Chances are you have introverts in your office—and they’re not as rare as you may think. Research suggests that about one-third to one-half of the U.S. population is introverted. These individuals often prefer to work independently and in quieter environments. They may not be the first employees to throw office parties, attend social events or to speak up in meetings.
But research shows that introverts can bring tremendous value to a business. They’re better listeners, are less likely to micromanage their direct reports, and are deeper, more analytical thinkers than their extroverted peers. (Keep in mind that many of today’s most famous business leaders, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Marissa Mayer are introverts.)
According to the 2015 Small Business Success Study only 33% of small business owners want to grow their businesses. It makes good business sense then, to invest time in turning your current introverted employees into superstars.
“Many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial, and that’s really a misperception,” Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert and author of bestselling book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, told NPR, adding: “Introversion is really about having a preference for lower stimulation environments. So it’s just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action. Whereas extroverts really crave more stimulation in order to feel at their best.”
So, how can you maximize the value of introverts in your office and help them shine?
Understand their strengths.
Extroverted managers may have an especially hard time seeing the value of introverts. After all, an introvert may not be the first person to speak up at team meetings, promote their own skills or accomplishments, or network with others. But it’s worth understanding what skills introverts possess that many extroverts don’t. Research from Adam Grant, a management professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, shows that introverts can be better leaders than extroverts—especially when managing proactive, outgoing employees. That’s because they are more likely to let talented employees run with their ideas rather than try to steal their thunder. Moreover, introverts are more motivated by their dedication to longer-term goals than their egos and desire for recognition.
Give them a quiet, distraction-free workspace.
Today’s “open-office” environment—ones where people sit in desks very close together—are an introvert’s nightmare. They need a quiet space to concentrate and think and don’t want to overhear their coworkers’ distracting phone conversations. Rather, introverts tend to excel in quieter environments, such as larger cubicles, individual offices or even working from home. Companies that acknowledge introverts’ need for solitude are more likely to realize the benefits of their introverted workers. (Check out this company, Steelcase, that designed the ideal office space for introverts.)
Provide a nurturing workplace for introverts.
Understand what your office introverts need to thrive. Many introverts, for example, like to have time to brainstorm ideas and flesh out their thoughts before meetings—as they’re good at working solo. So sending out agendas in advance of meetings can help them prepare. Many introverts prefer to write out, versus vocalize, their ideas. Solicit feedback via writing—such as via email—rather than expecting everyone to speak up in meetings.
With nearly half of all U.S. workers being introverts, it only makes sense that companies take steps to recognize their value and turn them into rock star employees.
Next Steps: Imagine a world where your employees show up on time, work smart and deliver results for your small business day in and day out. Not there yet? Sign up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter and we’ll send you the best science-backed strategies on managing productive, happy employees—including tips on how to get them to show up on time!