5 Strategies to Manage Introverts at Work
Your team is made up of many characters and every manager knows that although they can’t all be pleased at the same time, it is up to them to make them feel comfortable so that they can thrive in their job.
Part of a manager’s job is to try different strategies to reach out to each staff member to make sure they are content, happy and given what they need to enable them to perform at their most productive.
When considering whether staff have more of an extroverted or an introverted nature, this can impact on a manager’s approach to working with them and the working environment created.
Happy staff means everyone gets more work done and that means the team is more productive – yes!
The more flexible a manager can be with their approach the better – and staff will be grateful for these thoughtful approaches, too.
So how, as a manager, can this be achieved? Learning a little something about what makes people introverted or extroverted can help. It all comes down to those brain chemicals we call adrenaline, which introverted people are highly sensitive to, as author Alen Mayer states in his book Introverts in Business: Being Quietly Successful. Extroverts, on the other hand, do not produce enough of the feel-good chemicals dopamine and adrenaline and are more likely to look for outward events that give them the uplifting feelings to raise their levels.
This is why those staff who appear quieter don’t necessarily have a lack of ideas, while those who speak the most are not always right.
Here are some practical suggestions to use at work to ensure more introverted staff are just as at ease and comfortable in the office as their colleagues:
You’ve all been to at least one team meeting where 2 or 3 people dominate the entire conversation and you can’t get a word in. Then when your manager does ask you what you think, all you can draw is a blank because, as an introvert, ideas don’t come to you straight away.
Before you know it, your colleagues are commenting about how quiet you are and your manager thinks their one quiet employee is not interested in the project.
Managers can get around this by giving their team members time to think about the project in advance. Preparing an agenda ahead of time or simply letting your team members know what the topics will be will help and allow them time to come up with their own ideas, ready for the meeting.
When it comes to praising staff, a manager may think it’s great for everyone to be congratulated and recognised at the next team meeting by way of an official announcement, but get ready: Not everyone will be. While not all, many introverted staff will feel overwhelmed by suddenly being in the spotlight and overwhelmed by the spontaneous liveliness that takes place.
Managers could try letting their staff know in advance that they are going to be mentioned at the next team meeting so that at least the employee has a chance to turn down the offer.
An extrovert may appreciate praise from their manager when it is given in the presence of a team dinner or meeting. Introverts will much prefer and appreciate being praised on more of a one-to-one basis to let them know how much they’re valued. This is the same for giving constructive criticism – do it at the next appraisal or review meeting to give your introverted staff member time to think about it and respond.
In an environment where there is pressure to get things done and to do tasks quickly, managers can often expect answers to their questions or demands to be given on tap. This is especially pressurising when a manager stands over your desk expecting you to find what they need or answer them straight away.
When asking a question, a manager can give their staff time to run through their thoughts briefly or to find what it is you need, so that they don’t feel any undue pressure.
Wait for them to finish speaking when they’re in the flow (which is worth it when they do) – interrupting them will throw them off track and they may not be able to finish making their point, or won’t feel that they have been listened to.
With the introduction of open plan offices and hot desking, while for some it was an opportunity to interact with more people during the day and be more sociable – for the more introverted staff, it was more of a nightmare.
For the introverts among us, entering an open plan office means more people looking up at you, as if you’re walking down a catwalk putting on a show you really don’t want to do. Even if you do seek out the comfort of a familiar face, any conversation you have carries out across the room!
Managers, organise workspaces to allow for some small, more secluded spaces so that employees can have at least semi-private conversations and not feel like they are no show by anyone and everyone. This can consist of booths and small, partitioned offices that make staff feel like they’re not so much in the spotlight.
While it is important to enable time for introverted staff to have some quiet in the office or by themselves, it can be equally as important to plan team training or activities that bring all your colleagues together. Learning about one another’s differences and getting to each other on a more personal level is always going to be a positive when it enables staff to understand each other’s strengths, shown through the activities planned.
An activity to build a raft together? That quiet girl who sits in the corner knows how to tie rope together so that the raft can be strong. Tasks outside of the office can also remind introverts to see the strengths of their extroverted colleagues – but do give them plenty of notice of the get-together first.
Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleashing your professional potential. Introvert Whisperer