Introverts Rock …Quietly

Yin and yang, black and white, introvert and extravert. The world needs balance. For every chatterbox there needs to be a listener. For every calm, reserved person there needs to be an enthusiast.

The personality dichotomy of introversion or extraversion accounts for 36% of your personality makeup. It is true and noteworthy that everyone possesses characteristics of both, but you prefer one over the other and you communicate and behave more naturally one way than the other.

Work environments have personalities just like people. Certain careers are often more representative of one trait over the other. Whereas sales, marketing, advertising and training departments are riff with extraverts, the balance comes in the accounting, IT and engineering segments.

Pat arrives at work everyday, on time. She says good morning to the receptionist, nods to the odd person she passes in the hallway, usually takes half an hour for lunch at her desk and works diligently all day. She seldom if ever makes personal calls. She checks her email regularly and reads the newspaper on line. Then she goes home.

Chris comes to work everyday. He chats with the receptionist on the way in, stops by the lunchroom to see whose there, goes out of his way to pass by the new person’s desk to ask how their evening was and then gets to work. Chris looks for excuses throughout the day to get up and wander around. He chats with colleagues about the news of the day, finds a lunch buddy or group and looks for a partner in crime to go out with after work, He too is a diligent, albeit, somewhat energetic employee.

Introverted employees like Pat have a lot to offer an organization, and their managers and colleagues need to understand how they function and how best to incorporate their talents into the company goals and mandates. When an employee is reserved, speaks softly and slowly and doesn’t seek the limelight they can easily be passed over for promotions. Those characteristics often mask introverts’ strengths and the balance they bring to a company.

Extraverts are more obvious, as are their skills, and they are more ‘in your face.’ In a world of Type A corporate climbers, expressing introverted behaviour and communication styles isn’t a great way to climb the corporate ladder.

To get the most out of introverted employees:

  • Greet them daily and ask them how they are and what’s new
  • Ask open ended questions – words that start with what, where, when, who, which, how and tell me about
  • Engage them one on one away from distractions
  • Ask their opinions without giving out multiple choice answers
  • Prepare agendas for meetings at least two days before a meeting so they have time to think about each point
  • Assign tasks that involve few meetings or committees
  • Communicate as often as possible by email; introverts will write an epistle of copy but verbally may answer only with a sentence
  • Ape or mirror their demeanor. Bouncing into their work space like Tigger before a picnic will turn introverts right off
  • Ask if now is a good time to meet or chat (you should ask everyone this question)
  • Ask how much time they need to get back to you on a request you’re making. Introverts need time to process their thinking.
  • Ask them to join you for lunch, not the group of six you usually go out with
  • In meetings, go around the table to hear opinions and never start with an introvert
  • Tell an introvert ahead of time that you are going to acknowledge their accomplishment to others. If they will be required to speak, tell them ahead of time
  • Give lots of lead time to prepare for presentations or public speaking
  • In a committee, assign work they can do on their own – research, data entry, design, construction, writing, minute taking. Save the registration desk and fund raising for the extraverts.

Extraverts draw energy from the external world whereas introverts get their energy from within, which is extremely draining to them. To make the most of the talent in your organization, learn to tap into the introvert advantage. Adjust your thinking and strategies to reflect and include those employees who aren’t seeking the bright lights.

At the same time the introverts have to do their share too. I coach my clients to help the extraverts to get to know you by increasing your visibility. Draw attention to yourself so as to bring people to you rather than you having to seek out others.

  • Display a captivating piece of art or a photograph in your work place that will encourage passersby to ask about it. One client put up a picture of Lady Gaga that drew crowds, Gaga was such an unlikely interest.
  • Carry a colorful or catchy mug around the office, “I’m naked so I’m the boss” is my favorite.
  • Wear a piece of jewellery, cool shoes, a tie or suspenders, or a hair ornament that becomes your signature statement.
  • Let others get to know something personal about you.
  • Display or carry books that evoke conversation.
  • Ask a colleague a day about themselves.
  • Volunteer to sit on a committee, a small committee.
  • Offer to write an article for the company website or weekly blog page or newsletter.
  • Share a hobby with your colleagues by teaching them.
  • Start a book club or chess club, any club of interest to you.
  • Attend in house professional development seminars.
  • Don’t slouch in your chair.
  • Take the long way to the washroom; vary your route.

Take ‘stepping out’ one step at a time. Everything gets easier with practice. Remember, introverts rock, they just rock softly!

Colleen Clarke
October 30, 2014

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