How to Manage Quiet, Introverted Employees 6

How to Manage IntrovertsEleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Al Gore, and Warren Buffett.

What do these figures have in common aside from their popularity?

According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, they (along with more than one-third of the world’s population) are introverts.

Introverts are people who “recharge” by spending time alone. They need periods of solitude in order to thrive, be more creative, and more productive.

The list of well-known and successful people who consider themselves as introverts is pretty impressive. But you wouldn’t know. Most of them aren’t really keen on self-promotion.

You may have noticed that you have introvert employees. Those who prefer to keep to themselves and eat lunch alone, may be quiet during meetings, and aren’t big on small talk. Yes, they’re not much for words, but when you have a problem, they come up with a great solution—that is, after going off to a corner to think.

For employers, this is pretty important to understand, not only for the well-being of employees but also for the company. You could be missing out on a lot by not knowing—or worse, not caring—about how your introvert workers are doing.

Introverts have strengths that are often seen as weaknesses in a world where the loud and bold are lauded. Introvert employees can bring a lot to the table and they’ve been doing so for years while being tagged as shy or unremarkable.

Imagine what could happen if you manage your introverted employees better.

Give time to think, plan, and prepare

Give your introverts time to think and gather their thoughts. You’re more likely to get great ideas and solutions from them this way. Prior to meetings, be sure to give a clear agenda so they can prepare and present their ideas well.

While emergency meetings are not totally avoidable, you can still use the opportunity to bring out the best in your introvert employees by giving them enough time to think after. Ask for their feedback an hour or a day after the meeting.

Most people would think that this idea of “giving enough time” couldn’t possibly work in this fast-paced world. But what would you rather have: a quick, half-baked solution to a problem or a well-thought-out, sustainable one?

Respect space

Introverts are known to be easily stimulated and thus easily tired out by prolonged interactions with people. This makes open-space offices a challenge. If you have such a setup in your business, provide a quiet space for your introvert employees, a place where they can retreat for a few minutes before delving right back into busy work. It could be a small nap station or some place just to hang out in peace. The presence of books in such a place is highly recommended.

And it’s also good to remember that while teamwork is essential in business, introverts thrive best when they work independently. So allow them to work without constant interruption, which  can be detrimental to anyone’s creative process.

Respect silence

Silence is also a big thing for introverts. Unfortunately, most people take silence the wrong way, including bosses. An introvert is usually quiet for one of two reasons: either everything’s already been said or he’s too busy coming up with a plan. So respect their silence and create a workplace environment where there’s no pressure to say something when there’s really nothing important to say.

Leverage virtual communication

You can get more meaty ideas from your introverted employees if you use social media and other forms of virtual communication, which are a godsend to introverts. Writing out a response rather than answering right away gives introverts more time and freedom to structure answers and express ideas more clearly.

Become their voice when necessary

You already know that most introverts aren’t big on self-promotion. They prefer their work to speak for themselves. But it would better if you became an advocate for your introvert employees by:

  • Giving them the time and the opportunity to speak and present their ideas without anyone cutting them off

  • When recruiting or hiring, remembering that while society likes the “charismatic” and “outgoing”, don’t let this prevent you from seriously considering quiet candidates

  • Recognizing and rewarding them for their efforts and contributions without making them point them out to you

The recent positive attention that introverts are getting is changing people’s perceptions and organizations and businesses are becoming more aware of the needs and strengths of introverted workers.

But it’s important to point out that these tips for managing introverts aren’t a form of coddling. These are simply tips that employers and managers can use to help bring out the best in their introvert employees, whose talents and strengths can greatly benefit organizations and help businesses grow.

How do you take care of your introvert employees?

About the Author Glori Surban is an introvert writer with a knack for helping small business owners and entrepreneurs get noticed online by providing customized freelance blogging services. Follow Glori on Google+ Read more »

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  • Glori Surban

    Thank you publishing my guest post! :)

  • ramjet

    one other aspect to consider — not all introverts are internal processors; some need the opportunity to talk through their ideas out loud — but often won’t do that in a large group setting. Thus, be sure you understand whether your introverted employees are internal or external processors and build your processes to include one-on-one or small group discussions with external processing introverts (sounds like an oxymoron, but there are both extroverts who are internal processors and introverts who are not…)

    • Glori Surban

      Thanks for pointing that out ramjet! And it’s so true. :)

      Introvert is an umbrella term and serves to help people know themselves and other better. That’s why no matter the situation, it’s important to get to know them first, whether it be employees or employers.

  • Akshera Rai

    Thank you Glori ! This is a great article on managing introverts in the office. I would like to add that rewarding and criticizing introverts should be done in private, as they don’t prefer the extra attention. We too have some great tips on managing introverts mentioned here:

  • Maria

    I have an extremely shy /introvert as an employee and it’s slowly driving me insane. I wanted to give her a chance, I knew in the interview that she was more on the shy quiet side but I liked her answers about what she felt customer service meant etc.. After having her here for a little over a month I’m starting to feel like this just isn’t the best fit. She never speaks. I say good morning, she barely says hi in the smallest voice. I’ve taken her to lunch to try and get her to relax. I’ve researched the best way to interact with introverted shy employees. I’ve sent her emails / chats instead of talking or walking into her office and nothing helps. My Boss thinks she’s just slow and I don’t agree with that. I think that’s harsh and unfair to say just because she’s so quiet but like Jayme said below it’s starting to become very emotionally draining. When she does say something I feel like she says things because that’s what she thinks we expect or want to hear which isn’t often and only when she’s asked. She shows no personality what so ever I’m really at a loss. This experience with her has really left me feeling like I most likely wouldn’t make the same choice again in hiring. In my opinion there are some jobs / environments where a shy / introvert just can’t fit in and are better off some where else.

    • Jonathan_Bplans

      Maria, thanks for sharing your current experience/struggle. It’s tough to know exactly what to recommend for your situation without knowing more details, but here are some general tips for your situation:

      1. It sounds like you hired this employee for a customer service job. While the interpersonal dynamics may be somewhat draining in the office, compare it with her performance of the job she was hired to do, keeping in mind that she’s still relatively new. If her job performance is satisfactory (or better), then it’s probably worth keeping her on as an asset to the company. The interpersonal dynamics may be draining, but over time you may find a groove that works. It’s tough, but more patience may be required.

      2. The things you’re noting as “shy / introverted” could also be compounded by other factors, such as: insecurities over being a new employee, or a lack of experience in office dynamics (how friendly should you be with co-workers?). Keep trying to parse out which is which, and try to take note of any areas where she seems to be gaining confidence/showing more personality.

      3. Finally, I commend you for going the extra mile to learn about how to interact with an introverted employee! It sounds like you’ve tried a number of things to improve the situation. Before you decide it’s too late and that she just isn’t a “good fit,” it’s always good to be upfront and honest about the situation. Most employees want to know of existing problems ahead of time (before they’re let go), so they can make an effort to fix the situation. It doesn’t have to be confrontational, but it would probably be worth having a conversation with her about this situation, sitting down one-on-one, and expressing the very things you’ve noted in your comment. Right now, you’re drawing conclusions from your side of the experience, and it may help you to get her direct input/feedback about the situation. That doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be fixed right away, but it will give you both the opportunity to approach the situation from a different angle and potentially solve a problem together.

      Ultimately, as you’ve said, it may not be a great fit for the company, and that’s ok. Great job on trying to find a solution. Keep us posted on your progress!

      – Jonathan
      The Bplans Team