How introverts can succeed in the workplace

Employers should think about whether meeting or discussion formats are working for the introverts among their staff

Even if you’re not the loudest in the office, you can still be heard.

Everyone has days when they would prefer not to be involved in office chit chat and when continuous meetings bring a sense of dread. But for the introverts among us, the need for constant interaction can be not only draining, but can also hamper productivity.
Unfortunately, the business world typically favours extroverts – those who gain energy from other people and are happy to direct it back. On the flip side, introverts are typically shy, producing their best work most happily when they are alone. For those individuals, the need for constant interaction with others can be a day-to-day struggle.
But why should the definition of a “winning” personality only apply to extroverts? The tides may be changing. The recent best-selling book by Susan Cain, Quiet, celebrates introversion and aims rebalance our perceptions of it both socially, and in the workplace. Here are some lessons that both introverts and their bosses can learn about how to make sure they get equal billing.

UNDERSTANDING INTROVERTS

It’s important for leaders to set a precedent that it is not only the extroverts who get ahead. Identifying and understanding the needs of introverts is vital in getting the most out of an entire team.
As our offices become increasingly open plan and centred around boosting social interaction, the workplace can be a minefield for people that like to work independently. Introverts are most productive in solitude, and the quality of their work will suffer if they can’t get away from busy areas. Importantly, they should be encouraged to use meeting rooms and quiet spots and not feel isolated as a result.
Similarly, brainstorming and group projects are not the only way to produce creative work. These situations tend to favour the loud and the bold, while introverts struggle to get a word in.
Team leaders should be careful to create an environment that encourages people to share their thinking independently, and doesn’t depend solely on speaking up in a group scenario.

SUCCEEDING AS AN INTROVERT

Introverts are not destined to fall behind in the workplace. But the reality is that they may have to make more of an effort to establish an environment that works for them.
Indeed, extroverts can work alongside introverts – and the latter can make great leaders in teams of outgoing colleagues. Their ability to listen and quietly process information is crucial in managing pro-active individuals and implementing the ideas of others comes naturally to them.
Introverts can also build a network in a way that suits them. Those who market themselves aggressively at events may end up with the fattest contact books, but introverts can get around this by setting up one-to-one meetings. The likelihood is that the quality of the relationship will be stronger for it.
Of course, in any workplace, some interaction is useful, so by learning how to manage their own need for solitude without isolating themselves, the quality of an introvert’s working life should improve.

A new way to communicate

Free
Slack is “team communication for the 21st Century,” and it’s been suggested that it could kill off email. However, it could also be a clever tool for introverts to communicate more effectively in group environments.
Allowing “real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams,” it enables group discussion without the need for face-to-face meetings.
It could even provide an way for introverts to offer up their ideas when they would normally stay quiet.

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