Do you supervise individuals who would describe themselves as an introvert? If the answer is yes — you may want to take a moment to examine how you manage them. In many cases, we hold misconceptions about introversion which can lead to ill-fated supervisory decisions. I’d like to help.
While many people confuse being introverted with shyness, introversion is in fact, about how an individual handles stimulation and processes information. Those on the introverted end of the introversion/extroversion continuum, require a different set of workplace conditions to excel — and we need to become sensitive to their needs. Small changes in management and workplace elements, can transact into a more comfortable environment, which is conducive to success.
A few things to re-think:
- Putting them on the spot. It would be misguided to expect an opinion from an introvert at the “drop of the hat”. One hallmark of introversion is the need to sit with one’s thoughts and process information — often away from the “madding crowd”. If you offer an introvert a period of time to process, you’ll likely take full advantage of their skills and talent.
- Publicly recognizing them. Stop yourself. Really. Many introverts would rather jump off a cliff than have attention shifted in their direction without notice. If they are about to to receive an award or accolade, let them know what you are planning ahead of time. They’ll appreciate the gesture and have time to prepare.
- Teaming. It’s not that introverts are against teaming — they would just rather contribute on their own terms. This means time to ruminate over issues on the table and providing bit of a lull before they will jump into the conversation. To an introvert, teaming can become a bit of a workplace nightmare – in direct opposition to how they would normally approach their work. So, be sure to offer opportunities for introverts to start the idea generation process before team meetings are held and allow points in the conversation where they can jump in. (Try pausing 8-second before jumping to the next topic.)
- The power of a quiet space. You don’t have to necessarily be an introvert to appreciate a calm environment in which to process information. Incorporating spaces within your office design that allow for quiet and privacy, is always wise. (Read more about that here.) But, someone leaning toward the introverted side of the continuum, will be forever grateful.
- They have nothing to communicate. By nature introverts can be less likely to share their thoughts — which makes it even more important that you check in with them regularly. Send them an e-mail, asking how their projects are progressing. They can reflect and respond on their own terms.
- Introverts cannot lead. Truth be told, you are dead wrong here. Recent research has shown that those on the introverted side of the continuum, are more open to a differences in opinion than their extroverted colleagues. As a result, they are more likely to make more informed decisions. In fact, it has been shown their hesitancy to monopolize the conversation, can actually make them powerful team members. Sounds like leadership material to me.
Are you an introvert? What workplace conditions help you excel?