We encourage introverts to act like extroverts instead of acting like their best selves.Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
There's a huge misconception in the business world that you need to be loud, powerful, assertive, sticking your chest out, and grinding to get what you want.
But in fact, quiet employees often are more successful and are considered better leaders.
Why is that?
What are the key characteristics of an introverted employee?
While everyone has their own unique personality traits, there are some key characteristics that more introverted employees share. Introverts tend to work well independently and prefer to do so in a quieter, less stimulating environment that's free from excessive distractions.
Those with introverted personalities may also think and reflect more than others before speaking, and could even feel drained after too much social interaction. Not everyone has the same social battery, and for more introverted people, it definitely takes a little more out of them.
How do the management strategies for introverts differ from those for extroverts?
When it comes to managing introverts in an effective way, it's important to understand what resonates with them, compared to more extroverted employees. As we touched on before, introverts thrive in quieter work environments and tend to feel more comfortable with one-on-one communication rather than in a group setting.
Sometimes, they may take a little longer to process information and respond accordingly and can be more pensive and less reactive in their communication style. These are all things to keep in mind when it comes to managing introverts and developing a management strategy that is inclusive of every team member, their communication style, and their personality types.
What are some common misconceptions about introverted employees?
Nobody wants to judge a book by its cover, but we can't deny that it still happens. When someone is more introverted, we can easily succumb to making judgments about why they seem so quiet. This quiet nature can sometimes be misconstrued as being disengaged, or even uninterested when in reality, they're simply not as forwardly outgoing as others.
This more introverted nature can also lead to employees not being considered leadership material, or perceived as not enjoying or valuing teamwork when in most instances this isn't the case at all. These kinds of misconceptions show us how important it is to learn about each individual, how they work best, communicate best, and what they can bring to the table.
What are some common challenges faced by introverted employees in the workplace?
A loud, bustling workplace environment can be daunting for introverted team members who prefer the solace of a quiet space over the overstimulation of a noisy environment. Their quiet demeanors in these kinds of settings can be misunderstood, and it can sometimes be challenging for them to feel like they fit in amongst their more extroverted colleagues. And as we touched on, their more introverted manners can even lead to them being potentially overlooked for leadership roles that they are actually just as capable of stepping into.
With these misconceptions in mind, let's look at some of the positive attributes our introverted colleagues bring to the workplace:
Introverts are better listeners
Introverts are naturally better listeners, which is great when you're leading a team. Some extroverted leaders, on the other hand, may have the tendency to monopolize conversations without realizing it, leaving little room for their team members to speak. They're generally better with the command-and-control type of management, whereas introverts can be more inclusive.
Introverts are more humble
The best leaders practice what's known as “servant leadership”, which is essentially when you put your employees first and are acting to serve them.
The traits associated with servant leadership, like humility, are found more commonly in introverts.
Introverts are more creative
Quieter employees tend to be more reflective and take their time to analyze what's going on. That reflection tends to make them more creative and helps them make more informed decisions.
Extroverts, on the other hand, can be a bit bolder when it comes to decision-making.
Introverts form deeper connections
Many introverts prefer to build deeper one-on-one connections. They're much more likely to get to know their team members on a more personal level, making employees feel more connected to them.
Introverts are more self-aware
Self-awareness is one of the most important things you can have to be an emotionally intelligent leader.
That self-awareness lets them listen attentively, pick up on social cues, process information, and see the bigger picture. And they love the time alone to process that information.
If you haven't seen it already, Susan Cain's TED talk about the power of introverts is definitely worth a watch:
"As an introvert myself, I often wonder if I'm perceived to be not as good as I actually am.
If I'm a little quiet in a meeting, does that mean I'm in a bad mood? Does it mean I'm not engaged?
There are times when I'm in a meeting and I can perceive the people around me noticing that I'm probably losing focus or not into it, but that's simply not true.
I'm just digesting and processing the information."
Introverts and quiet employees work differently, but managers might be missing out on a huge opportunity by not fully trying to understand them and adapting the way they manage them.
Not only is it important for the success of your business, but it's important for the well-being of your employees and your culture.
Check out our 11-day email course to become a leader that employees look up to and want to work for.
7 Tips to manage quiet employees
As a leader, you'll have to learn how to deal with multiple personality types and adjust your management style accordingly. Here are a few ideas to help you better lead and manage those quiet employees.
1. Don't assume
The first (and best) tip is not to assume anything.
As mentioned earlier, they might be quiet in meetings or at their desks but don't assume that they're in a bad mood or disengaged. They might be processing some information that was just given to them or developing a new idea, and that can make them the more engaged members of your team.
2. Don't just show up at their desks
Chances are, they'll prefer to communicate by email or chat, so try to respect that communication style.
If you just show up at their desks or catch them by surprise, they likely won't give you the answer you're looking for. They need time to process and think about what they want to say. So give them the space and time they need.
3. Use one-on-ones
One-on-one meetings are probably where you're going to get the best feedback from your quieter employees. They'll be comfortable in that calm, quiet environment.
If you can, send them a meeting agenda at least 24 hours in advance to make sure they have some time to gather their thoughts.
4. Don't ask for their opinion on the spot
If there's anything you want their opinion on, it might be a good idea to wait a while before asking them for their thoughts. Again, many introverts need time to process, digest, and formulate their ideas.
Give them time to think and come back to you with their thoughts and opinions collected.
It also might be a good idea to ask for their opinion using their favorite form of communication. For example, you can wait an hour or two and send them an email or chat message and ask for their opinion.
5. Give them a quiet environment
It makes sense that quiet people would like to work in quiet environments.
Try your best to create a quiet environment so that they can work at their best. If the workplace is noisy and there's no way for them to get the quiet they need, you might want to consider letting your introvert team members work remotely.
6. Don't ignore them
It's easy for introverts or quiet employees to go unnoticed, but you need to make a conscious effort to notice them.
For instance, try to avoid words like “outgoing” in job descriptions. You don't want to miss out on introverted people that, as we've seen, can bring valuable contributions to companies.
And remember, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Warren Buffett, Steve Wozniak, and Michael Jordan are all introverts!
7. Be mindful of them
Emotional intelligence is truly a key trait to develop as it allows you to better understand the many different employee personality types.
Quiet employees are often perceived as shy, unhappy, or not “into it.” You need to be mindful of how you perceive these employees, adjust your own attitude toward them, and guide your extrovert team members through doing the same.
What benefits can introverted employees bring to a team or organization?
Having an introverted personality often means that rather than being the louder more outgoing one, a person likely has stronger listening skills. This is a wonderful skill to have, especially when it comes to forming deep, meaningful relationships.
Relationships of any kind, whether personal or professional, work best when there is balance, so without different personalities, we wouldn't have the beauty of opposites complementing each other. Sometimes the most thoughtful insights come from those who process their thoughts more inwardly, which can even result in better decision-making.
Why is it essential to adapt management strategies to accommodate different personality types?
The saying "different strokes for different folks" is especially true when it comes to adapting management strategies to suit different personality types on different teams. No strategy can ever be one-size-fits-all if you want to have a harmonious, productive work environment that ensures all employees feel understood and valued.
Our best advice is to embrace people's differences, and leverage the strengths of each personality type, rather than focusing on what they lack. Introverts and extroverts bring different qualities to the table, and when different pieces of the puzzle come together, they really do connect to create the big picture.
What is the concept of "servant leadership" and why does it suit introverted leaders?
Now that we've established that introverts can be just as great in leadership positions, it's also important to understand the leadership style they are more likely to have. It's not uncommon for many introverts to have a servant leadership style, where their focus is on serving others before themselves. This tends to be the case as they are known to have valuable assets like being good listeners, more humble, and more focused on the team's needs, rather than their own.
Can introverted employees be successful in leadership roles?
Contrary to the perception of some, introverts are just as capable of handling stressful or challenging situations. Just remember that their approach may be a little different. In fact, introverts tend to excel in listening, building deep relationships, and putting strategic planning into play. Introverts typically like to work independently but are more than capable of stepping up and being the leader their team needs to succeed.
Managing introverts in a meaningful way
Our differences are what make us unique. Introverts and extroverts both present qualities and working styles that contribute to a successful and healthy workplace. Managing introverts is no different than managing anyone else. As always, it takes open communication and understanding. When we push past the misconceptions and embrace the differences, that's when we can all truly excel together in a meaningful way.