I have been reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Introverts are people who recharge by spending time alone and need quiet time in order to succeed and be creative. According to best-selling author Susan Cain, more than one third of all people are introverted, yet our world operates as if we are all extroverted.
Our workplaces are made for the extrovert. Office furniture is positioned so employees can function as teams with little privacy. Companies have brainstorming sessions, but most ideas come from the loudest voice. Presentations are mandatory, regardless of skill set. A constant stream of interruptions is normal in offices and expected to be managed well.
For the introvert, this can cause stress and may lead to performance issues or burnout. As managers, we need to know our staff and help them reach their greatest potential. Here are some suggestions to help your “Quieter” team members:
1. Give Advance notice. Introverts prefer to prepare and think before speaking. An impromptu brainstorming session will not produce the results you want if part of your team is introverted. Prepare an agenda and communicate expectations. Allow time for preparation.
2. Use different communication techniques. In addition to meetings, ask for ideas in writing. Many introverts prefer to communicate non-verbally and this will allow a chance for their voices to be heard.
3. Encourage privacy. Offices today have open floor plans. This does not allow the introvert to have the quiet space needed to refocus and be productive. Encourage quiet atmospheres and if possible, provide space where employees can have a privacy break.
4. Consider work alternatives. If an introverted employee is in the middle of a big project, be flexible. They may be more effective working from home or a different environment.
5. Listen. Introverts need time to reflect while they respond. An extroverted manager may get inpatient with this, but it is important not to interrupt their response. Just listen.
Introverts add significant value to every workplace. Their differences need to be respected and celebrated. If you need convincing of the value of introversion in business, just look to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Apple’s Steve Wozniak.