Getting the Most Out of Your Introverted Employees
Nerd. Recluse. Loner.
Over the years, these are all terms that have been applied to introverts – those people who are more likely to stay home on a Friday night with Netflix and a pizza, rather than heading out into the world for socializing and drinks.
The truth is, there are many variations of introverts, some of whom you would never even suspect as being just that. The classic definition of an extrovert vs. an introvert is that extroverts derive their energy from being around other people, while introverts derive theirs from being alone. It isn’t always that they can’t socialize, but rather that socializing takes a bit out of them – leaving them with a need for that alone time to recharge.
Which means that introverts tend to be the most productive when they are given some space to work independently.
In certain fields and positions, introverts can thrive – but in a work setting, they can also sometimes seem like the odd men (or women) out. Particularly when it comes to team-working projects and networking events.
So how do you get the most out of your introverted employees?
Understand It Isn’t About You
An introvert being less enthusiastic about socializing is not commentary on your personality – it’s simply a factor of them sometimes being more comfortable working solo. Don’t take this personally. Instead, recognize the benefits: an introverted employee is much less likely to waste work hours away chatting in the break room.
Communicate on Their Level
Plenty of introverts struggle with verbal communication. They do much better with e-mails and text messages, where they can think about their responses and aren’t forced to speak to people face to face about every minor issue that comes up. This is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to all your employees: pay attention to their preferred mode of communication, and accommodate that when possible.
Don’t Force Socializing
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with an introvert is trying to force them to be something they are not. If they aren’t in a position that requires routine in-person interactions in order to be successful, don’t place that expectation upon them. Team building exercises and company lunches can be great fun for your extroverted employees, but your introverts may grow weary if these become routine events they are expected to attend. Every once in a while is fine. They should be able to manage that. But every week? You’re probably pushing it.
Be Mindful of Appropriate Fits
Perhaps you have an assistant who is always providing top of the line work and seems to have a lot of potential for moving up the company ladder. But she also tends to keep to herself and seems to prefer to be given a list of tasks that she can then work through on her own. Be mindful of that, and don’t suggest her for a sales position that would require her to interface with clients for much of her day. Instead, pay attention to openings throughout the company that might be a better fit for an introvert, and talk to her about her goals as well.
There are wide variations in personality types, and not every introvert or extrovert you encounter will be the same. But it’s important to recognize the general differences that do exist, and to find ways to work well with all your employees – regardless of how introverted or extroverted they may be.
Just because your introverted employees work best on their own does not make them nerdy loners. But learning how to recognize their needs and provide space for them to be the most productive does make you a good leader.