Introverted employees make up 50% of your workplace. Are you creating an environment where they can thrive at work? Here are 5 strategies to help.
Working at a company that doesn’t respect your working style can be frustrating and depleting. According to The Myers-Briggs Company, introverts make up over 50% of the world’s population. Many world leaders identify as extroverts, and social norms are built around extroversion. So how can organizations identify and empower introverted employees to be their most impactful selves at work?
Why you should identify introverted employees
There is a big misconception about introverts making its way around the workplace in that many leaders underestimate the potential contributions they can make. Rather, introverted employees have many positive traits like:
- Active listening
These traits produce top-notch leaders. In the book “Networking for People Who Hate Networking,” author Devora Zack shares many great insights about introversion. Zack explains that introverts are reflective, focused, and self-reliant. These 3 traits profoundly impact the way we perceive them at work.
Once you know an employee leans towards introversion, you can create a work environment that empowers them.
How to identify introverted employees
Identifying an introvert can be easier than you think. Before you dive into anything, it’s important to note that extroverts and introverts work on a spectrum. Some of your employees will clearly fall in one camp or the other. Others might identify as ambivert, where they find value in both traits.
A quick way to judge employee introversion is by taking a personality test like 16Personalities. This free assessment will help your employees understand where they fit on the introverted/extroverted scale. 16Personalities also gives employees insight into their energy, nature, tactics, and identity. Personality tests can be a useful tool when onboarding new hires.
Based on the results, you can often determine what support employees need.
Some of your employees will clearly fall in one camp or the other. Others might identify as ambivert, where they find value in both traits.
How to empower introverted employees
Now that you have identified the introverts on your team, how do you empower them? The first step is building an employee experience that embraces introversion.
1. Understand how they like to work
First, you want to understand how introverts like to work and implement strategies that reflect that.
Here are some quick rules of engagement for working with introverts:
- Hold one-on-one meetings rather than large group interactions
- Provide alone time to think and recharge
- Reduce background noise
Once you understand these simple principles, you can help to build a work environment around them. If your employees spend time at the office, these strategies become even more critical as you want to ensure that you aren’t forcing employees to work in conditions that stifle their growth. For remote employees, start by providing more options like camera-off meetings and asynchronous communication choices.
2. Rewire how you think about speaking out
Next, you have to rewire your expectations around speaking up at work. For example, some employees will thrive in a large group brainstorm session, but introverts need a different approach.
“Introverts process the world by thinking through and reflecting our initial impressions and perceptions.” shares Zack. “Therefore, we require a bit of time to properly respond to new data and requests.”
Introverts rarely share the first thing that comes to mind. Likely, you won’t even get their 3rd or 4th thought. Companies who want to engage introverts give them more time to think. For example, your organization might email the brainstorm prompt beforehand or ask for feedback after the session. These quick changes effectively empower introverts to speak up on their own terms.
3. Ask how they want to receive praise or constructive criticism
Peer-to-peer recognition programs seem to be all the rage these days. Unfortunately, public recognition may not work for all of your employees. Some of your staff members will prefer private recognition, and that’s okay. If you want to implement a peer recognition program, start by asking everyone their feedback preferences. You can do the same for constructive criticism. Having this information on hand will enable you to share feedback in ways that employees can best receive it.
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4. Ensure extroverts understand introverts
Extroverts can make work challenging for introverts. According to Zack’s work, extroverts are verbal, expansive, and social people. These character traits are at direct odds with how introverts show up. Introverts often have to adapt and bend to fit into an extrovert-friendly world. Having the extroverts in your company flip the script to be more observant will make a world of difference.
You must be empowering employees and leadership with knowledge on working with differing personalities. Extroverts typically need help toning down their energy and building deeper connections with their colleagues. It’s important to try to split some of the responsibilities of making this work relationship work.
5. Don’t underestimate an introvert’s ability to adapt
Employers should consider having a conversation with each worker in order to best manage and empower them. Approaching introversion with a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work.
Many companies think that hiring an introvert means putting a million barriers in place to protect them. While it’s never a bad idea to ensure that your team knows you care about their well-being, you don’t need to coddle introverts if you cannot make reasonable accommodations. Introverts have spent a lot of time adapting to society, and introversion looks different for everyone.
As we shared, introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum. This is an important distinction for employers because each employee will react differently to such labels. For example, an employee might feel introverted during large social gatherings while being outspoken at work or school.
Employers should consider having a conversation with each worker in order to best manage and empower them. Approaching introversion with a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work. Introverts are varied, and they may need different areas of support at work.
Create a list of strategies you can use to engage introverts. Then, have a meeting with your employees who have identified as introverted. Walk through the list and determine which strategies appeal to each employee. What would they find most helpful? Each team member will likely pick a different approach. That’s the beauty and uniqueness of being an introvert at work.
Creating a space for introverts to thrive empowers your team
You cannot have an empowered team when potentially as many as half of your employees don’t feel comfortable being themselves. If empowering introverts is important to you and your bottom line, start by ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table. With the right strategies and a personalized approach, you can make sure your employees feel excited about working with your organization.