Introversion in a workplace built for extroverts

Let’s get one thing out of the way: being introverted is not the same as being shy or socially awkward.

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October 16, 2021 · 3 min readQuiet Power

Introverts sometimes complain that the world was designed for extroverts, making it hard for introverts to perform at their best. If that’s the case, then businesses may need to change their practices in order to give their introverted employees the chance to shine.

Interested in what those changes might look like? Read on. This article will look at exactly what it means to be introverted in the workplace. It will also get into some specific steps that managers can take in order to make sure that businesses reap all the benefits of introverts in the workplace.

What exactly is an introvert?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: being introverted is not the same as being shy or socially awkward. Introversion refers to a style of thinking rather than to social ability. Introverts are oriented inward rather than outward. They form opinions and values based on their inner world of thoughts and feelings as opposed to their interactions with others.

Generally speaking, introverts at work are relatively withdrawn, reserved, and deliberate. They may take some time to think before answering questions, for example, and they may hesitate to reveal too much about themselves too quickly. Introverts often like to work independently, where they are free to think things through on their own without the immediate need to respond to other people’s input.

Challenges for introverts in the workplace

Communication challenges

Introverts can struggle to communicate in loud, hectic atmospheres. Think of a brainstorming meeting in a busy office—everyone is crowded around a table shouting out ideas and throwing out critiques of other people’s suggestions. 

‌That’s the kind of atmosphere that may suit an outgoing personality, but it’s going to make many introverts shrivel up and go mute. The pressure to reply quickly to a crowd can sap their creativity. And that’s a shame, because introverts can be incredibly creative people with a lot of great ideas to offer.

Managers might want to set up one-on-one meetings with their introverted employees so that they can benefit from their input. Small group meetings are another great way to spark conversation without making anyone feel drowned out.

Lack of mentorship

Managers and executives tend to be extroverted. So do many people in leadership positions around the world, according to the Meyers Briggs company. This means that it can be difficult for introverts to find good mentors who can teach them how to succeed as an introvert at work.

Of course, extroverts can successfully mentor introverts. But in many cases, extroverts may not understand the needs of their introverted employees. They may struggle to connect with them, or they may simply not realize that they are interested in being mentored. As a result, fewer introverts are taught the skills they need to move into leadership positions, which creates a vicious cycle.

It’s a good idea for managers to bring up mentoring and ask their introverted employees whether they are interested. Managers might want to discuss this during employee review meetings, or during a casual chat over coffee.

Final thoughts

Ironically, one of the best ways to improve things for introverts in the workplace is through increased contact. Instead of holding only big, loud meetings, managers should try to schedule many one-on-one or small group meetings. Casual meetings over coffee or tea are great ways to build connection, and so are video chats or text-based forms of communication.

The more channels of communication, the easier it will be for introverted employees to shine in the workplace.

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