No two employees are ever exactly the same. Where one might be vocal, energetic and thrive in an environment of constant noise and activity, another might be quiet, reserved and need silence to get their work done. Despite these differences, both employees can be highly effective and respected by their coworkers. Yet their personalities are essentially opposites.
People can be extroverted, introverted, or fall somewhere on the scale between. According to HR Zone, both introversion and extroversion can be defined as a continuum of characteristics or personality traits that make an individual turn inward or outward for gratification. Others would say that the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how they respond to outside stimuli.
Quiet, understated value
It can be easy to assume that most people at work are extroverts. After all, on a day-to-day basis, you’re likely to run into more extroverts than introverts by the very definition of the word. Extroverts are more likely to strike up a conversation or otherwise reach out to you with charisma, energy and confidence. Introverts, on the other hand, will be those quietly side stepping you in the street.
In a TED Talk, Susan Cain posited the idea that extroverts became a hot commodity after industrialization, when disparate communities became connected through technology and urban areas. Before that, most of the world lived in small, isolated groups and just knowing one another well was enough. As populations grew, those people who could attract attention and appeal to crowds of strangers became increasingly important in their communities. These people, of course, were extroverts.
Ever since then, Cain argued, extroverts have been championed. This is especially true in the workplace. Open plan offices electric with noise and activity inherently reward those willing to speak up, talk to new people and take risks, HR Zone suggested. Introverts have gotten the short end of the stick in this scenario.
Regularly thought of as moody loners (Debbie Downers, if you will) or worse, introverts have sometimes proven frustrating to extroverted coworkers and managers. It can be hard to collaborate with coworkers who don’t have the social butterfly instincts of their peers, but that doesn’t mean these employees lack value. Oftentimes it’s introverts offering a new idea or questioning an old one that leads to exciting new places and projects. In most workplaces, introverts function as a vital counterbalance to extroverts.
Despite the value of introverts, most employee engagement strategies are geared toward their more outgoing colleagues. Team activities, open offices, speaking up during meetings – all these things favor extroverts. Introverts can’t just be ignored, so managers have to find other means of engaging more reticent personality types.
The key to creating engagement strategies for introverted employees begins with understanding that these workers need time to really focus and recharge after group meetings. If they can be given a space to operate without interruption, it’s an ideal situation. This is a solid starting point for planning a new engagement campaign.
Encouraging introverts to slowly navigate out of their comfort zone can improve communication. Though not adverse to social interaction or team challenges, these situations can be taxing for introverts. If you send them to a networking event or ask them to participate in a conference, allow some time for employees to recharge and recover. Introverts can feel wiped out after big, social gatherings like these, so consider giving them a day off or allowing them to work from home the next day. Live broadcast video allows communication between remote workers and the office, so why not take advantage of it?
You can also take steps to improve introvert engagement at team meetings. Meetings are usually dominated by extroverts, but if you allow introverts to start things off with notes or the day’s agenda, you give them an opportunity to fully gather themselves and mentally prepare for a group setting.
Managers might also look into employing broadcast video as a method for improving introvert communication. Say for example that an introverted employee has been tasked with delivering a project update to the rest of the office. Rather than make this person stand up in front of their peers, management could allow them to film the speech and broadcast it via SD-ECDN hosted video to the entire company/office at once. The message would be delivered, the employee’s confidence bolstered and a groundwork for future, increased communication is put in place.