In any work place, employee work styles can vary dramatically. Some staff may be vocal and exude a determination that cannot fail to catch a manager’s attention. But others – the introverts at work – can be quietly productive, never seeking any attention. Knowing how to make the most of these silent members’ potential can be hugely beneficial.
Exactly how many different personality types there are in the office can vary, depending on where you get your information. But according to the book Personality Style at Work, the range can be broken down to 4 key types:
- the Direct
- the Spirited
- the Considerate
- the Systematic
The last group, according to the author, Kate Ward, tends to like to work quietly, with minimal small talk and focused conversations.
Problems arise when managers apply a standard style across the board, expecting everyone to perform in exactly the same way and fail to understand – or even acknowledge – the differing traits their own employees have. This can impact directly on employee engagement levels, and as their sense that they are valued falls such key aspects as performance, productivity and commitment can fall too.
Given the number of professionals who consider themselves introverts, this is a significant issue. In fact, according to a 1996 study by the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, the number is extremely high, representing about 50% of Americans.
And they are not necessarily business lightweights. Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Larry Page of Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook all describe themselves as an introvert, while research from the University of Pennsylvania suggest introverted leaders deliver better outcomes.
So, how can you get the best from introverts at work and tap into the silent potential hidden from view? We have put together a few pointers to help you do so.
4 Ways To Get The Best From Introverts
- Observe, Listen and Learn
- Create Quiet Work Spaces
- Arrange Informal Meetings
- Offer Discreet Praise
It might not seem like a pro-active solution to getting the best out of introverts at work, but the key is in understanding your employees. The best way to accomplish this is to dedicate some time to see how your employees work naturally. See whether they are more productive working quietly away from the office hustle and bustle. Are they talkative? Do they prefer one-to-one conversations focused on specific topics? Or do they appreciate small talk, that informal chit-chat that’s generally believed to build closer working relationships.
Once you have ascertained the answer to these questions, you can develop a more fruitful management strategy. And when you understand how to encourage each staff member individually, employee engagement levels amongst introverts will rise.
Studies show that introverts flourish in quiet work environments. So, it pays to provide exactly that. It could be a rarely-used conference room or a corner office that is located furthest from the ‘office traffic’. It doesn’t have to mean a total segregation, of course, since this is something that could be damaging to a team’s overall performance. But it would provide an introvert at work with a place to retreat from noise, focus more precisely, and increase their productivity.
Generally, introverts do not see meetings as highlights of their working day. Their quietness around the table makes it seem they’re either not interested or have no ideas to contribute – but both assumptions can be very wrong. Introverts can be highly imaginative and insightful but are very unlikely to voice their opinions in front of a crowd. And if you wish to query project decisions, singling them out with questions in front of the group is not going to get the best response. For this reason, it’s a good idea to speak with them in more informal settings, preferably a one-to-one meeting. Visit them in their office or take them for a coffee and simply chat about the issues at hand. Both questions can be direct, so it will take a fraction of the meeting time anyway.
Just because introverts at work are not willing to talk up their contributions doesn’t mean they expect no recognition at all. It’s important they are made to feel as important to the team as everyone else, and that their good work is known. At the same time, they don’t like a fuss to be made. A workable balance is to highlight the positive contribution made in project updates via email. That way, the action is not done in front of a crowd, but their involvement is clearly stated.