Introverts and Coffee – When You Should Avoid It at Work

Are you an introverted employee who’s constantly struggling to make your mark amid more vocal and enthusiastic fellow employees? If that’s the case, you may want to skip that cup of coffee before any big meeting.

This is what psychologist Brian Little suggests in his new book Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. While you may think that cup will boost your attention and give you the oomph you need to hold your own, that strategy may only work for extroverts and could actually backfire on you.

After ingesting about two cups of coffee, extraverts carry out tasks more efficiently, whereas introverts perform less well. This deficit is magnified if the task they are engaging in is quantitative and if it is done under time pressure.

For an introvert, an innocent couple cups of coffee before a meeting may prove challenging, particularly if the purpose of the meeting is a rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, data analysis, or similar quantitative concerns. In the same meeting, an extraverted colleague is likely to benefit from a caffeine kick.

Little based his findings on the theory of extroversion by Hans Eysenck and research by William Revelle of Northwestern University. Basically, introverts and extroverts differ by how alert or responsive they are to their environment. Introverts are more easily stimulated, so “This suggests that performance will be compromised for introverts if they are exposed to stimulating situations, or if they ingest a stimulant (such as caffeine),which pushes them even further away from the optimal level.”

He suggests introverts not have coffee before any meeting, and having it later in the day would be better for them. Loud noises other stimulants can also cause the similar reactions.