Ask any HR director ― the employees that stand out are the extroverts. They're memorable for many reasons: always fun at employee outings, volunteer for extracurricular duties, and employee-of-the-month types. Extroverts are energized by the company of others and excel in social situations.
But those who work with developers, programmers, and other I'm-at-my-desk types know the other side of the coin: the shy ones. All too often, these employees are overlooked because their skills for workplace self-promotion are basic or nonexistent.
Let's call them introverts. They are workers who are more comfortable in quiet environments. Introverts are enervated by the company of others and typically avoid social situations.
They may not trumpet their professional accomplishments, but these quiet types might be our most productive employees. We must strive to tap into the insight of our introverts, or else we rob our company of valuable knowledge.
And now we need to manage them as a team and help them communicate intra-office. What do we do?
Managing the quiet ones
Introverts often flummox managerial-level executives in tech disciplines. But, on the other hand, work is fun, so employees should naturally be cheerful and outgoing, right?
Let's flip the telescope around and look at things from an introverted perspective. We know that introverts don't take well to karaoke or team sports. They often think their work speaks for itself, which creates higher barriers to cross-team communication.
It's often the quiet ones who have the most to contribute
This can baffle natural extroverts, so let's take a different approach. Let's say that a team of extroverts excels at cross-team collaboration and are office superstars. Put them in a conference room, and they're ready to contribute.
Suppose we cut the air-conditioning and start some construction work next door. The superstars can't concentrate and do their best work because they're uncomfortable.
Put ourselves in the shoes of an introvert. What would she or he find uncomfortable?
Introverts aren't demonstrative or argumentative people. They prefer traditional lecture-based learning methods over collaborative endeavors. Absorbing material by reading and listening is preferred over interactions with other people.
A typical HR director may find this baffling. But think of any group outside their comfort zone — at a minimum, they will not do their best. Introverts tend to flounder in more social types of learning — collaboration and whole-group presentations.
Introverts are enervated by the company of others
Many people crave in-person gatherings, but for introverts, simply being around other people can rob them of energy — and they may need to take time afterward to “recharge their batteries.” Moreover, quiet people don’t always feel comfortable speaking their minds, so their potential contributions may go unsaid.
Team leaders can help create a more productive environment for introverts. But how?
Know your team
Introverts aren't as antisocial as is commonly believed. But they do benefit from an environment that makes them feel comfortable. So how can we do that in a collaborative setting?
Here are some strategies:
We want to be sure our more introverted employees know they are valued and can contribute in various ways. An in-person meeting before or after class may be suitable. If not, an email or other message that lets them know that we acknowledge and appreciate their work.
And whenever we follow up, we emphasize positive things, not only what needs improvement.
Your valued introverts
The tendency to belittle or ignore quiet employees is found throughout society. We're taught to speak up for ourselves, and there are always extroverts eager to do so.
But savvy managers know that it's often the quiet ones who have the most to contribute.
This article is the fifth in a series on effective collaboration techniques for cybersecurity.
Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor to CDOTrends. Best practices, the IoT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing battle against cyberpirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/marzacz