11 tips for working with your introverted employees


People can be extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between. Our society is chock full of personality types, and learning how to work well with all kinds of people is critical to being an effective manager.

On a day-to-day basis you’ll typically engage with more extroverts than you do introverts. That’s because extroverts are vivacious humans who aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation. Extroverts display charisma, passion, and charm—all the important qualities needed to be a successful employee in this fast-paced market.

Introverts on the other hand, get the short end of the stick and are sometimes labeled as the “Debbie Downers” of the workforce. Admittedly, introverts can be frustrating to work with for those of us who consider ourselves social butterflies. The problem lies in trying to get introverts to open up without pushing them out of their comfort zone. Following are 11 tips that can help you better click with your introverted employees.

#1. Listen: Introverts won’t always speak up when they should, but when they do it’s important to pay attention. These types are careful with what they say and tend to put in a great deal of thought before getting vocal.

#2. Accept silence: Introverted employees won’t have something to say about every project or want to have discussions about work on a daily basis. However, don’t mistake their silence for rudeness, and understand they’re simply quieter than extroverts.

#3. Give introverts their space: People who operate from their inner world of ideas need time to recharge their social batteries. If an introvert retreats into the corner of his office for a while, respect that he needs to take time for himself.

#4. Use e-mail: Reading an email message will take less of your extroverted employee’s energy than a face-to-face conversation, and oftentimes it’s easier to put everything you want to convey in writing than to say it in conversation anyway. (By the way, if you need something explained in an immense amount of detail, ask your introverted employee to write it out. Many are great with these types of tasks.)

#5. Be mindful: An introvert creates energy internally as opposed to drawing energy from her environment. Every interaction you have with an introvert requires a transfer of energy from her supply to yours. Keep in mind that several interactions a day could possibly drain your introverted employee and cause feelings of irritability.

#6. Don’t interrupt: Introverts are good at focusing on work and won’t necessarily appreciate interruptions, especially abrupt ones, when putting the finishing touches on a project. Be respectful of their schedules.

#7. Discover their interests: Getting to know someone who’s not naturally talkative can be challenging, but finding out a few things about him will help you get to know him better.

#8. Provide peace offerings: Fancy chocolates, coffee at a favorite coffee shop, desk-top toys, a handwritten note, or swag from conferences are all great ideas! Small offerings of your appreciation will go a long way in making your introverted employees feel welcome at your company and therefore more comfortable socializing.

#9. Don’t expect them to show up: To company events, that is. Large social gatherings are just not an introvert’s cup of tea. And if she doesn’t come to the company picnic, there’s no need to bring this up when you next see her.

#10. Allow them to telecommute: Because introverts are drained by too much social interaction, letting introverts work from home can be the key to maximizing their productivity.

#11. Plan, plan, and plan: Introverts value their time and their energy to the extreme. So if you know there’s a meeting that’s going to require a huge time commitment, for example, try and let your introverted employees know in advance.

Working with people is hard. Working with people different from you can be really hard. No matter your job description or company culture, however, it’s important to always be aiming toward gaining more skills to help you collaborate with various types of employees.

Extroverted managers—even the best of them—can get stumped when it comes to working with introverts. However, a little strategic communication will go a long way in making or breaking your relationship with these silent types.

12 Comments

Add yours
  1. 1
    Claudia Thomas

    This really helpful, as I work closely with an introvert. I used to take her silence personally, but now I know when to speak to respect her ways.

  2. 2
    Denise

    Thank you for this article.
    I am an introvert and find that all the tips listed describes me very well. I have found that when managers apply some of the tips, it makes my days easier and I tend to work harder for the company. I feel as if my input is valued.

  3. 3
    Leslie R.

    I find this article somewhat patronizing. As a Myer-Briggs INFP introvert, I have nonetheless managed to have a highly successful career and a position of leadership in a highly competitive industry. Introverts can learn to “act as if” they are extroverted when situations call for it.

    Additionally, if only extroverts could learn to engage mind before opening mouth, we would all get our projects done faster. It drives a thoughtful, analytical introvert crazy to have to sit through an extrovert’s external processing of disorganized thoughts! Louder does not equal smarter or more prepared to lead.

  4. 4
    Kelly

    Fantastic article! I’ve been struggling to understand an introvert / co-worker that I really like and respect. The point about her having to transfer energy outward when she interacts now explains a lot to me. In fact, it fills in a large piece of the puzzle. I’m a bit of an introvert myself, so I thought I understood my co-worker. But every time I “interrupted” her, she would look like I just socked her in the gut. Now it makes sense. I like the idea about sending emails. It’s less of an interruption for her. Thanks for sharing this.

    TO LESLIE R: I think your experience of learning how to “act as if” may not be everyone’s experience. I give you a lot of kudos for learning how to do that.

  5. 5
    Frabj

    I love it! I agree with Leslie R. in that introverts can fill the role of leader, and they can do so quite well, for they think things through. However, this article is about understanding introverts if you’re an extrovert or lean that way, see the last sentence of the article.

    I’d add that introverts need time to process things, that’s why we’re silent. We also don’t need to hear our own voice to feel important. As such, we tend to come up with solid ideas. Ask us a day or two later, in private. When offering praise or recognition, we don’t like public displays; praise us privately. I know that I don’t care about #7 when it’s just being done towards a disingenuous aim, which these tend to be. Speaking of which, #8 is completely disingenuous! I know that I appreciate a straight shooter, no beating around the bush, no political BS, no company Kool-Aid. Your secret’s safe with me! And, get to the point. #9: those tend to be disingenuous events that are just for show.

  6. 6
    Frank

    Leslie R does raise a good point, in a round-about kind of way. That is, this article is all about extroverts “handling” introverts, as if there’s something wrong with being an introvert, an impression that most extroverts give to us. Instead, the message should be of inclusion, it’s yet another part of “diversity” and “respect” that we each deserve.

    How about an article that goes the other direction, i.e. how does an introvert cope in an office dominated by extroverts, whether they be managers and/or other staff? Or, how about tips for a manager who’s an introvert who manages extroverts (it doesn’t happen very often, as we don’t wave our hands back and forth to get the limelight to shine on us in an attempt to try to get people to “look at me” in order to gain attention) ?

  7. 7
    DagnaGee

    YES!!! Somebody “gets it”!!! I am not shy, I am not rude nor am I trying to “ignore” people!!! I am a textbook introvert who has managed a group successfully without feeling like I had to change. That is until a new boss came along who wanted the management staff to be cheerleaders and b.s flingers! I stepped down because I refuse to be fake to myself or others. Needless to say it has taken nearly 7 yrs for things to get back running smoothly. But I would never try to change who I am!!! Why would anyone feel a need to change what’s working if there is no benefit to the company or most importantly the workers or customers? Must have been the most stressful two yrs of my life! Still with the company after 15 yrs but would never be in management ever again!

  8. 8
    BeeMam

    I will never understand why “most” people don’t understand us. Simply we are self sufficient and efficient without all the background noise, bells and whistles and loud people. I love my job which lets me work ALONE in my own little space with little to no supervision. The result? My work is spot on and I am totally happy to be so lucky. I interact when and if necessary and have a few extroverts to get a dose of the other side when I’m bored but then I can retreat to my haven! Quiet doesn’t translate into shy, rude, intimidated or anything else. It’s just what it is….quiet. My boss KNOWS that when it comes to my work it gets done without question and it will be correct. I wish every one who relates to being introverted could have it this way. WE DON’T NEED TO BE HANDLED!!!

  9. 9
    BeeMam

    I will never understand why “most” people don’t understand us. Simply we are self sufficient and efficient without all the background noise, bells and whistles and loud people. I love my job which lets me work ALONE in my own little space with little to no supervision. The result? My work is spot on and I am totally happy to be so lucky. I interact when and if necessary and have a few extroverts to get a dose of the other side when I’m bored but then I can retreat to my haven! Quiet doesn’t translate into shy, rude, intimidated or anything else. It’s just what it is….quiet. My boss KNOWS that when it comes to my work it gets done without question and it will be correct. I wish every one who relates to being introverted could have it this way. WE DON’T NEED TO BE HANDLED!!!

  10. 10
    Charlotte

    I want to know if my rights as an employee and human being have been violated. My Manager is trying to coach me to change my personality tyoe from introvert to chatty extrovert. I have never had disciplinary action or otherwise at any job until now.

  11. 11
    Charlotte

    I want to know if my rights as an employee and human being have been violated. My Manager is trying to coach me to change my personality tyoe from introvert to chatty extrovert. I have never had disciplinary action or otherwise at any job until now.

  12. 12
    Charlotte

    The coaching is prior to Disciplinary Action although I have done nothing ‘wrong’ except fail to be an extrovert. This is a genetic predispostion, it is who I am, just as if I were of a different race, something I cannot change. I am an exemplary employee, well known as the hardest working in my company. This is a major fortune 500 company and I feel I need to contact a lawyer to protect my job of 10 years and my rights. This is also the first tI’m this has been mentioned. New manager and he knows nothing about my past performance or contributions. This from a company that preaches inclusion, diversity and respect.

+ Leave a Comment