Personalities in the workplace vary, just as they do outside the office. Some employees might be extroverted, always willing to speak their minds and get involved in collaboration. Others might be just as willing, but are a little hesitant to join the conversation. If they prefer working alone and with minimal distractions or shy away from group efforts, he or she could be seen as introverted.
Like other personality traits, introversion informs how a person reacts to circumstances and other people. Generally speaking, introverts do prefer to avoid the spotlight and work alone, but the degree to which people are introverted will vary from person to person. Introverted people aren’t necessarily shy individuals who will eventually come out of their shells, but they can be. Some introverted individuals feel fine in unfamiliar groups, while others might feel reluctant to get involved, especially if the group is large or predominately comprised of new people.
While extroverts may gain their energy from problem solving and brainstorming with a group, introverts usually prefer to quietly reflect, dig deep, fully understand a situation and have a plan in mind before proceeding. That thoughtful behavior can be a huge asset to your team because introverts aren't likely to take unnecessary risks or choose the wrong course of action because they moved too quickly. In fact, you might be an introverted business owner, and in some cases, your introversion may fuel your success and guide cautious, responsible and informed business decisions.
For managers of genuinely introverted employees, the key is to tap that thoughtfulness by fully understanding how introverts need to work. Help them reach their full potential with these tips:
Give Them Time to Think
Introverts usually aren't quick to respond, and they tend to be conscientious. They listen to what everyone has to say and think through their own responses before sharing feedback. They will fully analyze a situation before making recommendations. While you shouldn’t expect them to chime in immediately, be sure to offer opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas; they’re usually worth the wait.
Don't Force Constant Teamwork on Them
If you need employees to work together on projects, it's perfectly acceptable to require introverted staff to attend team meetings. However, also ensure that employees who wish to work alone are given plenty of opportunities to do so. Not all, but some introverts do their best work while alone, and an opportunity to work alone will offer them much-welcomed relief from all the socializing and collaborating.
With that being said, some introverts don’t work best while alone; they just prefer to do so. Encourage these employees to get involved with group work, but try not to force them into it. Don't wrongly assume that introverts don't like people. They just may be hesitant to participate for fear of a reprimand or just being wrong. Praise their good contributions, and when delivering criticism, do so constructively and with compliments on their efforts. If necessary, allow them some solitude to gather their thoughts and compose their findings before group meetings, then encourage them to offer insight when they’re ready. This will give them the benefit of working alone while giving your team the benefit of their input.
To further aid your introverted team members, always provide a thorough agenda before group meetings. Introverts aren’t fans of surprises. If they get nervous or feel put on the spot, it will be harder for them to fully engage in the meeting.
Introverts value quiet and solitude, and they may be especially thrown off by unnecessary interruptions. Unlike extroverted employees who may be able to easily brush off distractions, it can take introverts longer to get back on track. Avoid interrupting them with frequent office drop-ins, calls or emails. Instead, schedule regular check-ins so that you can receive updates and progress reports without surprising them or making them anxious, and give them previous notice to allow time to gather their thoughts and compose themselves. Also, some introverts might prefer electronic communication. If they do, try to communicate via email, instant messenger or text instead of in-person, especially if the reason for communication isn’t critical.
Offer Them Plenty of Quiet
Most people value a quiet space, at least during times when they really need to hone in on a work assignment. Many introverts, however, need a quiet, serene workplace to do their best work. Allow them to adapt their workstations to suit their needs. For example, let them change out their light bulbs to a softer wattage or plug in white-noise machines, as long as the changes don't bother other co-workers.
Do your best to situate their desks in areas that are quiet and experience less foot traffic without totally isolating them from the rest of the office. It's important that they still feel like part of the team, but it's equally important that they don't feel like they are constantly being observed and scrutinized by team members.
Encourage Them to Speak Up
Introverts avoid becoming the center of attention, even in small group settings, and some may feel uncomfortable in spontaneous ideation sessions. Encourage them to offer more feedback and insight by letting them know ahead of time the topic or project you want them to focus on. Giving them time to prepare makes speaking in front of the group less daunting.
If that doesn't seem to open them up during meetings, allow them to send their ideas or thoughts to the group via email. Once they are back in their workstations alone, the ideas may come flooding to them.
Don't Insist on Multitasking
Introverts prefer to focus 100% on one task until it is finished. You likely will need employees to be able to multitask and focus on more than one thing at any given time, but if possible, allow your introverts to completely finish one task before asking them to do another.
Praise Them Privately
Introverts want to be recognized for their hard work, but some won't want to be rewarded or praised publicly. Offer public praise at first, but if you feel you have an employee that gets uncomfortable in the limelight, then whenever possible, acknowledge his or her efforts in private face-to-face conversations. If you must praise him or her publicly, give them plenty of notice so that they can prepare for the occasion.
In conclusion, keep in mind that personality types lay on a spectrum. While there are very extraverted and introverted people, most lie somewhere in between the extremes. A person who exhibits introversion may be willing to try new things and step out of his or her comfort zone, so provide those opportunities for introverted employees who may be willing to do so.