Is your organization missing out in harnessing the talents of shy introverts? Do you know how to draw out introverted employees and help them expand their horizons? How many of your employees are team players or "mavericks" and how many are introverted?
Dennis overheard Louise, a colleague, talking negatively to his boss about his work capabilities. Dennis has often thought that Louise, who is an older woman, may feel threatened by him, although she has never said anything to him directly. Dennis is an excellent worker and well respected by people within the company; Dennis is also a shy introvert. Louise is well-liked, always dresses neat and polished, is a good presenter, and takes time to get to know the company's employees and clients. Based on this, Dennis asked himself, "How valuable am I to the company?"
In the talent wars, employers look for the skills, talents, and abilities both inside and outside of their organizations. However, in a world where a worker is not always correctly matched to his or her job, many introverts find themselves in positions that are not comfortable for them. Introverts have a lot to offer employers but introversion still carries a stigma in the workplace. Introverts bring with them traits that aren't always obvious. Managers need to recognize and encourage their shy or introverted employees. For many employees, their shyness can keep them from participating actively or contributing all they could in their work environment.
What managers do not always recognize are that employees who are shy introverts may have the preferred skills, talents, and abilities for which the company is looking. The challenge is getting these shy, introverted individuals to reach their potential and go beyond where they are currently. Also, many introverted managers have a difficult time articulating what they want or what needs to be done. This demonstrates that the managers need to understand more about their employees and co-workers.
Everyone is suited for at least one occupation or job where they feel comfortable and satisfied. If you need work done on your car, you go to an auto mechanic. If you need an accountant, you go to a CPA. You would not take your car to a CPA or hire an auto mechanic to prepare your taxes. The same goes for a shy introverted employee in any level of an organization from entry level all the way to the CEO. They need to fit in a job/career where they can effectively use their skills, talents, and abilities. Shy introverts want to move up in their organization, but may find their shyness as a barrier to getting promoted.
When thinking about a position to be filled, why not look at a shy introvert for the job? As a manager, recognize and encourage shy, introverted employees to contribute gradually by asking questions. The first hurdle for employers is to recognize who the shy introverts are. Managers also need to recognize how their introvert employee works best. Why not use a brainstorming session and have all employees say something about the challenge you are having?
Introverts tend to be calm and reserved, speak softly and slowly, don't seek the limelight, and act only after thinking their thoughts through. Those characteristics often mask their strengths: creativity, intellectual depth, and the ability to see the big picture, maintain an organization's internal compass, and balance out the go-getters in the organization.
Introverted employees who recognize their own potential do not think that others see it in them. These same quiet employees can be more visible, viable, and recognized members of the work community. There are some employees who are or might be natural leaders. But with shy introverts, you can't expect them to be able give a presentation to a group of people. Instead, as managers, you need to ask them what they do, what they do well, and what they would like to do. These questions will give you a better idea of who this person is and how much contact they want with other people. In reality, you need to give some challenges to your shy, introverted employees to help them start breaking out of their shells.
Shy introverts are more productive when they work independently, not with others. They typically work best when given structured tasks with specific instructions and a specific deadline. Gradually, put your introverted employees in important roles that make them visible.
Managers also need to look at how they communicate with shy introverts. In most cases, their employee will not ask questions. Instead, use emails or memos. Shy introverts are not very keen on speaking, whether it is by phone or one-on-one with a superior. Do not assume or expect that your employee can or should become an outgoing person overnight. Most importantly, do not put a shy introvert "on the spot." They need time to think and then speak their mind regarding an idea or a decision.
As an example, meetings in the workplace are typically dominated by extroverts. As a manager, you need to give everyone an opportunity to speak their minds. Remember, your shy introverted employees need time to process what they heard and then think of what they want to say as a response. Quiet thinkers analyze ideas and this gives them a chance to think about giving their decision on issues of importance to them. Be sure to encourage them to add their ideas during the meeting and let them know it is also OK to email ideas and thoughts after the meeting (within a reasonable amount of time).
As you monitor their work, encourage them to ask questions about their work and give compliments or praise, as this helps with confidence building. Allow them to show their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
Remember, not all shy introverts want to be in the limelight. However, by being able to recognize the shy introverts in your organization, and ask them questions and get them to let you know what they want and can achieve, you will find that you already have the skilled workers that you need to move your organization forward for it to become the best it can be - you just need to nurture your talent.