In a leadership role, it's your job to manage different personalities and encourage workers to use their strengths. Introverted employees bring many valuable qualities to the workforce, and it's counterproductive to try and force people who are quiet or reserved to act against their natural character. Instead of underestimating introverted employees, build close, supportive relationships with these independent workers to find out how their diverse skills can propel your team.
1. Communicate One on One, and Avoid Character Assumptions
Too often, managers make assumptions about the way introverted employees think and behave. Just like any other personality type, introverts come in many varieties. Some are shy and anxious around new people. Others are confident go-getters who value alone time and personal reflection. Many are talkative and social once you hit upon the right topic. Talking to employees about their needs, goals and interests is the best way to distinguish one introvert from another, and managers who make the effort are often rewarded with attentiveness and loyalty.
If you struggle to find people to promote, you may be overlooking introverted employees because you assume they're too shy to lead. Many introverts are naturally introspective and bring sharp analytical skills and emotional intelligence to the table. When you notice introverts who are good at listening to others, solving problems or managing projects, find out if they're interested in leadership roles and offer mentoring.
2. Offer Support, But Be Respectful of Personal Space and Work Styles
Sometimes, introverted employees get a reputation for being aloof or unfriendly. In reality, many introverts have a smaller threshold for social interaction and crave solitude when they're focused on a task. Don't take it personally if introverted employees prefer remote communications or retreat to quiet workspaces for long periods.
Make it clear that you're available when workers have questions or need a sounding board, but resist the urge to hover or constantly probe for updates. Ask employees how and when they prefer to communicate. Agreeing on checkpoints can reduce anxiety on both sides, especially for workers who simply like to be prepared and thorough when you meet up.
3. Be Clear About Expectations, and Praise Independent Thinking
Introverted employees tend to excel at self-guided jobs in which they have space and autonomy. As a result, introverts in collaborative environments often get labeled as anti-social or negative for thinking differently and going against popular ideas. Yet, managers shouldn't be quick to dismiss creative, independent thinkers as dissenters.
Employees with diverse personalities and perspectives help your team develop stronger ideas and look at problems from many angles. Instead of silencing introverts when they speak up, praise them for expressing fresh opinions. Set expectations for your entire team, encouraging them to present arguments respectfully and listen to others. Creating a fair, open-minded environment makes it easier for introverted employees to feel comfortable contributing to discussions.
Leveraging the unique value of the workforce is at the core of every manager's job, so you should bring a constructive mindset to all work relationships. Introverted employees are just as engaged and productive as other workers, especially when they have good leadership. Given equal support and opportunities, those quiet workers plugging away in their offices might be your company's next crop of great managers.
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