We live in a culture that values and promotes extroverts. For example, the advertising industry, education system, and corporate world favor charismatic, risk-taking extroverts over the deep-thinking, conscientious introvert. "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” by Susan Cain illuminates the bias against introverts and the harm of undervaluing their strengths. Consider these five recommendations from Cain's research to develop, encourage, and enrich your workforce.
- Don't overlook an introvert applying for a leadership position. Consider substance and quality of work in addition to presentation and eloquence. Introverted leaders tend to do best when paired with proactive, driven employees because engaged employees want a leader who will listen to their ideas and implement the best suggestions.
- Open office plans and group brainstorming can hinder the creative thought process and innovative ideas that arise from independent thinking. Consider your office layout; ensure there is a balance of open areas for socializing and quiet areas for privacy and fewer interruptions. Allow employees to brainstorm alone before they bring their ideas to a group. This encourages equal participation and reduces peer pressure or judgment.
- Seek the advice of introverts when making decisions, especially those involving risk. Introverts can be less driven by rewards and instant gratification, which may lead them to stick to a plan, think critically, and see warning signs. Encourage and utilize an introvert's persistence, discernment, and problem-solving ability.
- Introverts can struggle with conflict and dislike being spoken to with an angry or accusing tone. Aggressive language may make an introvert feel uncomfortable, defensive, or guilty. In a conversation with an introvert, speak respectfully, ask probing questions, and show empathy.
- Many introverts may change their behavior based on the requirements of the situation. To recharge, they could benefit from downtime before they have to perform again. Respect the introvert's need for a private work area and quiet time. To avoid stress and burnout, make sure your employees are involved in work they find meaningful and support them to be their best.
Leadership and success are associated with outgoing, dynamic individuals, while introverts can often be overlooked or undervalued. The extrovert ideal is a myth. Humble, determined introverts can transform businesses with their persistence, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Listen to, respect, and draw on the strengths of your employees, both introverts and extroverts, for a dynamic, well-rounded workforce.