Struggles of an introvert in an extroverted work environment.

I recently started a job intended just for this summer. I work in a fast food restaurant at  what is best described as a theme park/zoo. The basic layout of the restaurant works the same as McDonald’s and other fast food chains, just that the food is more expensive.

This is a social anxiety post because working here for the last 6 days in a row (the pain in my lower back is unreal by the way), I have had to meet a lot of new people as well as conversing with customers.

First of all, I am one of the oldest workers at my restaurant, the majority of the employees still being at school or college, so already there are differences between us. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I have spoken to thus far have been incredibly friendly and helpful, although it is slightly bizarre being trained by someone almost 6 years younger than me!

However, most of my colleagues are very outgoing and loud, which makes me feel very much aware that I am the opposite of them. They will all chat to each other and have a joke around, whereas I prefer to just get on with my work in almost silence, enjoying something to focus on. I have tried to talk to some of my colleagues, I have asked questions about what they do outside of work, what they hope to achieve in the future etc. I feel I am getting more confident about asking questions about people, although when they respond, I never know what to say other than ‘Yeah’ or ‘Okay’, therefore the conversation dies pretty quickly.

Another aspect of the job, is having to let the kitchen staff know how many burgers are left on the slidey display thing and to request orders which are less popular. I don’t have much issue with doing this, but the issue comes when the kitchen staff do not hear me over the noise of everything else going on. I have been told countless times to shout louder to them. However, I have found I physically cannot shout very loud. The best way to describe the feeling is to imagine that there is a belt tightly fitted around my voice box. When I am in my own company, the belt is pretty loose and I can choose the volume of my voice. However, when I am in the company of a lot of people I am not yet comfortable to be around, the belt constricts tighter around me, making the volume of my voice quieter as a result. This is evidently something I need to work on.

Yesterday, I was placed in an annexe just attached to the main restaurant, which only sells drinks and jacket potatoes. I had this sixteen year old boy help me out for a while, how to cook the potatoes and the toppings etc. After that, I was left alone for the remainder of my shift. The small place was no where near as busy as the restaurant (because who goes to a theme park to have a jacket potato when you can have a burger?). I did not have many customers at all, but when I did, I quite enjoyed preparing the potatoes for those few customers. When there were no customers, I would stand and watch the world go by, do some light cleaning and as an added bonus, I had a view of some giraffes in the distance! I absolutely loved this more relaxed atmosphere, where I could have a break from having to fake my confidence to my colleagues and not be stressed when the customers were not served straight away. I had a lot more responsibilities in there because I had to pretty much run the place myself, but I am sure with more shifts there I would gain more confidence with that.

But apparently the jacket potato place is despised by most other employees because it is too lonely for them. I think I may be the only person who would willingly want to work there and not have to make small talk with others! It felt like I was on a break most the day.

Oh, but breaks are absolute bliss! I get to sit in the break room, where there are other people, but it is perfectly socially acceptable to just sit in silence and think about life for 30 minutes. No one tries to talk to you. No one judges you for trying to have a nap. It is absolute heaven for other introverts like myself however I have been told by my colleagues it is ‘depressingly quiet’ in there!

Eh, I guess depressingly quiet is a good way to describe me!

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