How to Supervise Introverts at Work

ByRita Sever

How to Supervise Introverts at Work

It can be difficult to supervise an introvert. Introverts tend to be quiet and thoughtful and somewhat reserved.  They probably won’t be the first to offer a solution to a problem, but they may offer the best solution if you wait a minute.

Here are five tips to help you supervise introverts at work:

1. Give people time to ponder

            Send out meeting agendas to those you supervise a day ahead of time if there are going to be discussion items. The introverts in the group will have time to think about the topic and will be more likely to come prepared to discuss options and ideas.

Practice this with the individuals you supervise too: “I’d like to hear some ideas from you about how we could improve our customer service. Let’s discuss this at our next 1:1 meeting.” Or, “Think about how this could have gone better. Let’s meet tomorrow at 2:00 to discuss it.”

2. Give it a break – let people have some down time

            oWhen the work day ends, very few peost work cultures now are 24/7. Make it clear that it is not only ok to take breaks and vacations but that it is expected. Model that expectation. Don’t supervise in a manner that gives lip service to down time but then send emails at 3:00 in the morning and another one at 6:00 saying “I haven’t heard back from you yet.”

3. Offer facilitated meetings

Introverts often have a hard time being heard in meetings. This can be addressed by training people to facilitate the meetings. Find a way to train some (or all) people in basic facilitation skills, like how to stop cross talking and how to ask for input without putting people on the spot. The facilitation role can be rotated on a regular basis (e.g. weekly) among the meeting participants. Then everyone will be more thoughtful about how to include everyone else in the discussion.

4.  Be clear about what to do if things aren’t working 

            Don’t wait to hear about problems until they are large problems. As you supervise, be clear about when and how to bring concerns up the ladder.  Train the whole team in basic conflict resolution skills. This will save countless hours lost to interpersonal conflicts. It would also be great to train people about personality styles so they know that a different style doesn’t mean worse, just different.

5.  Expand your vision of what a leader looks like            

            Not all leaders are outgoing and charismatic.  Recognize and talk about quiet leaders. Acknowledge the employees who offer quiet and effective solutions or ideas. Supervise and mentor the quiet leaders as well as the extroverted ones.

In Summary

Introverts have a lot to contribute to the work place but it may look and sound different than the way extroverts contribute.  Be a supervisor who makes room to see and hear and support everyone on your team.

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