Introverts aren't social cripples, or misanthropes, but some, particularly younger people, are very inhibited. It's an odd fact that the more intelligent an introvert is, the tougher a social environment can be. Career environments can be extremely tough for introverts.Some have a history of difficult social environments, usually starting at school.
The defensive mechanisms take priority over the social instincts, and a habit of being withdrawn is created. In many ways it's a healthy approach to careers which can be treacherous and those in which professional relationships can be extremely tricky and difficult.
The fact is that introverts don't like careers where they're exposed daily to a massive ordeal in the form of other people. They may not lack self confidence, although many do, but they prefer a quieter, better organized environment.
They also don't like hysteria and melodrama in the office any more than they like it in the home. Raging executives, office tantrums, sleazy office gossip and slimy maneuverings in office politics leave them cold. They really do despise this sort of thing, from anyone, even friends, and in the workplace, they find it utterly intolerable.
One of the introvert's great virtues is that they loathe the office wars so much they're a real asset to management by doing everything they can to stay out of them. They're rarely if ever involved in the sort of trashy things that make a workplace a war zone of personalities.
They really dislike troublemakers, shirkers and nuisances, too, and if put into any position of authority will weed them out ruthlessly. They get rid of people like that not just because they don't like them, but because the introvert sees them as massive liabilities.
They gravitate to the talented and experienced people, and work well with them. If you have a good worker who's an introvert, and put him/her in an office, you'll find the people that become his/her friends are usually the best workers. The ones he/she avoids are the ones you should be watching. Occasionally even the introverts will complain about someone. It's so out of character for them to even comment that the complaint is almost always justified.
The introvert may not be a social dynamo, but as an observer of social situations, any one of them could get a PhD with ease. Their hypersensitivity is a real blessing, in spotting tricky situations and difficult people. They're also deep thinkers, and will usually spot weaknesses in logic and outright lies quickly and accurately.
The Awkward Stage for introverts can last up till about age 30, when they've accumulated enough knowledge of other people to have more self confidence, which is the besetting problem with younger introverts. Introversion makes them excellent students, and good at avoiding trouble, but their communications skills with other people can be patchy in the extreme. You're better off asking them to write something for you than engaging in a conversation, most of the time.
Some introverts are brilliant, some are natural loners, and some are just growing up. They're often quite different as individuals, and will happily avoid each other as much as the rest of the human race. There's no particular stereotype of an introvert that really covers it except the definition of an introvert, someone who is withdrawn into themselves.
Despite their reserved ways, introverts are real survivalists. They will go it alone, they will tough it out, and they won't be swayed by peer groups. The one person guaranteed to have their own opinions and strong loyalties regardless of others' views will be the introvert. They stick by their friends and they will stick to their guns, in any situation. They make excellent, reliable friends and colleagues for that reason. In career relationships they're naturally honest, which is more than a rarity in some careers, like sales or politics.
They tend to be strong individualists, and used to standing on their own two feet and fighting their own battles without any help, which makes them difficult opponents. They have their own style of fighting, and they only fight when they mean it.
In a career situation, that can cause problems for everyone. Ironically, introverts are if anything much more conspicuous in a clash of personalities than extroverts. It comes as a shock to colleagues when their introverted friend becomes a local Genghis Khan, suddenly attacking. Few expect this sort of reaction from the introvert, and any conflict will be personal, and serious.
The most likely result of a clash is a lot of battered relationships. Introverts can be quite indifferent to the sensitivities of others, and not even recognize the kind of damage they can do, which can be permanent, wrecking relationships with a careless ease. Professionally, it can be a slaughter of working relationships, particularly if two introverts attack each other.
The introvert's saving grace in these situations is honesty. They're always sincere in their work, and even in their clashes with other people. If they seem extremely upset, they are extremely upset. They normally try to be unemotional, and if any emotion is visible, it's real.
Environments for introverts are all personal. Everything is personal. The workspace is personal. The conversation is personal, and every word of it will be taken personally in some cases. Associations, in particular, with anyone, are personal. Nothing is more appreciated than a person who respects their space, both physical and mental, and nothing is more offensive than someone who doesn't. Every intrusion is remembered, as is every kindness.
In any career, introverts must be given space to think and work, and some privacy. There aren't any choices about these needs, it's part of their personality. Give them their own office, let them shut the door and think. Let them work at home, whatever. As long as the personal space is secure, the main issue is under control.
They react very negatively to crowding, noise, incompetence, stupidity, and any suggestion they're a mere servant. They don't suffer fools gladly, in fact not at all. They will never forgive a bossy boss, particularly a bully. No coincidence there, because most bullies are fools, and usually lousy at their jobs.
They may or may not put up with idiot colleagues, but there's no possibility of friendship after the first insult. They won't stay in an environment like that any longer than necessary, and will do no more work than is required. If they don't get some justice, they won't make any special efforts at productivity or anything else.
They're actually immune to social pressures. In any honest analysis, introverts don't give a damn what anyone thinks of them, but they resent the pressures intensely, like it was actual abuse. The environment must give them due respect, and not trespass on their privacy. Even friendly gestures may be met with suspicion, or actual hostility, if they're considered patronizing.
Their great value is that they're always good at their work. There's nothing cosmetic or false about introverts. They don't need to pretend to be brilliant over-achievers, because they often already are. They're invariably knowledgeable, and very hard workers. They're frequently experts. In any career where they can establish their credentials, and get some recognition, they prosper, and the sharp edges of the introvert aren't usually seen.
Introverts can actually work in most careers, but there are some classic areas to avoid, mainly on the all-important personal level. In some cases, they're so good at identifying waste that they become the default setting for checking out new systems and procedures.
They should never be put into any environment where there are likely to be clashes with others. An office bully, a bureaucrat, or a psychotic manager can bring out the worst in any introvert. The clashes are inevitable.
They should never mix too far below their own intellectual level in the workplace. They, and the other people, will hate each other on sight. There will be no working relationships.
They're wasted on trivial, meaningless, or too-repetitive work. They're not likely to be good-natured about it, either. They'll say it's rubbish, and mean it.
Introverts make a habit of recognizing problems. It's a real natural skill. Even when they complain, they're often worth listening to, because the criticism may be based on personal feelings, but the basic argument will be right. Trivial and meaningless work is inefficient, and expensive. It's a waste of resources.
The criticism is helpful, and often valuable, if it's understood. If it's not, that's another reason for the introvert to consider management to be idiots. Introverts don't do a lot of small talk. If they can be bothered to complain, it'll be with reason.
Their talents need to be employed on something where they can see the value of their work. They may not be particularly interested in attention-getting, but they expect reward to equal effort.