. As someone who loves people & learning from & with others, being with so many humans and away from the everyday responsibilities of work & home was rejuvenating. (I am doing some consulting work with a wonderful start-up!)
And then there was my introversion. I typically start my day fairly early & found that I needed some recharge and solo time in the evenings. I was blessed to be with a group of people I really like, respect, and enjoy spending time with and yet I also needed moments of solitude to sustain and replenish myself, integrate my experiences from the day and be ready for the next one.
I was also leading a workshop on one of the days (which I absolutely love doing!) but that also meant there was some excitement and a healthy dose of anxiety in anticipation and also a greater need for rest that evening.
In the past, I would have typically just pushed myself to belong in the group and often feel exhausted but also resentful and sometimes step into a victim mindset of feeling I had no choice or control over my time.
This time, I chose to be brave and honor my own needs to show up as my best and draw my boundaries over simply fitting in. There were moments during the day when I’d step away to breathe for a few minutes. There were moments when I said no to a happy hour but connected with a smaller group in a quieter spot in the hotel.
And it was hard, I’d feel that tiny bit of anxiety every time I said no and felt like a lone wolf stepping away. There would often be a voice that would say – “Well everybody else can do it, why can’t you” & I chose compassion for myself to make the right choices for myself and the ecosystem I am a part of.
And again, my point isn’t that we need to socialize less at a team event.
My hope is that we experience more psychological safety at work so that it is acceptable for someone to say no to an hour of social activity to rest, that we can focus on the quality and presence of our in-person interactions over the sheer number of hours. More importantly, we can truly accept people with all their personalities but also their unique life circumstances and needs at any given point.
I want to acknowledge how the leader of this organization explicitly called out the introverts in the most compassionate way and that they have full permission to take care of their needs. There were several team members who needed solo time to recharge or to attend to other priorities for an hour or two & they had permission to do so.
If you are a manager or leader bringing groups of people together, think about what you need to say & how you design the days so your teams feel safe to take care of themselves so they can be present, available, & bring their best selves to the team.