This article is directed toward those who are leaders; those who have people under them, whether your title is manager, supervisor or director. Depending on the size of your organization, you probably have a blend of personality types, including introverts, extroverts, Type A’s, and Type B’s, and thrill seekers. All will bring different skills and perspectives to the table. Your introverts do not need special accommodations. Our personality type is not a disability; but we are different. Recognition of the differences between personality types, including extraverts and introverts can be conducive to a smooth functioning workplace with maximum productivity. In the right environment, introverts can make for great additions to your work force .They are deep thinkers, creative, autonomous, and self-starting. They need minimal direction, and have integrity. However, they are probably not team players. They may offend others by appearing aloof and abrupt, or tactless. They will resist efforts at micromanagement.

To maximize the potential value that introverts can bring to your company, here are some points to consider.

1. Give them autonomy.

This is presuming you have hired someone who is not just competent, but they hold themselves to high standards, and they have a well-developed skill set for the job. Introverts are private people, and they are at their best when they are working on their own. Set them in motion and then leave them alone to get the task completed. You should be able to do this with all of your staff, if you have screened for the very best, and they are well trained. Smart and effective people do not need to be on a tight leash; whether they are intro’s or extra’s.

2. Listen to their ideas; they will have a lot of them.

Introverts are deep thinkers. We have an unconventional way of looking at the world, as we minimally adhere to trends and groupthink. We love discussing ideas. If you let your quiet introverts really say what is on their minds, expect to hear some criticism and have your beliefs challenged. Speaking of which:

3. Don’t be threatened by introverts and their ideas.

How can a company grow and develop without critical input? Too often in an organization, people will follow the group opinion. Too many companies are anxiety based, feel fragile, and are highly resistant to change. This rigidity will be their demise. Though this is often misattributed to Darwin, somebody, or maybe a few different people speaking of his theories, basically concurred that organisms must adapt to their environment to survive. Alcoholics Anonymous, borrowing from Einstein said to continue doing the same ineffective actions over and over expecting different results is insane. Sometimes the hard questions have to be asked, and an admission that things are not working the current way and need to be changed is required. Stagnant organizations do not survive. They must be responsive and adaptive to the environment, and one way to ensure this is to take constant inventory of policies and procedures, weighing them for continued efficacy. Procedure and policies made in a vacuum, without consideration of the context, or which have become outdated need to be discarded.

4. Understand that introverts process information differently.

Introverts may appear aloof, cold, and distant. We are just watching, listening, and processing. We get overwhelmed when there is a lot of noise and activity, and may need to soak it all up and come back later with some analysis or synthesis after we have chewed up and digested the information. We may also appear abrupt, or get rude if we are interrupted while processing.

5. If they are qualified and interested, move them into management.

Introverts make great leaders. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and CEO’s have been introverts. Some well-known leaders who are also introverts include Bill Gates, Chairman and co-founder of Microsoft, billionaire, and philanthropist, Warren Buffet, Investor, mega-billionaire and philanthropist, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, PayPal, and Space X, Larry Page, founder and CEO of Google, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.

6. Introverts won’t do well with group activities.

Group activities make an introverts skin crawl. Depending on how much mental fortitude we have, which is a personality trait which can be a part of introversion or extraversion, we can tolerate group activities, but they are draining and exhausting. We will perform much better with individual meetings, or private activities.

7. Introverts are not going to be big on corporate esprit de corps.

This does not mean they are not loyal, or invested, or committed. We just don’t shout it so loud. Our commitment is much quieter and steadfast; our investment in a workplace or project runs deep. Do you want a cheering section or competent and efficient workers? I was at an agonizing three hour mandatory lecture on cultural diversity. At one point, a new staff member spoke up and gave a chirpy little speech about how grateful she was to be a part of an organization that was committed to cultural diversity. Either she was very smart, and kissing ass publicly, or very simple and conventional, and she really believed what she was saying. Either way, in the particular organization she was a part of, she will probably be in a managerial position within a year. In reference to point number three, this was an organization full of smiling nodders, who did what they were told without question, regardless of how ridiculous it was, and told people above them what they wanted to hear. This maintained an illusion of happiness. This organization also suffers from poor morale and massive turnover.

8. Realize that for an introvert, team building exercises and staff picnics and retreats border on torture.

Sometimes they these events go over the border. Don’t be offended when they don’t want to attend the office picnic. Make such activities optional. How effective is forcible team building?

Balance in an organization can improve efficiency, performance and output. A mix of personality types as well as skill sets can contribute to a rich environment.

 

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice clinician
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology
Freelance Behavioral Science writer