There are a surprising number of introverts in the workforce. “[I]t’s a third to half of the population who are introverts. And yet it does not feel that way,” said Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”, in an interview with Harvard Business Review. Introverted employees are often told they need to speak up at meetings. It may appear that they are not engaged or listening, especially when there are a large number of people at a meeting. The reality is quite different. Most times, they are listening and processing the information before responding to questions.
When it comes to continuous performance management, it’s common for leaders to give the most attention, recognition, and feedback to those employees who demand it. It’s easy to give praise to someone who is talking freely about their progress and accomplishments. The quiet ones, those who keep their heads down and keep to themselves, can fade into the distance and receive little to no support.
To help, here are six growth and development approaches to consider with introverted colleagues.
Check-in: Have structure
A check-in is one of the most critical meetings between a manager and an employee. A few best practices when having a check-in with an introvert.
Schedule the time in advance with an agenda. Introverts prefer to have time to reflect, process, and prepare before a meeting.
Avoid the management “pop-in.” Let the employee know you’ll be stopping by so they can prepare.
Check-in: Actively listen
Leaders should prepare questions, recognition, stories to share, and feedback as part of the check-in. However, leaders should also be prepared not to share any of it unless the conversation warrants it.
- Check-ins should be about the employee. Listen before addressing employee questions and concerns. You may not get through everything they have prepared, and that’s okay.
- Ask open-ended questions driven by curiosity and empathy to build trust and promote open communication.
Feedback: Give time to think
Introverts do not like to give feedback without any preparation. They prefer time to reflect, process, and prepare. Instead of asking for feedback on the spot, provide a more introverted employee with a heads up.
Example: “Hi ____, I would love an opportunity to grab some time with you, and simply listen to what you think could be better in the operations group. Do you have any time later this week or next?”
Feedback: Be clear on the “why”
When leaders or colleagues ask an introvert for feedback, it's important to outline the ‘why’ behind the request to show why their feedback matters. Think about if you are asking for feedback as part of a yearly 360 review, or input critical to a specific project/task.
For example: “The reason I’m asking for your input is that I truly believe your suggestions will help me become a more effective communicator on the operations team.”
Feedback: Be quiet
When asking questions and receiving feedback from an introvert, be quiet. Don’t disagree. Just listen. Typically, when people respond right away, they come across as defensive. This will discourage an employee from sharing honest feedback in the future. So, pause and listen.
Consider responding to feedback neutrally, by saying: "Thank you for sharing. Let me take some time to reflect on what you said, and I’ll get back to you." Introverts understand silence is not an absence of thought but rather the space for thinking and reflection.
Recognition: Respect boundaries
Everyone loves to give and receive recognition. There is extensive research around the value of recognition. For introverts, remember they thrive in lower-stimulation environments. Before you call up an introvert to a stage in front of the company, consider their response.
Here are some ideas on how to effectively recognize someone who is more introverted.
Call them out for their work in smaller groups where they will be more comfortable and genuinely appreciated.
Encourage their colleagues to recognize them for the work they have done! This has the added benefit of helping the extroverted employees see how valuable their quiet teammates’ contributions are.
Be detailed in the recognition. Many introverts are strong critical thinkers and appreciate it when others pay attention to the details.
Leverage a recognition platform. Although the recognition may be public, it feels more private since because the system can be configured so only the employees’ team sees the recognition.
Just like extroverts, introverts are the backbone of successful companies. While you won’t see them clamoring for recognition or being the loudest in the meeting, they are critical to an organization’s business success.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy