How to create a dynamic workplace with introverted people

For most organizations, creating a dynamic workplace is essential in boosting collaboration and communication.

Written by Bruna Martinuzzi
Published 09 August 2018
How to create a dynamic workplace with introverted people
But, how can you achieve this when "getting involved" is simply not everyone's "cup of tea"? How can you help introverted members of your team to really shine? And encourage them to work effectively alongside their more extroverted counterparts? As a HR or L&D professional, you're in an ideal position to help draw out introverts, leverage their strengths, and help them to get more involved in the organization, on their terms.

What Is introversion?

But, to do this, you need to know exactly what introversion is and how it can affect people's behavior. First, familiarize yourself with the various components of introversion as defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You might also like to use other personality tests to do this, such as The Big Five Personality Traits Model.

But, remember, just as a diamond has many facets, so do introverted people. In fact, there are five key facets . they might display:
  1. Receiving (low key approach, reserved)
  2. Contained (controlled demeanor, harder to know, private)
  3. Intimate (prefers one-on-one interactions, seeks intimacy)
  4. Reflective (onlooker, prefers a quiet space to think, read, and write)
  5. Quiet (calm disposition, values solitude, seeks the background rather than the spotlight).

Not every introverted person will display all five of these facets. For example, some may be at ease actively participating in events, while others may prefer to observe them quietly. Or, they might be quite talkative, instead of contained, especially if they know the topic that's being discussed well.

Taking the time to understand the individual personality quirks of the more introverted members of your team will enable you to adapt and plan your team activities so that they can be enjoyed by all. And it will help avoid their work getting overshadowed by louder, more extroverted team members. Thus enabling you to reward and recognize good work where it's due.

Educating yourself and other people in your organization on introversion can also help to create a greater understanding between team members. This, in turn, can build rapport and boost communication. For example, if an introverted person doesn't speak up in a meeting or share their thoughts right away, it doesn't mean that they aren't a good team player. Chances are, it's just because they like to process information internally before sharing it. This allows them to produce clearer, fully formed ideas. In contrast, a more extroverted person will likely have the confidence to speak while they think.

How to help introverted people shine

So what you can you do to get the most out of the introverts on your team?

1. Encourage openness

An introverted team member who prefers receiving rather than initiating contact may tend to wait for others to approach them. They may also have difficulty making colleagues who do want to talk to them feel comfortable.

One solution is to work on their approachability. This could be as simple as putting aside what they're working on when a colleague comes over to their desk or using positive body language. For example, turning toward the person who's addressing them and maintaining good eye contact. After all, our eyes are one of the most important communication technologies that we have at our disposal.

So, it's essential that we use them! A good way of encouraging this is to get your team member to take a moment to note the color of the other person's eyes. This will help them to establish a better connection and build rapport. A smile also goes a long way! As writer and introversion expert Evelyn Marinoff puts it in her article, An Introvert's 5 Tips for Career Success, "Smiling can help us introverts to appear more approachable, social, and upbeat... It's pretty easy too - "it's just a matter of practice."

2. Get them to share interesting information

Your team member may be an expert in a particular field, making them a valuable source of information. The trouble is, how can anyone benefit if they find it hard to share this information publicly? Introverts don't always need to speak up to be heard.

If you think they have something valuable to contribute, but they don't like talking in public, ask them to write up their thoughts in a document or email. Alternatively, you could help them to organize their thoughts and ideas by creating a checklist of the information that they think the rest of the team would benefit from. And go over this checklist in your next team meeting.

3. Make it easy for people to get to know each other

Another facet of introversion is being "contained." (That is, not speaking up as much, or being shy and quiet.) One of the side effects of this, however, is that other people may find it difficult to get to know their introverted colleagues, and vice versa. While social events can help here, it's important to remember that most introverts prefer to avoid socializing in large groups.

Try to make social events more intimate and casual. For example, you could host a workshop, a video games evening, a movie night, or have regular team lunches. Running fun, team-building activities can also help to break the ice. You could, for instance, have each employee bring in a photo of themselves as a child. Display these as a collage in a central location within the office and announce that there will be prizes for those who can correctly guess who's who the most. Imagine photos of the head of accounting playing with a sand bucket on a beach or the manager of marketing hopscotching. You get the idea!

4. Help introverts to explain their thinking

Introverted people's reluctance to speak up can make it hard for them to share the thinking process behind a particular decision. But this can mean that the rest of the team are left misinformed or confused.

I once worked on a team where we debated a critical decision at great length in several team meetings. When we came close to making a final decision, a key member of the team who had been mostly quiet up until then told us why our course of action wouldn't work. His explanation was valid and caused us to abandon our plans.

When asked why he hadn't expressed his opinion earlier, he said: "I had not fully thought it out yet in my mind." He had thought of the idea early on, but hadn't formulated the concrete reasons needed to support his thinking. In other words, he hadn't worked out how to clearly express his opinion. He was showing a classic trait of introversion. That is withholding critical information, in favor of giving a lengthier, well-thought-out answer.

Stress the importance of teamwork here. Show your team member that being a minimalist when it comes to sharing information can confuse other people and frustrate them. Coach them to raise their own self-awareness. For example:
  • What was their reason(s) for making the decision?
  • What were the pros and cons?
  • How did they weigh up the evidence?
  • Did they consider any alternatives?
  • What are their feelings behind the decision?
Doing this will help them to clarify their thinking, and share it with others in a way that's easy to understand. If they're uncomfortable verbalizing their response, encourage them to document their decision-making process and to share it with others. Not only will this will help them to contribute to the team, it will also demonstrate to others that they are a team player.

5. Provide training on team dynamics

Introverts can find it hard to work with other people, not because they are being rude, but because they don't feel confident starting conversations with people they don't know well. But, the ability to work well in teams is essential if you want to make good decisions, collaborate, or explore creative solutions.

One of the best ways to help an introvert to work better in teams is to educate them on the group dynamics at play and the strategies that they can use to encourage positive dynamics. To achieve this, all members of the group need to demonstrate certain behaviors. In particular, they need to provide social and emotional support to the other groups members.

They could do this by, for instance, expressing their appreciation for one another. However, an introvert may not feel comfortable expressing their gratitude, even though they are. If this is the case, explain to them why giving praise is so important. Encourage them to express their appreciation by email or one-on-one (if they aren't comfortable doing so in a group setting).

6. Re-think presentations and brainstorming meetings

Most jobs will likely require an element of public speaking at some stage. This might involve giving project status updates in team meetings or presenting a new strategy. While overcoming presentation nerves is difficult for most people, it can be particularly taxing for introverts. And may not help them to showcase their best thinking.

One solution you could explore is using team collaboration apps such as Slack or Glip. These can be particularly helpful for introverts who are prefer to communicate in writing rather than face to face. You could also consider using more comfortable communication channels that enable people to share their creative ideas. For example, you could host brainstorming sessions through digital sharing services, such as IdeaBoardz, Stormboards or RealTimeBoard.

7. Strive to keep teams small

Generally, introverted people are more comfortable working in smaller teams. While there is no conclusive evidence on what constitutes the optimal team size, research has shown that smaller teams result in better teamwork, for both introverts and extroverts. If you can, consider splitting larger projects across several small teams, rather than giving it all to a single large one. This will enable introverted people to forge stronger bonds with their colleagues and promote closer communication.  

Have you ever managed an introverted person? Or would you consider yourself to be introverted? What are the pros and what are the cons of being introverted? And how have you overcome the challenges involved? Share your thoughts below.

About the author

Bruna Martinuzzi

Bruna Martinuzzi

Freelance Writer
Bruna is a coach, trainer and author, and has been contributing articles and blogs since 2014. Her background incorporates 30 years of experience in management and executive leadership positions. She has helped thousands of individuals improve their presentation skills and become more effective communicators.

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