Introverts, by nature, keep a lower profile than extroverts. Consequently, their contribution to your organization might not be quite as obvious. Both, however, perform valuable functions. Because introverts are quieter, it’s easy to underestimate their contributions. They may need some extra encouragement to reach their full potential. Let’s look at some of the key strengths of introverts as well as some of the best ways to bring out the best in them.
Corporations and other organizations have traditionally favored extroverts. Since extroverts are more talkative and socially aggressive, they often overshadow their introverted colleagues. It’s important, however, to recognize the invaluable strengths of introverts.
Introverts have many great qualities. However, they need the right environment in order to thrive. Here are some ways to engage the introverts on your team.
Introverts need a certain amount of space and autonomy to feel comfortable. As we noted, they often need less direct supervision than extroverts. The other side of the coin is that too much micromanagement makes them feel constrained. Give them as much leeway as possible for completing projects on their own terms.
Introverts also value having physical space where they can work on their own. It’s good in general to have areas away from open office spaces where team members can work uninterrupted to write and reflect. Giving someone space also means showing restraint when it comes to asking them for updates or overwhelming them with mandatory meetings.
Introverts, as a rule, aren’t fond of surprises or last minute requests. These can’t always be averted in a busy work environment, of course. You can, however, make an effort to give the introverts on your team as much notice as possible about meetings or other occasions that demand group participation or socializing.
Many businesses are experimenting with flex time, flexible vacations, and other options that allow employees to work at home or from other off-site locations. This type of arrangement is particularly appealing to introverts as it gives them extra space. Even letting someone work at home 10 or 20 hours per week gives them a chance to inhabit a quieter space so they can return to the office recharged. The benefits of flex time, of course, extend to everyone.
While extroverts are likely to give their opinions immediately, introverts like to have time to process their thoughts. If you want feedback from an introvert, don’t pressure him or her into giving an instant response. Give them time to reflect and give you a more thought-out answer.
Managers should strive to meet one-on-one with employees on a regular basis. This is another strategy that’s helpful for everyone but that favors introverts in particular. Your introverted employees relate better in one-on-one conversations than in group settings. Having brief face-to-face conversations at least once per week gives you a chance to check in with everyone and ensure that the introverts on your team have a chance to raise any issues or ask questions that they might not be comfortable raising at group meetings.
Introverts often feel more comfortable writing their ideas down rather than speaking them out loud. Make sure you provide sufficient ways for them to do this. Encourage team members to submit their ideas in writing and give these as much consideration as anything spoken. Social media is another good way for introverts to communicate.
One of the best ways to help introverts (and everyone else as well) communicate their ideas is to have a robust intranet and internal messaging system in place. Effective communication in the workplace is vital to keep everyone informed and to provide a platform for employees to express themselves. Intranet resources such as an efficient messaging system and real-time chat are ideal for introverts and facilitate better communication for everyone.
It’s beneficial to give introverts plenty of space and extra time to collect their thoughts. On the other hand, you don’t want to treat them like a separate species that must be partitioned off from the rest of the world. Many introverts are very good at coming out of their shells and expressing themselves under the right circumstances. In fact, it’s healthy to encourage them to leave their comfort zones by speaking up and asserting themselves.
The key is to find a good balance, which will differ depending on the individual. Most people aren’t pure introverts or extroverts but exist somewhere on the spectrum. When you notice that someone is primarily an introvert, take note and make allowances while also recognizing that they can behave in an extroverted manner some of the time. Similarly, extroverts should be encouraged to explore their introverted selves. This helps to cultivate a workplace where everyone grows.
These are some of the most effective ways to engage with introverts and help them feel comfortable and appreciated. Introverts and extroverts (as well as those in the middle) both bring valuable characteristics to an organization. However, you may have to make some special efforts to make sure introverts’ voices are heard. When the introverts on your team are able to communicate freely, everyone benefits.
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