How Leaders Manage Introverts at WorkNovember 13, 2020
Whether you're an introvert or not, you have probably worked with one at some point in your career. Unlike in a social event, introverts in the workplace can't merely eject from the conversation and move on. If you are struggling to engage with someone on your team, you need to tackle this head-on. Otherwise, you'll never have an excellent working relationship, and your business could potentially face avoidable problems.
The good news is that this guide will help you understand all of your team's individuals and improve everyone's work environment, introverts and extroverts alike!
What is an introvert?
To be an introvert is to be shy or reticent. Introverts are described as quiet, reserved, or thoughtful individuals. Typically, they don't seek special attention or generally do things that would bring attention to themselves, which would leave them feeling exhausted or drained. Introverts are people who "recharge" by spending time alone; they need periods of solitude to thrive, be more creative, and more productive.
Some of the most influential figures of our time classify themselves as introverts, such as Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many more.
In the book Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, extroverts are compared to hotels and introverts to luxury suites. Extroverts can accommodate many interactions that come and go, while for introverts, bookings are limited.
Identifying an introvert in the workplace
Now think about your work environment; out of your employees, are there any that prefer to keep to themselves? Eat lunch alone? Rarely speak up in meetings or even avoid small talk altogether?
The office environment is not built for introverts, with close-knit desks, frequent team meetings, and, of course, the never-ending phone ring. This environment can cause an introvert to feel less comfortable and affect their ability or efficiency to work well.
However, introverts have many compelling qualities that their managers can leverage and develop to their companies' benefit.
With many people working remotely in 2020 our work lives have changed drastically. For introverts, this may be for the better. According to Jon Hill, CEO of Energists, “The push toward more remote work can actually be very helpful for those introverts on your staff. Many introverts are more comfortable communicating using written methods than in face-to-face conversations, so opening up that option can help make sure they’re still able to contribute without needing to constantly step outside their comfort zone.”
How to manage introverts in the business world
Build a rapport
It's essential to build a rapport with any business relationship - some may say that it's fundamental to a business's success. However, it would be best if you went about this the right way.
- Find some common ground - whether it be sports, food, or TV programs. Building a familiar environment shows that you are interested and forms a connection between the two of you.
- Don't just talk, listen! - introverts tend to spend a lot of time observing. Hence, chances are they will notice if you're faking your enthusiasm for the conversation; counteract this by showing that you're engaged through positive body language.
- Engage with them outside of work - don't wait for the annual Christmas party to talk to your colleague outside of work; if you have common interests, then why not extend the olive brand and invite them to lunch or a football match.
Typically introverts are identified by the following traits:
- Need quiet to concentrate.
- Take time to make decisions.
- Feel comfortable being alone.
- Don't like group work.
- Prefer to write rather than talk.
- Feel tired after being in a crowd.
If you are working with an introvert and want to begin building a positive relationship with them, it's essential to let it be natural; follow the three steps below to build some rapport with your quieter team members:
- Let them know things in advance: Whether it be prepping for a meeting or a spontaneous team conference call - letting the introverts on your team know some things you want to discuss in advance can give them the time they need to prepare their thoughts.
- Choose the right time: If you have an open office, this can be draining for your introverts. Schedule your 1:1s with them earlier in the day, before they've exhausted.
- Give it time: Be okay with some silence. Give them time to think when you ask them a question.
Create a safe space
Create a safe place for open communication; doing so will allow your employees to feel more comfortable in their positions within the company and the work environment. Effective communication is critical for building and maintaining rapport among coworkers, so don't assume everyone on your team is already a communication expert.
Give your introverts time to think and gather their thoughts. You're more likely to get great ideas and solutions from them this way. Before meetings, be sure to give an exact schedule to prepare and present their ideas well.
While emergency meetings are not avoidable, you can still use the opportunity to bring out the best in your introverted employees by giving them enough time to think after and ask for their feedback an hour or a day later.
Julie E. Ferris-Tillman, PhD and Director in Public Relations, shares her views on the best way to allow your employees to reach their full potential, “Introverts aren't necessarily shy or without ideas. Tapping into how they prefer to deliver ideas and how they prefer to serve a team helps you extract brilliant thoughts and execution. Recognising that they are energised in different ways helps you engage their skills.”
Being a manager is never easy. Mastering the task of developing and maintaining healthy relationships with your employees takes practice and effort.
These are simple tips that you can use to help bring out the best in your introverted employees, whose talents and strengths can significantly benefit organisations and help businesses grow.