10 Problems Introverts Face in a Client-Facing Job

If you're anything like me, you may consider yourself an introvert but you can still muster up the strength to present like an extrovert for roughly 20-30 minutes before your soul fully drains out of your body.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because you have the ability to trick your way past a series of behavioral interviews into an extrovert's job, like being a lawyer (especially if you're in litigation, but transactional lawyers routinely have meetings as well). However, if you do manage to land that job, it's a curse because now you're expected to be that extrovert who "loves explaining things to clients" that you fooled everyone into believing you were. Oops.

Here are 10 comics that are inspired from those brutal moments when I deeply regretted being an introvert in a client-facing role (and that many people, introverts and extroverts alike, may relate to in any job):

1. Needing Extensive Recovery Time after Work Calls

Introverted Attorney is wrapping up a call and forcing a smile and saying, "Well, it was great connecting with you... Yep... Always a pleasure... Okay, bye.", then his facial expression changes to look much more depressed and he steps away from his desk and finds an outlet near the wall with a charger and starts charging himself. Above him in holographic letters, we can see his "battery" is at 3% and he needs 1 hour and 58 minutes until the next human interaction.

Want this as a print? Get it here.

As an introvert, after every 20-minute work-related call, I usually required approximately 3 hours to fully revive myself (unfortunately, this medical condition was never respected by my insensitive colleagues or clients). It can get better or worse depending on the other party to the call. There are some clients and coworkers that I interacted with where all I needed to do was see their name in my inbox and I'd immediately become exhausted. It was as though my mind would reprocess all of the irritation I had previously experienced with them and then power itself down in the attempts to save myself from another stressful episode.

One thing that I find helps is to be brutally honest during small talk... because it usually shortens that unnecessary but obligatory part of any work-related call. So, if people ask you how you're doing, you could say something like, "Oh, below average, I've been dealing with an unpleasant hemorrhoid issue." and that usually forecloses any follow-up questions. Those are precious minutes that you may be getting back that would otherwise be suffocated slowly on meaningless blabber.

2. Avoiding the Awkward Elevator Ride

Introverted Attorney is in the elevator by himself, waiting for the doors to close when he notices a coworker down the hall and thinks, "Looks like he's trying to get into the elevator too..." Then, Introverted Attorney presses the "door close" button and watches the doors close as his coworker doesn't make it and thinks, "Ah, that's better."

Want this as a print? Get it here.

Being in the presence of another human in a small enclosed space, such as an elevator, for any amount of minutes is generally an uncomfortable situation, especially for an introvert. There's a strict hierarchy of preferred humans to get trapped with in this scenario. The most desirable situation is no humans at all, this is followed by humans you enjoy, strangers, acquaintances that you feel obligated to speak to but have nothing to say to, and, lastly, humans you are actively trying to avoid... such as your boss who's been waiting for you to circle back on that project since this morning.

In any case, why not take fate into your own hands and increase your chances of landing in the best of all cases (i.e. no other humans) by proactively pressing that "door close" button when threats arise? As a pro tip, to avoid future awkwardness if the person outside the elevator locks eyes with you, make sure to demonstrate an attempt to stop the closing doors without actually doing so. 

3. The Dread of Seeing Coworkers or Clients Outside of Work

First panel caption: "When I see coworkers in the office", Introverted Attorney is happily chatting with a coworker, asking him, "Hey, how's it going?" as his coworker responds, "Good! Just hanging in there!" Second panel caption: "When I see the same coworkers outside of the office", Introverted Attorney hides behind a fruit stand and is thinking, "Why is he here?? I hope he doesn't see me..." as his coworker is looking at oranges.

Want this as a print? Get it here.

Did you ever have a moment as a child when you realized that your preschool or elementary school teacher... had a life outside of school? Maybe you saw them at a department store and thought it was wildly unnatural, like going to the zoo and finding lions in the aquarium. In any case, from the perspective of an introvert, there is a deep comfort in being able to expect when you'll need to talk to your coworkers or clients. Accordingly, when this possibility leaves the bounds of the workplace, it can be profoundly unsettling.

This is particularly concerning for me because, while I look like a working professional during business hours, I effortlessly appear to be a full-blown homeless person when I'm not in the office. If my coworkers or clients were to see me during my personal time, they would never be able to unsee me, so avoiding contact after work hours is just better for everyone. On the positive side, I look so dramatically different outside of work that I would be unrecognizable to my professional acquaintances at first glance, so this gives me additional time to flee or hide.

 4. The Bane of Open or Collaborative Office Spaces

Introverted Attorney is sitting in an empty conference room, saying to himself, "It's refreshing to take calls from a conference room once in a while! I should do this more often." Then, in the next panel, the caption reads "5 minutes before my call ends" and Introverted Attorney is still sitting in the conference room but his colleagues are lined up peering at him through the glass panel, trying to open the door to get in. Introverted Attorney is thinking, "oh yea, this is why I don't use conference rooms."

Want this as a print? Get it here.

As we all know, the "open office" floor plan was a sadistic attempt to make corporate introverts go extinct. In their natural state, introverts enjoy working in quiet and private areas where they have ample notice of approaching threats, like overly talkative colleagues. Thus, forcing everyone to work side-by-side and, in the most egregious of cases, removing all barriers between desks to exponentially increase the risk of unintended eye contact, is a tragic scenario for most introverts. For the duration of the work day, you have to deal with your work neighbors' heavy breathing, loud phone calls, phlegmy coughs, and there is absolutely no where to hide from time vultures -- the colleagues that feel as though their requests of you are so critical that they interrupt you without hesitation and demand your physical, real-time attention.

Generally, lawyers have their own offices, but unless you're working at the poshest of firms, junior attorneys usually start off with a small, windowless room that fills with stale air quickly. After breathing in your own CO₂ all day, working from a conference room or collaborative space every once in a while feels like a treat. However, similar to the open space concept, this leaves you at the whims of your disruptive colleagues. If you're in a room with a glass pane, expect to see your coworkers gather outside at the end of the hour or half hour -- they may wave at you or stare coldly, signaling that they wish to eject you from the room.

5. When You Actively Look Forward to No-Shows

First panel caption: "When I'm running late for a meeting", Introverted Attorney is sweating and scrambling to get his headset on at his desk and saying, "I'm so sorry for the delay" to the virtual meeting attendants. In the second panel, caption reads, "When others are late..." Introverted Attorney is sitting at his desk on his phone looking bored and thinking, "I hope no one shows up."

Want this as a print? Get it here.

Remember in college, when the professor failed to show up in the first 10-20 minutes, class was just dismissed? A similar but more intense blissfulness occurs when a scheduled work call unexpectedly ends up getting cancelled. For introverts in particular, this can be a roller coaster ride of emotions in scenarios where the other party to the call is simply late -- each minute of tardiness increases your hope by 5% that the call will not happen, so if and when anyone actually does join the call, you're deflating all of that built-up anticipation of freedom in addition to having to speak to them.

The silver lining to this situation is that the person on the other end may be an introvert as well and feel the exact same way about whether or not you join their call, so... consider not showing up. Pay it forward and let them delight in one less social interaction for the day.

6. Handling Vague Instant Messages at Work

Introverted Attorney is at his computer and gets an instant message from a coworker that just says "hi.". He sits and stares at it for a while and then bursts out yelling "WHAT DO YOU WANT?! JUST TELL ME!!" at his computer screen.

Want this as a print? Get it here.

In today's modern work space, there will be coworkers who send cryptic messages to you on your company's instant messaging software of choice. This may be a lone "hi." without any context from someone you don't normally chat leisurely with or a "did you get my email?" from a time vulture, which may also serve as a gentle warning that they'll soon be approaching you in person if you don't respond.

If you don't work in an open office space (where the offenders can simply peer at you across the room to pressure you into responding) and can get away with ignoring such messages, this is the ideal approach. After all, when have you ever heard of anyone getting disciplined for not replying to "hi."? Also, you'll fucking respond to the goddamn email when you get to it.

Instant messages indeed add to the minefield of various ways in which you have to interact with other humans but, thankfully, especially if you work among less technical folks who largely view technology as unexplained magic, you can always blame the software, internet connection, or your computer for messages that "never went through" or for video calls that "seemed to have gotten auto-declined".

7. Having to Deal with Annoying Clients

First panel, Introverted Attorney is at his desk and his phone is ringing, he looks horrified and says, "Ughhhh not this client again...", in the second panel, he looks like he's concentrating really hard and says, "Go to your happy place" while the phone is still ringing, in the third panel he is gulping in air and saying "breathe in, breathe out" while the phone is still ringing, in the last panel, Introverted Attorney looks manically happy, but his eyes are bloodshot as he picks up the phone and says, "HELLO!! SO GREAT TO HEAR FROM YOU FOR THE FIFTH TIME TODAY!!"

Want this as a print? Get it here.

There are some very special humans out there who, when they understand that part of your role is to provide services for them, decide that the floodgates should be let down so that they can attempt to drown you with their laziness, indecency and/or stupidity. Don't get me wrong, the majority of clients and customers will probably be fine, and you may even have the luck of meeting a few gems of individuals during your career. However, just one nasty encounter with a client or customer can sometimes ruin your entire day or week.

As an introvert, this can be extra taxing as normal interactions with other humans at work is already exhausting. Top that off with an aggressively stupid client that calls you every five minutes to make urgent demands due to their own lack of organization or forethought and you're essentially KO'ed.

How do you deal with such people? In the ideal situation, you'd find at least two of them (which will not be difficult in the legal profession), lock them in a room together and force them to fight each other to the death. That way, either only one emerges and you have one less problem or they both perish and the world becomes a better place. Unfortunately, since we are not in the period of the Roman empire, gladiator-type battles are usually not encouraged -- in fact, I would go so far as to say that they're frowned upon when suggested in most professional environments. #sigh

Another strategy, which is admittedly painstaking, is to get really good at what you do. Then, you can feel free to be an asshole back to anyone who deserves it. I've seen this with a few "rainmaker" partners who are so skilled at bringing in business that they always carry a "fuck you" in their back pocket to freely brandish at clients who become unreasonable.

8. When You're So Depleted that You Zone Out After Hours

First panel caption: "When I'm slammed", Introverted Attorney is at his desk, which is piled with documents, looking tortured and screaming at the heavens, "WHEN WILL I FINALLY GET TO LIVE MY LIFE?!", in the next panel the caption reads: "When I have free time...", Introverted Attorney is in PJs on the couch watching TV and eating chips holding the remote and saying, "Yes, I'm still here, Netflix..."

Want this as a print? Get it here.

Have you ever fantasized about all of the fun things you want to do after work when you're at the office? Only to wrap things up toward the end of the day and immediately vegetate when you get home? Then, maybe you spiral into a bout of depression because day-to-day life feels meaningless, like you aspired to be a fucking astronaut when you were a kid but then you grew up to become a professional email sender? What the fuck? Perhaps you overcompensate and order that jumbo tub of fried chicken because you feel like you deserve it, even though this particular day was no different than any other day, and then proceed to eat or drink too much? After which you wake up bloated, hungover or just generally bitter about your lackluster existence? And, even though you manage to get dressed and make it to the office, you find yourself standing outside or sitting in your car for 20 minutes pondering whether or not you should go inside? 

Oh... just me? Or... too real? Well, it can theoretically be a vicious cycle for neurotic introverts who work in high-stress environments.

The only way in which I've been able to effectively break out of this loop of despair is by accepting Vecna, the psychokinetic master of an alternate dystopian dimension known as the Upside Down, as my savior.

Okay, no, not really. But, hey, whatever works for you, works for you. 

Methods that have proven promising for me include gerrymandering my schedule to give my preferred activities a better chance of existing. This might mean I wake up early (sometimes, obscenely early) so that I get a solid hour or two to enjoy a slow breakfast and quality sketching time before work. If you can, take time off when you sense that your battery is getting low. If you work in a culturally oppressive environment that discourages PTO or doesn't respect your time off when you take it, tell everyone that you have a colonoscopy or a similarly involved procedure that takes at least a full day to recover from anesthesia and that people usually don't want to inquire further about. You should also aggressively look for another job in that case. Make time for things that give you meaning if your day job currently doesn't.

9. When Agreeableness Leads You to Self Sabotage

In the first panel, Introverted Attorney is thinking to himself, "Okay, this time, if the client sets an unreasonable timeline, I'll push back!", in the next panel, the client approaches Introverted Attorney and asks, "could you turn the deliverable around in the next hour?". In the third panel, Introverted Attorney enthusiastically responds, "Yes! I'll get it back to you well before then!" and the client is pleased and responds, "Excellent!", in the last panel, Introverted Attorney is walking away from the client with tears in his eyes thinking to himself, "WHY, YOU FOOL? WHY DO YOU ALWAYS BETRAY ME"

Want this as a print? Get it here.

In addition to all of the external factors that can contribute to your misery, it's important not to forget that the biggest culprit to yourself... could also be yourself. Typically, exchanges are shorter when you just agree to things, so there's always that desire to simply conclude the conversation (e.g. "Did that all make sense?" or "Can you get this done today?") with "Yep!", rather than "No...", which usually begs for a follow-up.

On countless occasions, I've zoned out while my boss was talking to me. Maybe I'd fixate on a mole or blemish on the side his face and wonder how it might drastically change his look if I moved it to the tip of his nose... and then, I'd tune back in and realize that he was asking me if I understood what I needed to do for a new assignment. Inevitably, I'd say "yes" confidently in order to exit the conversation and then spend the next few hours searching internally to see if any part of my mind happened to be paying attention... almost always, to no avail. Eventually, too much time will have passed for me to directly ask what I'm supposed to do, so I'll circle back to my boss and pose broad questions to "clarify" the task, which I clearly know but just want clarity on, of course, and then attempt to piece together the mystery. After wasting weeks of my life in this state of uncertainty, I've finally learned to just ask people to repeat themselves in the moment.

Likewise, for unreasonable deadlines, it always feels easier in the moment to go along with the first due date proposed rather than haggle for more time. The latter would involve explaining why you're too busy to meet the original deadline, which the other party, like a partner or client with no boundaries, may feel is insufficient justification. However, after pulling too many all-nighters and shortening my lifespan in the attempts to meet competing due dates, it's clear to me that putting up a fight at the get go is the superior option.

10. When You Get Used to Being in a Constant State of Stress

Caption: "When I became a lawyer" Introverted Attorney is confronted with a version of himself wearing a yellow shirt with the word "Stress" on it. Stress says, "Hi! We're going to be together all the time!", in the second panel, Stress is pouring a tub of cheese balls over Introverted and saying, "Eat more! ALL of the snacks!", in the third panel, Introverted is staring at Stress who is behind his colleague making faces at Introverted and the colleague is asking Introverted, "You okay? You seem distracted." In the last panel, Introverted is in bed trying to sleep and Stress next to him saying, "Hey, wake up, I'm not tired" and Introverted responds, "you're the worst."

Want this as a print? Get it here.

Everyone gets stressed at work here and there, but being an introvert (especially a neurotic one) in a customer-facing role, can mean that everyday stress is persistently prolonged and compounded by social anxiety.

This can result in some weird behaviors, like suddenly losing it when your jacket gets caught on a door handle, as well as biological symptoms, such as a random white eyebrow hair or gastrointestinal issues.

The good news is that, given your persistently high baseline for feeling stress, you may have a far lower threshold for experiencing joy than the average human. For example, immediately after enduring a nerve-wracking presentation in front of your colleagues, you might find it unimaginably blissful to sit quietly in a bathroom stall for 20 minutes. If you can maintain those astonishingly low standards, just imagine how much euphoria there is to experience in the world. I remember one of my peak moments in life was my leisurely walk back to the hotel once I finally wrapped up an important client meeting... the air outside never felt so fresh after being in a stuffy office building for an hour while my flight-or-flight mode was unnecessarily, but fully, activated.

Are you an introvert in an extrovert's job and do you relate to any of these situations?

Did you find even an iota of entertainment in this blog? Check out some of my other posts that offer similarly useless advice:

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.