Introverts in the workplace often find themselves working in a world that seems tailor-made for extroverts. From bustling networking events, to loud, high-energy gatherings, nominations and award programmes and open-plan collaborative workplaces (particularly following the space and quiet of lockdown working), it can feel like the world is designed for outgoing personality types.
It can be easy for managers to overlook quieter or more introverted individuals at all stages of the employment lifecycle, and employers that fail to consider adapting the workplace for introverts are missing out. Those that shout loudest are not always the most valuable – sometimes quite the opposite!
Communicating with different personality types is a skill and communicating effectively with more introverted colleagues can involve a bit of understanding and some adaptable approaches, especially from more extrovert managers. Failing to consider communication styles for managing introverted employees risks alienating and excluding valuable colleagues, limiting productivity, creating disharmony and allegations of exclusion or grievances from introverts who have been overlooked for promotion, bonus and other workplace opportunities.
An article in the Harvard Business Review in October 2022 was headed “Stop Telling Introverts to Act Like Extroverts” (stop telling introverts to act like extroverts’) and made the point that modern workplaces are built for extrovert personalities. Adding that extroverts are often “paid more, promoted faster and rated more positively” – so if managers don’t want to alienate and overlook a valuable section of the workforce they should consider adapting the workplace for introverts to be more accommodating to all – consider:
- Respecting an introvert’s need for space and time alone to recharge – especially in workplaces that are open plan or require constant interaction.
- Communicating in writing – in the same way some colleagues thrive in quickfire face to face interactions, some introverts may feel more comfortable communicating through messaging platforms. A “one size fits all” communication style does not work and it is on managers to adapt their own behaviours in order to get the best from their teams.
- Providing agenda topics for meetings in advance (which to be fair probably works for just about everyone) as introverts may perform better in discussions when they’ve had time to prepare their thoughts.
- Giving time to respond – some thrive in a fast paced environment, but equally introverts often perform better when given an opportunity to process information internally before sharing their thoughts.
- The communication environment – small group settings or one-on-one conversations can be more comfortable for introverts. It allows them to contribute without feeling overshadowed by more extroverted colleagues. The same goes for public announcements and praise.
As Forbes Magazine has recognised (Introverts Can Be Your Most Valuable Employees (forbes.com)), “introverts can be the quiet powerhouses in your office” indicating that they “tend to be self starters” and calculate risks, why would any sensible manager want to risk overlooking that……?