Some of your most productive employees—people who are organized, good at solving problems, thoughtful, focused, and efficient—may need a little extra support from leaders. That’s because they’re introverted, which makes it challenging for them to work well with others.
A workplace is a social environment. For bosses and managers to create a climate in which everyone excels, here are five strategies they can use to encourage introverted employees to step out of the shadows and become dynamic participants.
See their strengths, not their limitations.
Introverts are often persistent, thoughtful, and hardworking. They are less apt to be distracted, and they frequently amass a great deal of expertise in their field. They make great researchers, for example, or may be good at IT security and problem solving and analysis. But in job interviews, they may seem shy and uncomfortable. When hiring, look at work history and talk to references before making a judgment. On the job, look at actual performance before discounting the wallflower as a poor team player.
Let them shine in the right position.
Assign the right tasks and know what positions your introverts will be best at. To use a baseball metaphor, you would never make a first baseman a pitcher, so it’s important to place your introverts in positions that take full advantage of their personality, work style, and special skills and knowledge. For example, planning the office holiday party would be a poor choice; on the other hand, creating a list of inefficient practices and processes at your company might be a good choice.
Don’t let your extroverts dominate.
Because extroverts are naturally more outspoken and become energized in groups, they can easily take over in staff meetings. Structure your meetings so that extroverts don’t dominate discussions. Make sure everyone gets heard by specifically calling on introverts, or even asking them to do a presentation on their topic of expertise.
Encourage introverts to take on leadership.
Despite their natural inclination to shun the spotlight, introverted people can be thoughtful, humble, well-respected leaders. Help introverts get comfortable managing others by letting them run one-on-one meetings or small group meetings, as opposed to large staff meetings. Be sure to provide them with specific, constructive feedback on their effectiveness. Supervisors often find that, within a year, the introvert will gain enough comfort interacting with people they supervise that they’ll often make the jump and actually start initiating large group meetings.
Help introverts handle confrontations.
Since introverted managers may avoid conflict, it’s important to teach them that when they address a problem, they are merely addressing issues, not judging a person. Before they meet to address the problem, ask them to provide a written analysis of the issues on both sides. This, in essence, gives them notes for the meeting, and enables them to deal with the facts, rather than get tripped up by intimidation or fear of confrontation.