For Managers: Who are Introverts and How to Deal with them at the Workplace?

In my last office, there used to be a girl always focused and busy in her work. I never saw her taking part in the regular conversations and bragging about her work as other colleagues in my team used to do.

Despite her silence, there was something so attractive about the girl which I was curious to learn. Why was she so quiet? Why she never says, “Sir, you asked me to place the dot in the sheet, see I have now done it twice and it’s looking so good now.” Why?

But whenever I asked her for help, she offered me more than she can do. And her performance was always above the average. At the same time, I don’t like the people gossiping about her introversion and labeled it as an attitude problem. Yes, Introversion!

It’s a quite common concept outside Pakistan but in Pakistan’s corporate culture it’s taken as someone who is a misfit at the workplace and has a lack of communication skills.

Which of course, isn’t true! 

Introverts are the strength of your organization. They might not take part in the routine conversations but they are super-focused on their work because they want their work to speak for them. They may have problems in communicating with people because some of them can best describe their points in writing. But if you try to engage them in deep conversations, you’ll find them winning the situation.

Every workplace has few introverts but our organizations don’t nurture their strengths and their morale by not involving them in group activities and taking their introversion as incompetency.

So, if your workplace has introverts and you’re finding it challenging to work with them, here are some tips to involve them in your office culture.

1.   Let Them Be Themselves

The worst thing you do to an introvert is forcing them to talk and take part in social activities. They are already in the guilt of not speaking enough. Your forceful attitude can frustrate them. So, try to accept the way they are. When they have already accepted the extroverts around them, so they should also deserve the same.

2.   Don’t Show Up on their Desk

Introverts hate it when you suddenly show up on their desks and ask for their feedback. They will only say a word or two in return. And their body language will tell you that they want to avoid your presence.

It’s better to message them and ask about their opinion, they will give you a better reply in return. It’s because they need time to think about your question and when you give them time, you become their best manager to follow.

And trust me, you’ll be glad to hear their feedback as they’ll cover the comprehensive details, the ins, and outs along with reasons. 

3.   Don’t Assume

Just because introverts don’t smile when you entered in and they are not the conversation starter, don’t assume that they don’t want to talk or they are in a bad mood. Or they have some sort of attitude problems. This is usually not the case.

When they are working, they give all their attention to that specific task. While focusing, they hardly notice the happenings in the surroundings. But they are the most dedicated resource of your team, try engaging them in a one-to-one conversation and see how they interact better with you.

4.   Design Workplace Considering Them

Introverts have many problems working in an open environment. They are distracted by the routine conversations, and the opening and shutting of the door and someone speaking loudly while they are working. It breaks their focus especially when people subject them to talk, it becomes hard to take part in the conversation. And they become the center of attention for saying nothing.

I remembered my first workplace was so extrovertedly designed that the managers used to take inputs from everyone and skipped me because he thought that I wasn’t capable enough. Inside I was preparing a constructive answer to his question, but it never comes up because for him I was less interested in the role. More activities like these shattered my confidence and I started taking myself as someone who is unwanted in the office. But I used to cover this thing by giving more than 100% in my work. And that’s how I used to survive my jobs in the open workplace.

Introverts love the perks of working from home, so if possible try adding this one perk for them.

5.   Be their Voice

You will never find introverts promoting themselves. So, they will like it when you give them their space, respect their silence and give them time to think, plan and prepare. Most of the workplaces don’t reward them for their efforts because they don’t speak about it. That’s the biggest flaw of being an introvert in an extroverted office.

So, if you notice that your introvert employee is doing good efforts, do reward and recognize it and don’t wait for them to ask about it.

Remember that introverts aren’t shy, they just don’t want to be the center of attention. They are comfortable with their thoughts, small and peaceful space and love to involve in deep conversations. They can be your most loyal employees only if you try to give them the comfort and space they desire.

These are some signs of introverts which will help you to recognize them:

  • They don’t want to be the center of attention.
  • They are easily distracted by the noise.
  • They speak less or only speak when it’s required.
  • They give straightforward answers.
  • They avoid networking.
  • They are better writers. 
  • They give better feedback when you ask them one-to-one.
  • They like to work solo.
  • They are great observers.

These are some of the prominent signs of Introverts at the workplace. If you want to learn more about Introverts, I would recommend you to read Susan Cain’s Book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

With that in mind, next time you meet an introvert in your office, be nice to them and respect their space.

I would also love to know how you deal with introverts in your office or any experience you have with introverts.