In today's diverse workplace, managers almost need a psychology degree to be attuned to the various personality types they deal with in the office. One of the common characteristics they need to adjust their management and communication style for is introversion.
Studies have shown that about one third to one half of the population consider themselves to be introverts. There are real differences in how introverts want to be approached and best practices for communicating effectively with them. Managers who understand the differing needs of their introverted and extroverted employees can reap the benefits in terms of productivity and motivation.
Here, we'll look at how managers can build on the talents of their more inward-focused workforce by exploring the workings of the introverted mind.
Introverted Versus Extroverted Personality: What's the Difference?
Contrary to common misconceptions, introverts aren't shy; they simply need less stimulation from their physical surroundings than extroverts do. MRI experiments have shown the differences in reward sensitivity and dopamine functioning of extroverts and introverts.
Extroverts actually feel higher reward signaling by dopamine neurons through contact and interaction with others. Basically, they are energized by the "outer world" and tend to be outgoing, vocal and think-out-loud.
On the flipside, PET scans have revealed that introverts have more activity in the frontal lobes of the brain and front thalamus ? the part of the brain involved in internal processing such as problem-solving, remembering and planning. Introverts get their energy from their "inner world" of thoughts, ideas, reflections and memories.
They appreciate quiet and spending time alone or in small groups because it allows them to tap into their inner world. Introverts approach communication differently than extroverts do, preferring to think, reflect, then speak.
|"I am the life of the party."||"At parties, I tend to listen a lot."|
|"I tend to speak before I think."||"I tend to think before I speak."|
|"I get energized being around people."||"I need time alone to reenergize."|
|"I don't mind being the center of attention."||"People view me as calm and reserved."|
6 Ways to Create an Introvert-Friendly Work Environment
Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" remarks on the introverts plight: "We encourage introverts to act like extroverts instead of acting like their best selves."
With that in mind, here are six ways managers can create an environment that will help introverts to be their best.
1. Pace Yourself
Rush an introvert and expect to stump them. Introverts do not like to be put on the spot. When directing questions to an introvert, pace yourself. Don't fire multiple questions off at once. Count at least three seconds between your questions if it helps. Introverts need time to think, time to study the choices, and time to formulate an opinion they are comfortable sharing with you.
Pro tip: Preface your question by saying that you do not need an answer right away and that they can come see you later ? or simply contact you by email to provide their response.
2. Respect their Space
When possible, assign independent tasks over group work. Give introverts their alone time and respect their need for quiet in the office. Today's open concept offices can be very distracting with all the buzz. If your office is an open space, provide noise canceling headphones to give that extra layer of privacy. Allowing introverts to work in small meeting rooms, as needed, can also help.
Pro tip: Limit your surprise visits and give your introverts fair warning when you want to meet with them and why. And give introverts a blend of work assignments that allow them some independent work.
3. Give them Structure
Introverts can be uneasy with expectations that aren't clearly defined. When assigning tasks or projects, make sure that you provide thorough, written instructions. Hold a meeting in-person to make sure objectives are clear. The better you lay out tasks and performance objectives, the easier it is for them to work independently on tasks.
Pro tip: It can help to request weekly reports or setup one-on-one follow up meetings to make sure all performance goals are being met.
4. "Virtualize" Communication
Introverts may keep to themselves in public situations but in the online world, they let their fingers talk away. Writing gives them time to think and reflect on what they want to say. Quieter individuals often express themselves best when they have time to perform a mental check-in before they respond.
Pro tip: When communicating with your introverted employees, opt for e-mail, instant messaging, and social media as much as possible if you want to facilitate an honest and thought-out exchange. And don't expect instant answers.
5. Think Twice when Recruiting
Being an introvert in a society that values people who are "outgoing", "charismatic" and "vocal" inherently favors those who are more extroverted. This makes it more challenging for introverts to get hired or promoted. You may be missing out on remarkable talent by not creating interview scenarios that showcase an introvert's strengths like problem-solving and analytical thinking.
Pro tip: Ask candidates (as well as references) about success stories in key behavioral areas like team building, motivation, conflict resolution. This will provide insight into introverts' true interpersonal skills that may not otherwise stand out in the interview process.
6. Promote their Work: Introverts often have difficulty promoting their contributions to the organization and as a result, don't get the notice, recognition or rewards they deserve. They can also be overlooked for promotions or special assignments because of this.
Pro tip: When managing introverted employees, make sure you advocate for them and make their contributions visible to the team and the larger organization so they get credit for their work and value.
Quiet in a Loud World: How to Get More from Your Introverts
Introverts have a wealth of natural strengths - they assess situations before acting, they listen to the ideas of others, and they are skilled at taking independent action. By understanding the needs of introverted employees, managers can harmonize those strengths and successfully encourage their introverts to be their "best selves".
Do you manage someone who is introverted? Do you have any tips you can share with our community about motivating introverts in the workplace?
Interested in this topic? Here is some additional reading material: