Your company has gone to great lengths to select the best possible candidates for each position. You likely analyzed data points such as experience, education, attitude and enthusiasm when making your hiring decisions, not minute details like introversion versus extroversion.
But, as a manager, knowing the personality types of your employees will help your team dynamics in many ways. If you understand the core traits of those you supervise, you can begin to understand what motivates them, what satisfies them with their work environment, and ultimately, what they need from you as a manager.
No matter your leadership style, managing introverts can seem tricky at first blush. Do you think you have an employee who is an introvert at your business and aren't sure how to be a successful leader to them? Here's a look at the traits that are common among introverts and the dos and don'ts to effectively manage an employee who is an introvert.
What Makes Someone an Introvert?
The concept of “introversion” versus “extroversion” was developed by famed psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s, and it’s been an influential theory ever since. There are many different traits of introverts, and of course, no two people are exactly the same. Overall, you can expect an introvert to be an individual who is “more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally,” according to Jennifer Casarella, MD.
Rather than choosing to spend their free time in large groups or crowds, introverts prefer being with just one or two others. Introverts are not inherently unsocial, but they are more energized when they have sufficient time alone to reflect.
The traits of introverts at work shape how they interact with their coworkers and managers, and even how they complete their projects. As we walk through the characteristics of the introvert at work, we’ll discuss some dos and don’ts for the effective supervision and management of these individuals.
Do: Allow Time to Reflect
According to Saul Mcleod, PhD, introverts are reserved, passive, and thoughtful. They also have “a preference to keep emotional states private.” As a result, introverts may contemplate answers to questions or solutions to problems in private and over a longer period of time.
As a manager, do your best to avoid the assumption that because they’re not jumping up with answers to questions in meetings (like their extroverted counterparts), they’re not trying to contribute to the team. Allow them time to consider an answer to a question and perhaps follow up with them in private after some time has passed.
Do: Allow Them to Access Their Analytical Strengths
Introverts are observant and analytical. They’re self-motivated and complete their assignments in a systematic way. When you assign a project to them, offer them all the data points available to you and let them get to work.
Introverts shine when they’re able to methodically and deliberately analyze a situation from many angles. Unlike extroverts, who can tend to be “big picture,” “big vision,” quick and intuitive thinkers, introverts like to soak in data and recommend a decision they feel is thought-through and truly the “right answer.”
When you do receive their end product, know that a lot of work has gone into a final recommendation or outcome. If you ask to hear about these methodologies, you’ll likely be thoroughly impressed.
Don’t: Put Them on the Spot as a Reward
Praise and validation feel good to everyone, but many introverts prefer to receive their thanks in private. While your extroverted employees may appreciate being stood up in front of their peers and applauded, introverts tend to shrink away from the spotlight.
Preferred ways to privately recognize the hard work and advancements of an introvert might be through a private email or instant messaging. If you really feel the need to deliver your praise publicly, avoid putting introverts on the spot in-person.
Consider, instead, a more muted method, such as a shoutout in a newsletter or a thank you to their team (without naming specific names). Describing their end product as a ”job well done” completed by their position and/or small group is a way to publicly recognize their work. Later, you can follow up with them one-on-one, in person to let them know their individual efforts are noticed and appreciated.
Do: Make Meetings Less Intimidating for Introverts
Introverts just don’t love big groups, but that can’t always be avoided when your team needs to have an all-hands-on-deck meeting. That said, there are ways you can make meetings a place where introverts can thrive.
While you can’t control how many people will be around, there are two simple things you can control - how well you prepare them for the meeting and make them feel welcome.
1. Help your introverted employees know what to expect.
Circulating an agenda beforehand is a great way to help your introverted employees mentally prepare for being in a room full of people. While some introverts may never want to speak up in a meeting, by sharing talking points beforehand, those who do wish to show their contributions by talking aloud can practice what to say and when to say it before joining. For introverts, preparedness translates to confidence and anything you can do to help them get to that point will work in everyone’s favor.
2. Make the meeting a place where introverts can feel welcome to share their thoughts.
Creating an environment of positivity during meetings can also help introverts. Discourage negative feedback that isn’t productive. If an introvert gains the confidence to speak up, thank them for their contributions, realizing that it may have taken a lot out of them to raise a point publicly. Doing so will give them an extra boost and encourage them to continue making strides toward public contributions in the future.
How to Engage Introverted (Remote) Workers
Introverts are a group that is energized by alone time and reflection, but this doesn’t mean they all want to work remotely all the time. In fact, in a recent survey of over 400 professionals discussed in the Wall Street Journal, 74% of introverts indicated they want to be in the office in a “hybrid” manner – meaning at least part of the time. Less than 25%, on the other hand, indicated they prefer fully remote work.
If you can, schedule some time in the office and offer to meet with your introverted team members one-on-one while you’re there. If remote work is your only option, consider creating small break-out groups who can meet over live video to go over the progress of a project or just connect casually.
During video meetings with introverts, practice the same style of management you would in person – allow them time to answer questions and reflect on which strategy to choose; help them prepare talking points in advance and put praise in writing versus shouting it all for all to hear. With a few thoughtful tweaks, any manager can be a great leader to an introvert.
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