In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, author Susan Cain shows what it’s like for introverts in today’s extroverted society. She argues that Western culture undervalues the contributions of introverts, leading to "a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness."
Certainly the world of work values extroverts more. The outgoing, gregarious individual is comfortable during job interviews, on sales calls, and during presentations. Even the trend toward open offices favors the naturally outgoing. Introverts are often stereotyped as antisocial, unenthusiastic, or inattentive.
But Cain says that introverts are more than capable of making unique contributions. Introverts are more likely to think problems through thoroughly. They’re more independent and less likely to fall into the groupthink trap. This trait helps them devise creative solutions. However, our extrovert-centered society makes it difficult for introverts to feel comfortable. Here are some ways to make your introverted employees feel comfortable and help them thrive.
Provide Less-Stimulating Environments
One major problem for introverts is trying to get work done in over-stimulating environments. Too much noise and social interaction aren’t going to work for introverts. In fact, 30% of respondents in a study said that lack of audio and visual privacy was a major issue.
Make sure that you have independent workspaces that allow employees to tackle projects in an independent, quiet environment. Introverts will be more productive in this kind of setting. When this isn’t possible, let employees use headphones so they can block out the noise.
Encourage Independent Work
Collaboration is all the rage these days. Everyone knows that you need to highlight your abilities as a team player on your resume. Brainstorming together as a group is supposed to be a huge productivity booster. After all, more ideas mean that you’re more likely to stumble upon the right idea.
But Cain says that solitude is crucial to creativity — something you know if you’ve ever been to a meeting where a lot talk but very little action happens. While there’s certainly a time and place for collaboration, creating opportunities for independent work is equally valuable.
Recognize Their Strengths
The stereotype of a salesperson is a charming, outgoing person who persuades the potential customer to buy something. However, introverts’ listening skills can pay off and help them close sales. Their listening abilities also help them in job interviews, according to Inc. magazine.
Many introverts may be better suited for less social tasks. They may excel at research, writing, or coding. Be sure to find their strengths and help tailor their job to those strengths.
Part of a leader’s responsibility is to create the conditions for their employees to succeed. Too often that doesn’t happen with less outgoing employees. But with a couple of minor changes, businesses can assure that all their employees are comfortable and able to produce quality work.