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How managers can help introverts succeed at work

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2016-11-25

Being an introvert in an extrovert-dominated world can often be challenging, particularly in the workplace. In many organisations, introverts can become misunderstood and undervalued, overshadowed by their more extroverted colleagues.

For managers, this presents one of the more difficult aspects of leadership – trying to get the best out of the many different personality types in their teams. A good leader will want to make sure everyone in their team is treated fairly and given the same tools and opportunities to develop their career. So how can you make sure you’re helping the introverts in your team to succeed?

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If you’re a manager or team leader, it’s important that you know how to empower the introverts in your team, to achieve organisational goals and help each individual reach their full potential. Here are some practical steps you can take to help introverted employees succeed at work.

Allow Introverts Time to Prepare

Many introverts have an intense fear or dislike of public speaking, often feeling more comfortable and articulate when presenting their ideas on paper, rather than verbally. Having a meeting – or worse, a presentation – sprung on them at short notice can be quite terrifying, which may be hard for extroverted people to understand.

However, in most workplaces, team meetings are a part of everyday life. Having time to prepare for meetings or presentations will help introverted employees greatly.

By scheduling meetings in advance and letting teams know what’s on the agenda, you’re giving everyone time to think about the topics being discussed and process their own thoughts. This will also benefit the business by ensuring that employees are given the best opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with the group.

It’s not about pandering to the introverts in your team – it’s about showing your employees that you respect their individual work styles by running an effective meeting that will generate the best ideas and outcomes.

Encourage Introverts to Participate

Once you have your team gathered together in a meeting or brainstorming session, how can you be sure that the introverts in your group will share their voice?

For introverts, speaking up in group situations can be hard, especially when there are a lot of big personalities in the room who are more outspoken. Introverted team members will often sit back and listen, letting the extroverts run the show while keeping their ideas and opinions to themselves.

Susan Cain, author of bestselling book ‘Quiet’, believes that modern society dramatically undervalues introverts, losing much by doing so. She suggests a strategy for encouraging introverts to participate called the think-pair-share technique, which is more commonly used in classrooms but is very effective in the workplace.

Introduce a topic for discussion and ask team members to take some time to themselves to think about it, writing down their thoughts if they’d like to. Then divide the group into pairs to discuss their ideas one-on-one. After a few minutes, ask each pair to share their thoughts with the group.

Having some alone time to think and prepare before being asked to share with the group will make introverts feel more comfortable, prepared and ready to share their ideas with the team.

Create a Safe and Positive Work Culture

It seems that most modern workplaces are set up with extroverts in mind. Open plan offices, brainstorming sessions, constant collaboration, self-promotion… all of these things feel opposed to an introvert’s authentic self. Pushing against this every day can lead to many introverts experiencing burn out at work or low mental health.

It’s important to empower introverts by creating a safe, positive work culture in which they feel comfortable and supported. Even if this means doing things a little differently in your office. This will help bring out the best in introverted staff members, allowing them to contribute their best work for your organisation.

The most effective managers are those who take the time to understand how each individual works best. These leaders have the potential to change how we see introverts in the workplace and how they see themselves.

While these team members can sometimes come across as aloof or a little awkward at times, the introverted mind is responsible for many wonderful inventions, ideas and innovations in our world. They are often very hard-working, creative and loyal employees – they just need to be given the space and supportive work culture to show that.

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