Harness the natural strengths of your introverted employees

By Caerley Hill

Working in IT or customer support, you encounter lots of colorful personalities. But what about your personality?

When you find out there’s going to be a company-wide networking event, do you pump your fist in the air and get excited about meeting new people? Or do your palms sweat from the anxiety you feel about all the impending face-to-face interactions?

If you relate more with the latter, you might be an introvert, which on the outside can make you appear a bit standoffish compared to your outgoing peers. But don’t worry! According to Susan Cain, best-selling author and self-acknowledged introvert, there’s a quiet revolution brewing among the introverted masses.

As an introvert, you’re someone who, when given the choice, would rather devote your energy to the people you care about most, and you’re most energized when focusing on a subject that really interests you. On the other hand, your extroverted coworkers relish a social life and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. While they may seem like the overwhelming majority, did you know that at least one-third of us are introverts?

Think about all of your friends, family members and coworkers. There must be a few (at least) that match the above description of an introverted personality! But in the workplace, the sad truth is that quiet or introverted employees are less likely to be groomed for positions of management, often being overlooked in favor of more boisterous counterparts. According to Susan, this can be a detriment to organizations — the top 11 performing companies in the U.S. are all lead by introverts.

The solution? In a recent webinar, Susan says there are three ways that companies can harness the natural strengths of introverted employees and help them reach their potential.

  1. Create a more flexible office environment. While extroverts can thrive in an open-air office without walls, it may feel like a social prison to an introvert. Give your quieter employees spaces or ways to work away from the group, such as occasional workshifting, to let them recharge and come to the table with some awesome ideas.
  2. Restructure your group meetings. Group brainstorming can be a productive and collaborative environment for extroverts, but asking introverts to jump in and shout out their best idea could make them clam up. Try restructuring your meetings to allow everyone to get a turn to talk without the fear of interruption, or distribute an agenda prior to the meeting so introverts can prepare their ideas separately before everyone gets together.
  3. Set up an appropriate reward system. How would introverts like to be rewarded for their hard work? (Hint: it’s not a group lunch or party.) Introverts tend to value the strength of their personal relationships. So as a manager, try setting up some one-on-one time to hear about all the work they’ve been doing or any key insights they learned from a project.

Contrary to popular beliefs, introverts are still social people; they are just social in different ways. They will find a time and place to socialize with you instead of working the entire room. And they may write books or blogs that are read by thousands and speak when spoken to instead of inserting themselves into a conversation or tooting their own horn. So don’t mistake their muteness for mousey; they are merely picking the right moment to contribute.

Does your office need a quiet revolution? Watch Susan’s free webinar archive today to learn more facts and common myths about introverts in the workplace, and more tips for how you can harness the strengths of your introverted employees.

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