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An Actionable Guide to Managing Introverts

Imagine a world where you're constantly discouraged from speaking too much or from talking too loudly. Imagine a work environment where socializing with others is actually seen as a distraction, rather than a source of energy and resourcefulness. What if success was determined based on your ability to build relationships through written communication, rather than speaking and networking? Would you feel out of your element? Would you be biting your tongue? Would you be compromising part of your personality to fit in?

This is how many introverts feel all the time. They are expected to change their inherent personality traits in order to earn respect and professional success. It is exhausting. As an introvert who loves leading teams with both extroverts and introverts, this is my actionable advice:

  1. Tell them that the fact they are introvert is valuable to the team/organization. This is so important. I once had a department head, who was known for her extroverted, positive, commanding personality, tell me that she admires my introverted traits. She told me that she was trying to break into the C-Suite, but it was hard because they were all introverts and she wasn't. Hearing her go on to say that my introverted personality would actually help me earn respect and success at a higher level of leadership was astounding. I'd never heard anyone say that before. Up until that day, I'd only ever been asked to change my personality to fit in. I've since left that company and industry, but the confidence I gained through that one conversation still motivates me.

  2. Offer multiple sources of feedback and ideas. The key here is that you cannot assume that someone does not have ideas to share, just because they did not voice them out loud. You will have employees that are totally out of their element in a 1:1 or team meeting, but if you ask them for feedback or ideas via online or written communication, they may have tons to offer. Writing ideas instead of speaking ideas does not make the ideas themselves any less valid.

  3. Create spaces where they can share their ideas with others, without getting bulldozed over or cut off. As a leader, it is your job responsibility to combat people who are cutting off introverts, even if they are doing so unintentionally. Something as simple as "Thank you [well intentioned person with a loud voice]. We will get back to that, but I want to make sure we also hear everything [introvert with great ideas] has to say," can go a long way.

  4. Do. Not. Ask. Them. To. Change. When I worked as a stock broker, I was constantly being told by my managers that if I wanted to be successful I would have to become an extrovert. There is a reason that Myers Briggs tests are split into I & E. Introverts exist. They are not going any where. Being an extrovert is not a job qualification. What I actually needed was someone to help me share my unique voice. Maybe the introvert on your team gets drained by your noisy co-working space. Is there a room they can check out to recharge? Maybe the introverts on your team don't know how to network in your organization. Is there a leader or IC you can introduce them to? Maybe the introverts on your team find it hard to share ideas in meetings. Can you help them learn to ask thoughtful questions in meetings as a way to show they are engaged and impactful?

For me, the golden rule of managing introverts is that you cannot assume that not speaking up in meetings translates to a lack of interest. You can, however, work with the introverts on your team to diversify your team's perspective and generate better results.

Top comments (8)

jogesh profile image

All very good points, these can help not just Extrovert managers but Introvert managers as well.

Many Introvert leads on their journey, start acting like Extroverts and when they manage teams they expect everyone to act extroverted because that is how world works. They know it from personal Success.

Everyone who leads should take pointers, thanks for the article.

baukereg profile image
Bauke Regnerus • Edited

"because that is how world works"

The western americanized world really. There are cultures where introspective thinkers are more appreciated.

tcgronk profile image

Thank you, that is definitely a good point and something I'd like to learn a lot more about.

tcgronk profile image

Thank you! You are so right! I definitely tried to be an extroverted manager in my first leadership role, but it came off as disingenuous.

scotthannen profile image
Scott Hannen

It's frustrating when a manager tries to push his or her style of communication on me. The worst is when they make me responsible for getting someone else to do something (instead of assigning a task directly to that person) and then tell me to bug that person repeatedly or even go stand behind them at their desk. That's not cool. (Maybe that doesn't even have anything to do with being an introvert. It's just stupid.) If you don't want to implement a sane task management system (or use the one you already have) and the best idea you can come up with is to go stand behind someone at their desk, that's awesome. Do it yourself.

tamouse profile image
Tamara Temple

Very good points. As a hard-over introvert, it can be difficult for people to manage me.

I'd also like to offer a resource: Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking that covers so much ground about introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, and even more. I found it a very meaningful read.

tcgronk profile image

Thanks so much for sharing! Ill have to check it out

gregorgonzalez profile image
Gregor Gonzalez

love this article. didn't know this was a thing. I like quiet spaces but if I have to be loud and extrovert I can do it without problem.

now my manager complains if you dont talk and relate with others quickly but also cimplains if you talk to your coworkers.

My manager is like:
"if you dont talk you are not good and not gonna fit and success"

and the same time:
"if you talks you are been lazy, not working at all and distracting others"