There is a lot of confusion around introverts. Where you might think that this is just another word for “shy,” it is actually a bit different. It all has to do with energy. Introverts expend energy in social situations, whereas extroverts gain energy when they are around people. Beyond that, introverts generally spend more time self-reflecting and thinking through tasks or issues. In order to recharge and focus, introverts generally need quiet spaces and time to themselves.
Many people make the assumption that all great leaders – of business and otherwise – are extroverts. However, plenty of introverts have strong public personas that they are able to turn on when they need to. When it comes to working, these individuals still generally prefer quiet workplaces that allow them to have the introspection that they need.
One of the greatest mistakes that companies make is to design their offices and workspaces to only work for extroverts. Open floor plans can be great for facilitating conversation, but it can also make it really difficult for some individuals to take the time and space they need to concentrate. And if you are only catering to one segment of your workforce, chances are that you are not getting the best work product that you could be.
Introverts bring a lot of strengths to your team. For example, they are generally better at listening and empathizing with others, which helps them resolve workplace conflicts. Introverts can also be excellent negotiators for this same reason. And, because of their excellent planning skills, introverts often make great presenters.
So, how can create a workplace that is more conducive to the needs of introverts?
There should be many opportunities for your introverted employees to recharge. For example, in small, secluded workplaces or with a cup of tea or coffee after a meeting. You should also encourage your team to take walks throughout the day or to use headphones that can help cancel out background noise.
It is important that you create an environment where your introverted and extroverted employees are able to get to know one another. You can do this before or after meetings by encouraging interpersonal discussions, or by having workplace lunches where people have time to mingle and get to know one another.
Introverts will probably not be the loudest people in the room. They may be less likely to speak up during meetings or to make their opinion known. But that does not mean that they do not have a valuable perspective to offer. It is in your company’s best interest that you create an environment where both personality times are able to contribute.