Do you have an introvert, or a few, on your team? It can be tricky to know exactly how to best support your introverted coworkers and team members. However, we know that introverts have a superpower to give the world. Especially, in the workforce. Introverted women are often hard workers who are ready to do their absolute best, without stepping into the spotlight. So, how do you support her? How, as an employer of an introverted woman, do you provide praise and encouragement without making your employee feel uncomfortable? (Personal, one-on-one! Your first tip!)
The Employer’s Guide to Working With an Introvert
I’ve recently written a guide for friends of introverts, and a guide to dating an introvert. But, this one is going to have a bit of a different feel. As an employer, this guide to working with an introvert is just for you! You’ll see in here some of my personal advice, and some quotes from sensitive introverted women in the United States, and beyond. This information is meant to be useful, so please take what you want and implement it as you see fit. If you have more tips, ideas, or questions, I would LOVE to hear from you in the comments! Please let me know what else works well for you as an employer, or as an employee!
Meetings that should have been an email: Unnecessary drain on introverts!
You’ve seen the memes. The videos. You know this is not a new concept. Face time with the team is great, but remember, it takes so many more positive interactions with your team to outweigh a negative one. So, this alone is a great reason to avoid the meeting-that-should-have-been-an-email trap. Does your point truly need more explanation? Is this new mandate unclear in print? Often, these meetings are less about team cohesion and more about the administration’s need to feel seen and understood.
But, the cost of this additional social time is high for introverts.
The anxiety and stress of coming up with a plan to prepare for this meeting are taking up valuable mental real estate that could be used for more/better productivity instead. Then, your introverted colleague is going to need mental processing time after the meeting. You may not even see all of this happening, but it can be incredibly disruptive. “As an introverted woman, my work “love language” is canceled meetings.” So, if it can be done in an email that would be great! Perhaps with an optional follow-up meeting for those with questions?
Phone calls out of the blue add to introvert stress and anxiety.
You’re working through your day and all of a sudden the phone rings, and it’s your boss. Wow. Talk about stressful! So many introverts will say, “I don’t like talking on the phone in my personal life.” So, talking on the phone for work is something most introverts force themselves to do out of necessity. It is not uncommon for sensitive, introverted women to also suffer from anxiety. The world is not built for us! We plan, prepare and get ready for these calls when we know to expect them. However, when a supervisor (or even coworker, sometimes) calls randomly, it can spike blood pressure and immediately send us into a spiral of worry. Not just the “what could they be calling about?” anxiety, but simply the stress of having to engage with someone on the phone. It’s complex and may not make sense to an extroverted coworker or supervisor, but even a quick text or email asking if we can spend a few minutes on the phone discussing X-Y-Z would be helpful when those phone calls are necessary. Taking this extra step will be a valuable investment in your introverted employee.
Client meetings or customer calls are often draining for introverts as well.
Along the lines of the above meetings and impromptu phone calls, client meetings and calls may also be draining for your introverted employees.
“I can’t do impromptu meetings without a cost. The thing is, it’s not that I am unwilling! I actually like talking to our clients. It’s that there is a significant cost to these sorts of interactions and I will not be able to have the same level of productivity and focus after hours of calls.”
So, does this mean you shouldn’t hire introverts for client-facing roles?
No! Just help your employee structure their workload and workflow to account for days/times with more calls, building in some time to reset with paperwork, notes, etc. after. Some quiet time to rest and reset, with your full permission and understanding. Sensitive introverts can often be an incredible asset to your clients because we are going to see and notice things that many others may miss. This extra level of care and concern is so appreciated by clients and customers, and you can support your introverted colleague by providing that time and space to breathe as they need.
“Fundatory” = Absolutely Awful for Introverted Workers
Team building. Ice breakers. “Mandatory Fun.” Newsflash: these are actually often morale killers. Or, the complaining and grumbling involved results in the “wrong” kind of employee bonding. Yep. It’s true. Let’s just put it out there right now. It needs to be said. But, let’s be more specific to what you introverted employees might be thinking:
“As an introvert, I don’t want to socialize for the sake of socializing. And, quite frankly, I’m here to work! It’s not that I don’t want to be friends, but my social life and friend group is none of your business. It’s not your job to pull me out of my shell. Isn’t that what ice breakers are? If the team-building time has a clear purpose, measurable objectives, of course, that makes sense to me. Please practice transparency with us so that we know what is going on and what is expected. This expectation management is going to help in the long run!”
This also speaks to the introvert’s need for focused work time.
When their day is scheduled fully, it’s going to be really difficult to do anything else. That feels true of everyone, right? But, again, the social battery cost to introverts is going to be a bit higher than most. I love this quote from one of my introverted friends:
“When I’m at work, I actually want to work. Not only is it my purpose for being here (getting that paycheck), but I probably enjoy what I’m doing. So, I may keep to myself. No matter what my primary role is, I’ll likely do as little interacting as possible throughout the day. If I’m able to stay in my office, I’m going to! If my job is more client-facing, please do not expect to see me in the break room or common room during lunch or breaks. I need some space to recharge. Time to myself. A quick reset so I can get through the rest of the day or shift at my best.”
How great! Isn’t this what we actually want, as employers? Let’s celebrate it and help strategize ways to provide focused work time. For example, if remote work is still an option for your staff, your introverted employees will likely take you up on it! This will help them stay focused in their element.
Questions, Feedback, and Praise for the Sensitive, Introverted Employee
Asking impromptu questions about your employee’s work or clients can feel especially stressful. During supervision meetings and annual reviews, this is totally expected, right? So, it doesn’t cause undue anxiety. However, when these questions are asked off the cuff, this can cause anxiety. Similar to the phone calls, right? “As an HSP, I’m going to internalize these and assume I’ve done something wrong.” Did you get an email from a client with a concern? Notice an error? Being direct about these things is best, rather than trying to be gentle or sugarcoat things. I’m not saying it’s necessary to be harsh, but I do believe that “clear is kind”, and clarity is a gift to the sensitive, introverted woman.
Feedback: how do sensitive, introverted women like to give and receive feedback?
Feedback and praise can be done best in person and in private. This is one of the best ways to engage with sensitive introverts, who often prefer quality time over quantity. If there is a structured supervision time or review, this is a great place to provide this feedback. However, if there is something that needs to be addressed quickly, a clearly written email that the employee can review privately and respond to thoughtfully might be best. As an employer, you could even ask your team how they prefer to give and receive feedback. This is a valuable way to get this information to individualize the process without making assumptions or singling out your introverts.
Employers! Take a note about “introvert problems” that are now trending:
One of the top search queries about introverts at work is “should I say I’m an introvert at a job interview?” This is a big deal! At least, I think it should be. As a coach for sensitive, introverted women across the world, I know that introverts have so much to offer the workforce. You can benefit from having introverts on your team who are ready to be the most amazing coworkers ever. But, the world is not built for us. It’s chaotic and overwhelming. And, a job interview feels like another place where people are not being authentic. This is stressful, but of course necessary. So, if you can make the interview process more personal and authentic, a sensitive introvert will most certainly respond positively. Talking about the true expectations (see the note about expectation management above) for the position and what a typical workday/week/month/quarter will look like needs to include the social expectations and how much client/customer interaction will be involved. You could even ask how people get their energy, from other people or from time alone? What a revolutionary way to engage with potential workers!
Sensitive, Introverted Women: Consider the Radical Introvert Coaching Program
Now, to my sensitive, introverted women (who may ALSO be boss employers!). Let’s talk about what I can offer you directly. As an experienced therapist and sensitive introvert, I am uniquely able to help support YOU, wherever you are. Early career, mid-career, through a career shift…wherever you are right now. This coaching for introverted women program is different from other classes, therapy, and coaching you may have participated in before. We are going to be actively designing a life that is truly yours, amid the harsh reality of our fast-paced world. Whether you are in Florida, California, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Oregon, Missouri, South Carolina, somewhere else in the United States, Canada, or even the United Kingdom and beyond…I want to help you THRIVE. To get started: