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Managing Introverts in the Workplace

Managing Introverts in the Workplace


By Annette M. Clayton
Senior Recruiter at American Public University System

If you are a manager, chances are at least one of your team members is an introvert. You may wonder what makes these quieter employees tick and how to be a dependable leader for them. Once you have a few basic clues about the introverted personality type, you can better understand employees and set them up for success.

Introverts Use the Power of Listening and Observation

Introverts tend to be more reflective and feel comfortable being alone. Their silence at meetings may be perceived as being disengaged or not acting as a team player, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Introverts process information by rolling it over in their minds. Rather than making rash decisions based on emotion, they want time to reflect.

In addition, introverts employ active listening and make thoughtful decisions, which are valuable skills in the workplace. As a manager of introverted employees, capitalize on this strength by giving introverts an extra day to process the information they receive. This extra time enables them to weigh both sides of an argument and provide the team with insightful feedback.

Introverted Employees Develop Creative Solutions to Business Problems

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, a test designed to reveal different human personalities, identifies eight different personality types within the introvert category. Some introverts are very driven with analytical minds and value organization. These personality types tend to lean toward more data-driven and analytical career fields such as information technology and science.

Other introverts are highly imaginative and think “outside the box.” Their best ideas come to them when they are alone and free to work within their own timeline (think J.K. Rowling and Mark Zuckerberg).

If your team is tasked with solving difficult problems, see if your quiet but creative employees are interested in taking on the task of finding solutions. Give them the time and freedom they need to let their imaginations run wild.

Introverts Need Time to Recharge

Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t necessarily withdrawn. Introverts get their energy from ideas, pictures and memories from their own internal worlds. Extroverts draw their energy from active involvement and interaction with the outside world.

Constant social situations and non-stop activity are energy drainers for introverts. Managers should provide their introverts with opportunities to recharge their internal batteries. If your introverted employees aren’t up for a work event after a meeting-filled day, let them know you’re fine with that decision.

Introvert Employees Need Quiet Environments

Introverts need a space where they can focus on the task at hand. A busy office environment filled with constant interactions may prove too disruptive for them.

Set your quiet employees up for success. If their cubicles are in a high-traffic area, ask them if they are okay with the noise level or would they prefer to work someplace quieter.

Also, offer your introverted employees the option of working remotely. Working remotely a few days a week is a huge stress reliever for introverts. The few days of quiet help them regain focus and produce their best work.

Introverts Prefer Low-Key Rewards

Introverts and extroverts may view rewards differently. While extroverts might enjoy the lively activity and attention of receiving a plaque at an awards ceremony, introverts may dread this type of public situation.

Be sure to talk to your employees; make sure that any attention offered to them is seen as a reward and not a punishment. Think of alternative incentives for introverted employees, such as free vacation time or remote work options.

Pay Attention to Each Employee; Know Them Thoroughly

As a manager, recognize that employees look to you for guidance, honest feedback, collaboration and leadership. Don’t assume you know and understand your employees’ preferences, work ethic, goals and aspirations.

Make an effort to meet one-on-one with your employees. Take their feedback and whenever possible put it into practice. Remember: the goal of successful management is not to treat employees differently, but to set up work situations that help employees to grow, thrive and reach their full potential.

About the Author

Annette Clayton is a human resources professional who has been the Senior Recruiter at APUS since 2009. Annette graduated from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and earned a Professional Recruiter Certification in 2014. She is presently pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Writing and Literature from McDaniel College.