Managing Introverts

Being introverted does not necessarily mean lacking in confidence, but historically extroverts have loudly assumed that not pushing in to speak first and needing to talk through every task is somehow a lack of confidence. It’s not, it’s just a different way of processing information and communicating.

Nowdays, most organisations recognise the value introverts bring to teams. In fast-paced work environments introverts can be a vital source of calm and rational problem solving. Every team or collective needs a balance of personalities, skills and experiences and personal goals. Just as every team needs a healthy dose of introverts and extroverts.

It is estimated that 50% of the population are introverts. However, many people force themselves to become extroverted in early adulthood to fit in to social circles and get ahead in the workplace. This means that some of your team or peers who are fantastic in a customer facing role, confident and energetic might also respond well to introvert friendly work tasks and activities.

So how can you find out if someone you manage is naturally introverted? Try out different ways to inform, communicate, reflect and reward. Do this with your team, as a whole group and as individuals. Watch how people respond and make a note of your team’s individual comfort levels then tailor your management style to suit their needs. Most people have a healthy dose of introvertism and extrovertism, but when you need to get through to people you need to play to their comfort zones. Learn people’s language and miscommunication issues will melt away.

Here are some tips for managing introverts:

Introverts may respond better to detail oriented activities which give them time to reflect before engaging.

Introverts may prefer problem solving tasks that need to be worked through quietly and without distraction.

Introverts often prefer the opportunity to plan for meetings and events and contribute to the agenda in advance.

Introverts might also respond better to email requests rather than instructions shouted across the office or thrown down on their desk when you’re passing through.

Introverts like 1-1, meaningful contact with colleagues and bosses and can struggle in noisy, chaotic work environments dominated by loud extroverts.

Introverts may find it harder to join the group on nights out or need a social lubricant to let loose and relax. So try team building activties tha involve games or problem solving instead of the pub to take the pressure off having to fight extroverts for the talking stick.

In the words of a recent coaching client, “I can’t believe it, what you have told me [about how to manage introverts] is like being given the answers to a test!”

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