How to Deal With Introverts in the Workplace Environment
By Carly Gail
Having introverts in the workplace should be met with patience and understanding, as sometimes the work environment can be overwhelming and stressful. Especially in a more extroverted work environment, it is easy for introverts to be overlooked or misunderstood. Learning about your introverted colleagues' personalities and preferences can be extremely useful in maintaining a healthy and effective workplace.
Understanding introverts in the workplace
Introverts may be defined as quiet people who are introspective and enjoy time spent alone. People with personalities characterized by introversion tend to keep to themselves and prefer solitude over a social hour. In contrast to their extrovert counterparts, they thrive in quieter, more subdued environments.
This article will cover tips on how to deal with an introvert in the workplace and describe the type of environment an introvert enjoys working in. Keep in mind, while it is pretty easy to determine whether someone is an extroverted or introverted employee, it can be beneficial to learn more about the different personalities that make up the work environment. Get started by taking a free personality assessment.
How to identify an introvert at work
While some people enjoy water cooler conversations and social lunch hours, others prefer to keep to themselves. In an office, an introvert employee will avoid most social interaction and instead keep their head down and work through their projects independently. Read on to learn about the different ways you can identify an introvert in the office:
Prefers to work independently
Introverts do their best work alone and in a quiet space. Working in a collaborative, group setting might be draining for them and may decrease their productivity. When introverts can work independently, they have the space and privacy to organize their thoughts. They do their best thinking and brainstorming, free from any distraction or pressure they may feel in a collaborative space.
Very meticulous and structured
When completing projects, introverted personality types tend to prefer to work with a structured and detailed plan. When working, they may utilize lists and other tools to keep them organized and on track. Before feeling comfortable beginning a project, introverts typically will need all of the details and deadlines plenty of time in advance.
Prefer written communication over face-to-face meetings
Introverts will usually avoid small talk, or any other unnecessary social interaction, at all costs. If it can be written in an email, people with introverted personalities will do so, and hope you do the same for them! Introverts take time to organize their thoughts; with written communication, they value reflecting without having to respond on the spot.
Need a routine and set duties
Because introverts are natural planners, they need set routines for their days and duties. They do not do well in more spontaneous roles with undefined responsibilities. They prefer positions that allow them to do their responsibilities each day without much variance or surprise factor to their schedule. If tight deadlines and random projects are sprung on them, they will quickly feel burnt out and frustrated.
Energized by alone time
After a long and exhausting week, introverts would instead pour themselves a glass of wine and hang out on the couch rather than attend a lively social event. To avoid feeling completely drained, introverts need to reserve time to be alone and decompress. This makes it easy for them to be perceived as antisocial team members or just plain rude-- when that isn't the case at all.
Still unsure of whether you or someone you know is an introvert? Try taking our free personality test today!
How to deal with introverts at work
Because independence is one of their strengths, introverts may struggle to participate and thrive in a more collaborative group setting. In an office, there is sometimes an unspoken expectation to socialize with other team members; this leads to introverts being often perceived as antisocial and rude or dismissive. Luckily, you can take steps when dealing with introverts at work to ensure a harmonious and accepting work environment.
1. Do not try to change their personality
Instead, learn about it and learn how to work best with it. Each person has a unique set of skills and abilities, partially thanks to their personality. With each different type comes fresh perspective, innovative ideas, and unlimited motivations. In a team setting, everyone is contributing their strengths and doing their best to avoid their weaknesses. As introverts, these employees have quite a lot to offer and often make valuable contributors. To leverage your introverted employee's natural tendencies and strengths and develop them more to the company's benefit, listen more to figure out what your introverted employee needs to feel supported and do their best work rather than changing who they are and how they work.
2. Give them space to work by themselves
Introverts value their alone time and often prefer solitude rather than group settings. They are most productive when free from distractions, such as a busy office or loud common area, and alone with their thoughts. Those thoughts generally need time to be organized, so working independently allows introverts to do so without the pressure of group work.
3. Help them speak up
Introverted employees won't always speak up when they should and may struggle to voice their concerns or opinions in a group setting. This may mean speaking to them privately or notifying them in advance that you'd like them to participate in the next meeting. Doing so allows them the time they need to organize their thoughts and think out what they will say. Because of all the thought they put into their words and have careful attention to detail, it is important to listen when they do speak up!
4. Use written communication
Introverts are typically more comfortable with written communication instead of face-to-face conversations. People with introverted personalities tend to feel drained from frequent social interactions, so they greatly appreciate receiving an email rather than a meeting invite. If you opt for written communication, you also show your introverted employee that you respect their preferences and want them to feel comfortable in the office.
5. Educate yourself
Introverted or extroverted, personality plays a significant role in how people interact and respond to different stimuli in and outside the work environment. Educating yourself on your coworkers' or employees' personality type, communication style, and other work preferences can help foster a more unified and peaceful work environment. Taking the initiative like this also shows that you respect your colleague and value their time and effort as a team member, leading to more effective and productive collaboration and communication.
How to create the best work environment for introverts
Rethink the workday
Be mindful of the preferences of both your introvert and extrovert team members. Perhaps your more introverted employees could benefit from the option to work remotely or from a "no meetings before lunch" rule. Maybe the open office floor plan prevents introverted people from working most effectively, and they could benefit from a quiet space to do their duties. There are many ways to balance the workday to be respectful of everyone's preferences and needs in the office environment; take some time to think of how you could be catering to your team members' needs.
Don't impose tight deadlines or spontaneous projects
Because people with more introverted personalities prefer to take their time and put a lot of thought into their projects, it is best to give them plenty of time to complete them. Avoid imposing deadlines without enough advanced notice and expectation clarity or asking them to work on a spontaneous project, as it can add stress and pressure to their day. While some people may be energized by unexpected projects, introverts will typically feel drained and pressured by them. Introverts thrive in more independent roles with structure and routine, so avoid straying too much from their defined duty expectations.
Encourage extroverts to listen better
When integrating a more introvert-friendly work environment, it is necessary to get your more extroverted employees on the same page. People characterized by extroversion typically enjoy collaborating and frequently socializing with their colleagues. Introverted employees' preference of working independently may conflict with a more team-based approach, so your more extroverted employees must be aware and respectful of this. Encourage the extroverts in the workplace to listen more to their introverted coworkers and be more understanding of their working styles so that everyone in the office space is comfortable coming to work.
While team-building may seem counterintuitive given introverts' tendency to keep to themselves, it is necessary to make them feel a part of their team. They may struggle with building professional connections and may otherwise not initiate a conversation with their team members. Encouraging friendly conversation and connection through team-building exercises can help introverts feel more comfortable in their workspace and more confident approaching coworkers for help or collaboration. Be careful not to push any social events because introverts do not want to feel pressured to socialize. Instead, offer plenty of details, defined guidelines, and lots of time to prepare--if they choose to participate.
Evaluate based on performance
When you evaluate based on performance and not personality, introverted employees stand a better chance at receiving positive feedback. Because they tend to be more reserved and independent, introverts are often overlooked in the workplace. It can be highly discouraging for introverts to feel that their hard work is not being appreciated. While personality can play a role in performance, it is crucial to reward based on other factors. While introverts and extroverts may approach different scenarios or projects in entirely different ways, one is not better than the other. Introverts have excellent attention to detail and a meticulous mind, which should not go unnoticed in the workplace!
Best positions for introverts at work
People with more introverted personality types tend to do best in roles where they can work independently and within a structured routine. When managing introverts in the workplace, remember that while they can perform well in any role, they tend to be happiest in positions aligned with their preferences (as discussed above). Here are some examples of good jobs for introverts:
Accountants typically work to support a company's finance department or work with individuals to file taxes or check financial records. Essentially, their job is to examine financial documents and statements for accuracy and ensure all financial records and statements align with laws, regulations, and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
Software engineers research, evaluate, design, and write new software programs or computer systems. They must carefully analyze a situation and use proven solutions to create a reliable fix. Their duties require many stable, secure solutions that help build strong foundations rather than riskier, more out-of-the-box ideas that could potentially lead to problems.
Science is a broad subject, and there are various scientist roles across very different industries and fields; scientists in any field tend to explore and analyze the physical world, following set procedures to make legitimate discoveries
Actuaries work within the insurance industry, and their duties are usually to assess risk and advise companies on whether to pull out policies for certain clients. An actuary will use their knowledge from examining the numbers to minimize financial risk for their contractors
Editors review and edit content pieces, taking them from rough drafts to publication-ready. Along the way, they may correct grammatical errors, help with sentence structure and clarity, and make other suggestions for the writer to improve the piece.
IT specialists work heavily with computer information systems and often are in charge of all computer-systems related needs and activities of an organization. These roles are perfect jobs for introverts because they require skilled attention to detail and are best suited for independent workers.
Just because a person has an introverted personality does not mean their career options are limited. There are plenty of exciting jobs for introverts to make meaningful contributions while still honoring their preferences and needs.
Introverts at work: Key takeaways
Introverts are not limited in their abilities to perform, contribute, or rise to leadership positions. Their skillset often includes being good listeners, having careful attention to detail, and being introspective when working or making decisions--making them a valuable asset to any team. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert vs extrovert spectrum, with a tendency to lean more one way than the other. Learning about your introverted employees' preferences and needs can make all of the difference when creating a work environment that is suitable for everyone. Take special care to consider the needs of introverted colleagues, and remember not to take it personally if they choose not to participate in group or social settings!