Extrovert alone in a cubicle all day, going up a wall
February 27, 2017 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I am an extrovert who works all day alone in a cubicle (and who lives alone on top of that). The lack of talking/interaction with other people is really getting to me. What are some coping mechanisms and other things I can do about this? Quitting the job is not an option.

I changed industries last year and now I've got an excellent job in the field I want to work in. It's challenging, it pays well, and I'm learning a lot. YAY.

But I'm an extrovert who loves interacting with people, and this job involves sitting at a computer all day long by myself. NOT YAY. And I live alone, so I can't count on casual evening interactions to balance it out.

This is really getting to me, to the point of depression. I do email, phone texting, Twitter, and YouTube listening throughout the day, but it doesn't fill that gap. Quitting isn't an option at the moment; I want to stick with this job for at least one more year (to get more experience and to see if a possible job I'm waiting on materializes).

My environment: My cubicle neighbors are all part of a different project, and they are all quiet workers. I've got one team member a few cubes down and one who's a phone call away. My work is self-managed, and I meet once a week with my other coworkers.

My location: Downtown Boston

I'd love to hear suggestions, and I'd love to hear from other extroverts who have been in a similar spot.
posted by cadge to Human Relations (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Do you like video games? You could maybe try some online multiplayer games with group chat. It may not be the face-to-face interaction that you're looking for, but sometimes a voice over the phone (while you kill zombies together) is almost as good. And sign up for a class on the weekends. Cooking or something.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you work on getting to the point that you regularly get lunch with other people from the company? If that's hard to pull off then lunch with people what work in th same area.

Look for classes and volunteer projects for evenings and weekends.
posted by bunderful at 10:32 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

As someone in a pretty similar position (down to the downtown Boston thing):
-Eat lunch with others. Most people eating at their desk aren't getting work done, they're browsing with one hand while they eat with the other.
-Schedule 15-30 minute coffee meetings with others. Ideally these would be people who could help you in some way, but if not, there's no shame in taking a break with a friend.
-Try to get staffed on projects that require interaction with other groups or people.
posted by peacheater at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you can, I would suggest looking into networking groups who meet during lunchtime near the office.
posted by mountainblue at 10:38 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

In addition to the above suggestions, if there are no lunchtime networking groups near you, create one! I'm sure there's others in the downtown Boston area who would love to get out and meet/shoot the shit once a month or whatever. Maybe a mefi meetup even.
posted by Fig at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Similar situation here:

Things I have done:
- Say hi to people around the office that look friendly (i.e maybe say hi to you first).
- Set up lunches with friends that don't work at your company, maybe a regular bi-weekly thing at the same place..
posted by sandmanwv at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2017

You work alone. You live alone. Easy solution. This means that you need to leave work and hit some place with people before you head home to be alone. Go to a gym, hit a class, play cards, start a project, tutor a kid in reading, find someone to walk in a park, etc. There has to be something that you can do to interact with people who have similar interests that you do. The sky's the limit. What do you do on weekends that could translate into a friend to meet once a week in the evenings?

If you have a work newsletter or bulletin board, as if there's anyone who wants to do a 15-20 minute walk at lunch. Good for the mind and the body.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:06 AM on February 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, get work buddies asap. Coffe breaks, water cooler, lunch, drinks after work, etc.

Also consider becoming a regular at a bar, coffee shop, or convenience store close to work or home. Even if you don't immediately strike up a chatting acquaintanceship with other customers, employees at those types of places are usually happy to chat for a bit.

Maybe get a cat if you roll that way, it's easier to talk to a cat than talk to yourself.

( also remember, it's not goofing off on the clock if you are talking about work! )
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:12 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm in the same situation at the moment - work from home alone and living alone for the first time (big mistake!). I've actually decided I can't continue to live alone and am planning that my next apartment will have another room that I can sublet, to hopefully have some company in the evenings. Is this a possibility for you? Otherwise, can you make weekend plans with friends in other cities, or get them to visit you? I can also second just launching yourself at people, friends, activities as soon as the day is done and maybe make a calendar of all these arrangements and plans so that it makes you feel better about the coming year.

But yes...I don't think it's good for us extroverts. Don't stick it out too long. We get our energy from other people and it can feel like you're drowning or suffocating without contact with them. I have even recently done sleepovers at friend's houses in the workweek just for that contact! This is probably just a big need for you, don't underestimate it. And good luck! Hang in there. It'll be ok - once you're in a new work environment with people around, you won't know yourself.

And yes, approach some of the people at work - maybe they would be delighted to go for lunch. Worth a try at least!
posted by cornflakegirl at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Throw a few dinner parties / afternoon get togethers so that you can gradually get to know your immediate neighbors, then work on getting to the point where you and they can hang out at each others' places at night.

Also, I've found that gardening in the front area is a great way to meet people as they walk past (usually with dogs, children, or the health issues of the mature driving them). Conversations happen, you make the world more beautiful, eventually you end up exchanging plants or going on companionable walks too.
posted by amtho at 11:35 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fellow extrovert here. Ideally get together with a friend or two pre work (run, coffee, commute), schedule yourself to meet up with buddies for lunch, and get together with people after work too (work out, dinner, wine, commute.) And of course be friendly at work, because there may be some compatible extrovert there that you can take your breaks with.

The big keys to getting your other person fix are routine, scheduling, and friendliness.
posted by bearwife at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2017

I empathize with you, I was in a similar situation last year. I organized brown bag TedTalk lunch discussions in our office, it brought together people who normally would not have interacted. Other than choosing the topic, there was no effort in planning. I chose the topics in the beginning and after a few months, other people made suggestions.
posted by jennstra at 11:41 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't hesitate to initiate stuff with the quiet workers and other apparently-introverts you encounter. You extroverts complement us! You're so good at helping us get introduced to others and maintaining casual relationships between three or more folks. Aim for spending time with an introvert at most once a week, but if you rack up about five different folks you'll have a full schedule of people interaction with loads of variety without burdening one particular person.
posted by Mizu at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm another extrovert who works from home and lives alone. It was rough the first few months! Basically, the solution for me has been to book up the majority of my nights with some sort of activity that involves other people. The other days I take my dog for a long trip to the dog park and chat with the other dog owners (a few of whom have turned into casual friends).

At first my weeknight plans were just plans with friends, but I'm in my thirties so a lot of my friends have little kids, and can't do much on weeknights. So I joined a chorus, which is once a week, and next month I'm trying an intro series at a local Crossfit gym - the workouts seem intimidating but the community sounds great! I'm also looking into local activist groups to join.

At first I was wary of booking up my nights so much but it's been really great for my overall well-being.

Another thing that has been surprisingly fruitful: I stay on the lookout for interesting community events, and then when I find something I want to do, I post on facebook to see if anyone wants to go with me. I've been surprised at how much interest there's been and it's been a good way to identify which of my friends are interested in trying new things. Of course, you can always go alone too.

One other thing - try making friends with some of your neighbors! This is really great for that "It's Tuesday night and I really need to talk to a human being" feeling. If you have a friend who lives down the street, it's easy to just text them and see if they want to get a beer.
posted by lunasol at 1:03 PM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

will disagree with Mizu - especially if you are an overly talky extrovert. don't bother the introverts, please.
posted by lescour at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with Mizu, but use the awareness that some introverts will not be thrilled to be interacted with. (lescour appears to be one.)
posted by BlueHorse at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2017

Can you volunteer for something around the office, e.g. coordinating the food bank drive, organizing lunch-time fitness classes, etc.? A few of my friends in similar situations to yours have told me this kind of thing helps keep them sane.

(Just bear in mind that some people really do want to be alone at lunch, so don't force it if someone doesn't want to engage.)
posted by rpfields at 4:35 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

A clarification: I specified "initiate" with introverts, not "start stuff and then continue to bother even when they don't respond favorably". Basically, don't assume a current visible lack of social engagement to indicate a desire for that to be the constant state of things. But yes, of course if someone doesn't respond with enthusiasm, let it drop. I am perhaps assuming too much of the OP's level of self-awareness, or maybe I've just had some good luck with extroverts in my life who know how to roll with my people. If you befriend someone like lescour, I suggest a hangout once every two months, maximum.
posted by Mizu at 7:05 PM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I used to take a lot of trips to get water, snacks, bathroom, etc. so I could stop by people and say hi when I need to talk to someone. Also, there might be times where instead of emailing or chatting your co-worker, you can just walk over to them and talk to them.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:48 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow this would be hard for me, and I'm not even a textbook extrovert. If your workplace offers any staff initiatives like book clubs, staff learning, even gym classes over lunch break, that might be the opportunity to get the human interaction you require. Can you speak to your managers about how you work better with people so that you do not get put on similar projects in the future?

I've never worked in a cubicle environment, but is there the option to pop your head up over lunch or at like 11am to ask if anyone wants to grab lunch or go on a coffee run with you? I'm sure that asking once politely would not come under the heading of bothering the introverts. If they don't respond enthusiastically, then don't continue along these lines.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:59 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apparently the ultimate answer was posted on the Blue today.

Candy dish. STAT!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:31 AM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I worked in a place like this for a year. I'm not an extrovert but I had to quit and find another job. During that year, I joined the ToastMasters club that met at lunchtime just so I had someone to talk to every now and then. I tried bringing cookies and making friends with the nearby cubies - didn't work. I just couldn't do it.
posted by CathyG at 12:22 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Want to throw a little money at it: Democrat...   |   Replacement for Reddit Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.