Introverts in the Workplace: How to Foster Engagement

Introverts are often observant and insightful, but extroverts tend to shine more radiantly because of their tendency to engage directly with people. If you’re chairing a meeting or involved in an intense team discussion, you’re more likely to hear from extroverts, who talk easily and gregariously. Introverts, who are quiet and tend to feel uncomfortable in large groups, may shrink from comment and engagement in these settings.

Introverts are quiet; extroverts love to talk in groups.

But, don’t rule introverts out because you don’t see them engage in group settings. Introverts can be very valuable in business.

They tend to listen carefully and think about what’s being said. This enables them to analyze situations and decisions in more details than many extroverts do. Analysis and good thinking are valuable traits.

They do very well in situations where listening and response to needs are required. It may seem counterintuitive, but introverts can make great salespeople. They may listen more thoughtfully to what customers are telling them. Sheer gregariousness will only get you so far.

Because introverts’ quietness may make them less visible in corporate settings, you need to have a talent management plan to make sure their contributions can be maximized. Here are some best practices.

  1. Identify their behaviors. Introverts are quiet and reserved. If they are quiet in groups or you see them sitting alone, don’t assume a lack of engagement or disconnect. It could be anything but. They need to be alone to recharge because a lot of engagement can be draining to them.
  2. Give them time. Because introverts think matters through and analyze, you may not always hear their best feedback in off-the-cuff sessions. Ask specifically for follow-up thoughts the next day after a freewheeling discussion or lively meeting. Remember, just because they are quiet doesn’t mean they have nothing to say.
  3. Let them plan. Introverts are planners. They tend to like to plan around business events with large groups, just because of the energy drain issue. For meetings and conferences, circulate an agenda beforehand. Introverts like to know when they can have 10 minutes in the atrium with a cup of coffee. It energizes them to know these moments will occur.
  4. Match them to projects that fit their strengths. So, analysis, planning, thoughtfulness…A key part of exercising good business leadership for an introvert is providing them with opportunities to display those qualities for the company’s benefit. So does a five-year plan needs to be developed? Give it to your best introvert. Does a white paper on a burning issue facing your sector need to be created? That’s an introvert’s job.
  5. Get one-on-one feedback. Introverts shy away from large groups, but their feedback and perceptions are worth eliciting. Make plans to get one-on-one feedback from your team on new goals, objectives, and market conditions. That way, you’ll hear the introvert’s best thoughts.

Introverts won’t necessarily come to the fore in groups, but they are analytical, thoughtful, and listen to people. The steps above will help you get the best engagement and work from the introverts on your team.