Learn to manage introverts

Managers and employees give advice on how to best work with introverts

By Erica Pierce

 

In a perfect world, everyone would be actively engaging in a plethora of conversations within the workplace. Realistically, we simply don’t live in a perfect world, especially in the workplace. Daily tasks become daunting ones due to communication concerns, lack of engagement, and simply not understanding there are different types of employees: introvert and extrovert.

What happens when it’s your responsibility to manage an introverted employee?

An introvert? Please explain.

Dictionary.com defines an introvert as, “a shy person.”

An introverted person is usually one who refuels by spending time alone. They often need moments of solitude and are reticent about their affairs, both from a personal and business standpoint. In the workplace, one who is introverted may use their alone time as a means of being more productive and/or creative. They may shy from others, eat alone, and may even seem to not be an active participant during meetings but introverts are active participants after all, says Amanda Lewis, marketing and promotions specialist at Radio One Indianapolis.

“Don’t completely count out an introverted person. They may have a more reserved demeanor than other employees, but you’d be surprised just how active they are,” she says.

There is a difference between what it means to actively participate when dealing with an introvert and extrovert. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World says introverts “are often misunderstood” and this lack of understanding can lead to misjudgment. The author notes active participation from an introverted person may be they are listening more than they are talking, but this doesn’t mean they are not engaged. They are merely attentive. When they do decide to speak, it’s certainly worth hearing because they’ve given it a considerable amount of thought.

Why does this matter?

This is a critical concept to understand especially for managers in the workplace for two key reasons: the well being of the employee and the well being of the workplace. Marcia Lewis, director of public housing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, explains how she manages introverted people in the workplace.

“I give them opportunities to recognize their own interests combined with their strengths. I give them informal opportunities to lead projects,” says Lewis. “I refer to them as ‘projects’ because they don’t want to be over other people. They work much better when they are put in charge of tasks they can do on an individual basis.”

Anna Duncan, U.S. Customs Purchase Card Program Supervisor, agrees with Lewis and adds that observing introverted employees is critical.

“Take the time to observe. Evaluate their strengths and play upon those,” she said.