Extroverted people thrive in the business environment, where social confidence and assertiveness are important skills for networking and climbing career ladders. Yet, introverts have more than their share of benefits to business as well — if only business leaders understood how to manage them properly.
Shy employees have just as many useful skills and good ideas for business success as their gregarious colleagues, but managers tend to neglect them. This could be either because they aren’t sure how to interact with their more socially withdrawn workforce or because managers simply forget that these quiet workers exist.
In truth, it doesn’t take much to bring out the best in a shy employee. Here are a few steps for building a management style that allows the introverts to shine.
1. Communicate One-on-One
Introverts and shy Employee are unlikely to speak up in group settings, so it is all but impossible for managers to get to know these employees outside of one-on-one conversations. Unfortunately, one-on-one meetings can worsen shyness, putting an employee in the spotlight and exacerbating negative feelings like anxiety and awkwardness. Some shy employees might appreciate the privacy and speak openly during one-on-ones, but many might not appreciate being put in the hotseat.
Fortunately, modern technology provides plenty of opportunities for business leaders to connect with their shy workforce. Emails and direct messages are some of the best ways to invest in relationships with introverts because text-based communication tends to give shy people the time and space to think about their responses. The more management can do to build an environment of safety and trust with their shy employees, the more comfortable those employees will feel in engaging with the rest of their workplace.
2. Understand the Source of Shyness
It is important to note that shyness and introversion might manifest as similar behaviors, but in truth, they are separate conditions. Introverts are born and bred; most are quiet and restrained, but some are outgoing. However, introverts need the opportunity to recharge their energy levels with alone time. In contrast, some people are shy due to social anxiety. They may gain energy being in the company of others, but some fear or discomfort might hold them back from contributing to the group.
Shyness does not have one simple cause. Some workers will exhibit shyness when in the presence of a particularly intimidating superior. Others will become shy in large groups or when they could face criticism for their thoughts and actions. Through consistent communication, business leaders should work to understand the source of shy behavior in every unique case. Then, management can limit an employee’s exposure to that trigger as much as possible to boost the worker’s comfort, confidence and capability.
3. Find Ways to Appreciate Them
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes, which means the outgoing extroverts within a company tend to get more awards and accolades than their quiet and equally diligent counterparts. Shy Employee and introverted workers need their effort and accomplishments to be recognized as often as their peers, but they might appreciate recognition in a more private form.
Managers can take advantage of a recognition program as a reminder to send messages of appreciation to their more socially reserved employees. Good rewards for the shy workforce include a private email of congratulations and gratitude. When an employee goes above and beyond, a handwritten note with a small gift left at their desk should suffice.
4. Respect Boundaries
Shyness and introversion are not behaviors that need to be “fixed” or “cured” by a business leader. Whether a shy Employee wants to become more outgoing or not should be of little concern for management. As tempting as it might be to push a worker out of their comfort zone in an attempt to give them new knowledge and skills, the most likely result is an emotional response, like severe isolation, despair or rage.
Instead, managers should focus on creating the right environment for each individual employee to shine. Building a rapport with quieter workers will give business leaders insights into how to lead them alongside their team members to accomplish goals and create success for the organization as a whole.