Being an introvert in the workplace has its pros and cons. According to research introverts represent up to 50% of the population. Whether you are an introvert yourself or not, chances are a co-worker can relate to this topic.
Understanding what it is like to be an introvert in the workplace will better equip you to connect, motivate and manage introverts based on their strengths and struggles.
10 Introvert Strengths in the Workplace
In order to understand others you first have to be self-aware. Introverts have an uncanny ability to read situations and make intuitive decisions based on intangible factors. Consider it an “inner compass” that guides your thought process. It is a sensitivity to visible and invisible factors in the surrounding environment.
Building on introspection, introverts have the strength of putting themselves in other’s shoes. Instead of assuming everyone thinks the same way you do, introverts try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you agree with someone else’s opinion, but do your best to understand it. Empathy is an introvert strength because most conflict starts from not being heard.
Although there is no prototypical leader out there, your relationship with your boss is the single most important factor in your tenure with your current company. Leadership is getting things done through people, yet how it is accomplished makes the biggest difference. A strength of introverts in leadership roles is their willingness to listen, take feedback and empower people to do their best work. Leaders don’t have to rule with an iron fist. In fact, that style usually never works. We all want to work for someone who appreciates and values our opinion. Introvert leaders do that well.
Collaboration is key in the workplace, but the majority of work gets done alone. Since introverts don’t have the desire to constantly need social stimulation, they can do some of their best work quietly. Meetings can be a distraction and introverts possess the strength of shutting the door to do their best work alone. As a manager, independent workers are much easier to lead.
Another strength of introverts is their reflective mindset. Introverts take pride in their work and take responsibility seriously. They also think deeply about personal growth and how they can become better. Introverts respond well to learning and development opportunities that can leverage their natural strengths.
Successful companies work systematically and an introvert strength is processing information systematically. Basically this includes evaluating how work gets done. Figuring out a way to achieve it more efficiently is important to introverts. All the time introverts spend quiet, their minds are racing. Ask an introvert their opinion one-on-one for best results.
Communication comes in different forms and one of them is writing. Writing emails, drafting proposals and blogging are some ways introverts can contribute in the workplace. An introvert strength is being able to gather an idea and communicate it clearly for others to follow.
Introverts are inherently good listeners. Listening is more than hearing what’s said; the tone, intonation and body language of the speaker. Introverts take direction well then execute on it. Most miscommunication happens when people don’t listen so count on introverts avoiding this mistake from the start.
Watching others from afar is helpful because answers can be found in the details. Introverts are skilled at processing information based on what they see. Since introverts tend to be quieter in nature their actions speak louder than words. Count on introverts in the workplace to study what’s culturally acceptable, then lead by example.
With technology on the rise, soft skills are on the decline. A strength of introverts is their self-awareness, empathy and sensitivity towards others. This trait is a summation of the list above and the foundation to empower introverts in the workplace with more responsibility. Business is always done with people and an introvert’s strength their people skills.
10 Introvert Struggles in the Workplace
Introverts struggle with anxiety. When most of your thoughts are in your head it is bound to lead to this. Stress comes out in different ways: isolation, depression, feeling sick, etc. It is important to lend a listening ear to introverts in the workplace to avoid them feeling disconnected.
Introverts tend to be outwardly shy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value relationships. It just takes more effort from an introvert to start a conversation. Breaking the ice by finding something in common and bringing up a shared experience can forge a friendship that breaks through this barrier.
Last minute surprises at work are unavoidable, but with careful planning alternate options should be available. Introverts struggle with time constraints and things not going according to plan. Therefore shield introverts from situations that are chaotic and provide more structure and routine when possible. It may not be an option, but added stress hurts an introvert’s energy and performance.
The biggest misconception of introverts is that they’re anti-social. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What is important to understand is introverts struggle with their energy level after an interaction. While extroverts are energized after a conversation, introverts are drained. To get the most out of introverts in the workplace minimize meetings and schedule uninterrupted patches of work time to prioritize deadlines.
Most public speakers are extroverts, but with the right training introverts can acquire this skill. Introverts struggle on stage because of their mindset. Until you see yourself as a great orator the training and resources out there can’t help you. Challenge introverts in the workplace with internal presentations before assigning them to external meetings with clients. Public speaking is a learned skill and the only way to improve it is with consistent practice.
The thought of meeting new people and reciting an elevator pitch produces anxiety for introverts. Introverts struggle with selling themselves to strangers, yet this is a skill set that advances your career. Helping introverts reframe networking events as opportunities to connect with people and build new relationships works better. Your network is your net worth, so the earlier you build and strengthen it, the more opportunities you’ll have to choose from in your career.
Similar to networking, introverts struggle with sales because they take it too personal. Rejection is part of life and the more you tell yourself it’s about the product/service (not you), the less subjective it feels. There’s more than one way to succeed in sales, so try different methods to reach the customer’s needs. A good way tap into an introvert’s strength is to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and plan a strategy from that perspective.
Introverts struggle with taking initiative because they are always thinking about how the other person is going to respond. Initiative isn’t about predicting what is right every time. Instead it is about taking risks and not living with regrets. Opportunities present themselves for a short period and then they disappear. Helping introverts live in the moment, not dwell in the past, or worry about the future is helpful.
Introverts have constant conversations in their head. The problem is analysis-paralysis. Introverts struggle with over thinking things. Constant analyzing of information is debilitating. Combine this with the tendency to be hard on yourself and it is a bad combo. Managers can encourage introverts to put their ideas on paper and move forward with action versus getting stuck in their head.
Caring Too Much What Others Think
The downside of being empathetic is the desire to care too much. Similar to co-dependency where you crave to be liked no matter what. Introverts struggle with caring too much what others think about them which leads to a downward spiral of emotions. Being liked and being respected are two completely different concepts. Help introverts in the workplace focus on earning their co-workers respect which keeps them goal-oriented.