Introverts are often mistaken for being rude or uncaring when we don't want to go to lunch every day or slip away before happy hour. I just received an email from an introvert with a work problem. He writes:

I just joined a big IT firm and most of my colleagues used to work there from 6-7 years. They already have chemistry within them. Any newbie joining had to follow them everywhere from lunch to tea breaks. My boss was one of them.

Being an introvert it became too much for me and also being with my boss all the time was little uncomfortable.So after skipping lunches few times my coworkers started taunting me for not joining them.

After that, I decided to follow their rules, but then they stopped calling me for breaks except a few of my colleagues.

First of all, no! It's not wrong to ask for space. This would dive me insane. I'm an introvert who really likes people. Right now I work from home, so I'm almost always happy to go to lunch with friends or colleagues, but when I worked in a job with almost constant people contact (yes, HR can be that way), I enjoyed eating lunch by myself. Whew! Alone time.

Problems like this occur when people think that their coworkers should be their friends. Bosses (and HR) should be friendly with people, but should absolutely, positively, not be friends. And demanding that everyone spend free time together makes for very uncomfortable situations. 

I would also be willing to bet that there is at least one other person in the group who would love to eat alone or simply run errands at lunch but feels pressured to join in.

So, how should my letter writer handle this? First, go to the boss and say, "I work best when I get some downtime by myself. I feel like by not joining in at every lunch and break, I'm being ostracized from the group. What do you suggest?"

Hopefully, by naming what is going on, your boss will be able to see that this lunch group has nothing to do with performance. Also, you should say the same thing one on one to other group members. People often react very differently to one on one conversations than they do in groups.

But, keep in mind that sometimes the price of success is giving up your lunches. It's one of those bad company culture things. While some people will sing the praises of such a "tight-knit team" other people feel like they're tied up in knots. Not every culture is the best for every person.

At a large company, though, it may be possible to transfer to a new team that lets people have their alone time. Definitely look into that.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send me an email at

Published on: Apr 15, 2019
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