More and more organizations are considering an expanded definition of diversity as a way to avoid becoming monocultures. They acknowledge the need to have a diversity of thinking styles and perspectives on their teams to expand the scope of their vision and to uncover innovative solutions. And, the strengths and personalities of introverts are important to include in this diverse mix.
Introverts represent nearly half of our workforce. Yet, most organizations favor extroverts. They reward the loudest voices in the room, equate performance with “face time” and use hiring and promotion practices that prefer affability over job fit.
Organizational leaders who strive for diversity need to recognize that if they don’t factor introvert strengths and personalities into their approach toward staffing and running their organizations, they risk missing out on the talents, skills and positive impact introverts can add.
Introverts offer a quieter and valuable contribution to work teams. They are keen observers, listeners and reflectors. They interact as calm, humble and deep connectors. Teams that have a balance of introverts and extroverts get exponentially more accomplished. It’s like having one group that can see close up and one that can see in the distance. When you bring them together, the entire picture comes into focus.
Alongside a new awareness of the important qualities that introverts offer, much work has to be done to make workplaces more inclusive of introverts.
Here are some ways to get stared:
- Get to know them. Rather than expecting introverts to adapt to the traditional, mainstream corporate culture, organizations can build cultures that can work both ways. Set the stage for a psychologically safe environment — one that welcomes quiet, calm contributions as well as expressive, energetic ones. Encourage team members to share information about how they like to communicate, their key strengths, as well as their preferred work styles. Apply a tool like the team member user manual to document these preferences.
- Welcome diverse ways of offering input. An important ground rule in creating a culture that values introverts is to create opportunities for introverts to have a chance to offer their input. Extroverts, who are not comfortable with silence, need to respect the pause that introverts prefer and hold back from interrupting them. Use a variety of communication methods, including replacing brainstorming with “brainwriting” and leveraging virtual intranet platforms where introverts can express their ideas in writing.
- Consider introverts in all hiring decisions. Organizations often dismiss potential employees with more introverted qualities for not being people they would “like to have a beer with.” When hiring, prioritize role and personality alignment over traditional extrovert-based characteristics. Don’t make introversion a knock-out factor if it has little to do with the job. Try to diversify the pool of candidates by being open to everyone.
- Offer flexibility regarding where work takes place. Introverts dislike overstimulation from the external environment. Allow quiet recharge space for those seeking solitude when the hustle and bustle of the office becomes too distracting. A work-from-home option also provides a viable solution for introverts who can focus and collaborate using virtual technology. This can open up opportunities as it means you’re no longer bound by geography to find the best people to do the job.
- Spotlight introverted leaders. Invite introverted leaders to share their professional journeys. Provide forums where they can communicate both the challenges they have faced and how they have used their quiet strengths to overcome them in Type A environments. Leaders who embrace their introversion can be great spokespeople for their introverted employees and catalysts for creating a more inclusive workplace.
Take this online quiz to find out where your workplace falls on the introvert-friendly spectrum. The results will help you know where to focus your efforts.
Commentary by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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