Workplace culture tends to determine our happiness and productivity. With most workplaces more suited to extroverts, what are the challenges for introverts and how can we create a culture that nurtures 30-50% of the population?
Challenges for Introverts
Making your voice heard
Communication is where introverts and extroverts differ mostly. Take meetings for example. Extroverts tend to think aloud, verbally processing their contributions for all to hear. Whereas introverts tend to carry out this process within their heads, gathering their thoughts before they say anything waiting for a space in the conversation before they speak. The extroverts usually begin speaking first, sparking each other off, freely interrupting
This can result in the introverts coming away frustrated, not having the chance to contribute, and a missed opportunity to tap into the wisdom of all of the team.
As introverts are energised by quiet, space to reflect and their own company, they are especially sensitive to external stimulation. An open plan office, with constant interruptions, noise and chatter, energises an extrovert. In this scenario, introverts can end up appearing offish and grumpy. I wonder if it’s a way to block out external stimulation so they can get on with their work.
When it comes to tackling a task, introverts tend to ‘think–do–think’ whereas extroverts ‘do-think-do’. Group brainstorming, giving a spontaneous presentation, or having to come up with answers on the spot, can be excruciating for an introvert and a scenario when they may not give their best.
How to create a culture where Introverts can thrive
Send out meeting agendas at least 24 hours in advance, allocate timings to the agenda items, and allow for comments to come in a couple of hours after a meeting.
Be aware of the need for introverts to have quiet and space within which to work; being flexible and accommodating should result in an introvert bringing their best.
Adopt a value of ‘listening’.
When tackling a team task, allow time for the introverts in the team to reflect, gather their thoughts and prepare.
In interactions, get comfortable with silence.
Specifically for Introverts:
Before meetings, and networking events, prepare some questions or comments to bring with you.
Make people aware of your need for peace and quiet to get on with your work.
Request a meeting agenda beforehand.
Request time to send in further comments following a meeting.
Specifically for Extroverts:
Become aware of how much you are talking in an interaction; are you coming away not knowing what others think?
Ask questions before offering your thoughts on a topic.
Finally, it’s important to realise that introverts have some unique strengths including being able to focus for long periods, delve deeply into a subject, listen well, insightful and observant; key qualities in any team.