Leading introvert employees: 10 tips for extroverted bosses

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Among bosses we find introverted and extroverted personalities. For the latter, special challenges may arise when they have to lead introverted employees. 10 tips for a change of perspective.

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Uta Rohrschneider UtaUta Rohrschneider is Managing Partner of grow.up. Management consulting.


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Dr. Susanne Eckel Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Dr. Susanne Eckel is a consultant, management trainer and coach at grow.up. Management consulting.


How bosses run calmer employees properly

Among bosses we find introverted and extroverted personalities. Both are neither good nor bad per se. Who better fits where, decides the job. Both have different challenges in their leadership work. For bosses with more extraverted personality parts, special challenges can arise when they have to lead introverted employees. Because here it requires understanding and a change of perspective.

“We live in a value system that is shaped by the“ ideal of extraversion ”[…], the omnipresent belief that the ideal person is sociable, an alpha animal and feels comfortable in the spotlight.” The author Susan H. Cains recognized early on that the importance of introverts is often underestimated. In her book “Still. The importance of introverts in a noisy world ”(2011) pleads for the rediscovery of introverted people. Because its strengths often go under in an environment shaped by the ideal of extraversion.

Introverts - understanding and change of perspective

The questions that managers have to face today are therefore: How can I bind restrained employees more deeply? Team on? How do I get in good contact and exchange with them? How can I create a good framework so that calmer colleagues can make good use of their specific strengths? For the right answers, bosses need to understand how the introverted human type is ticking.

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Typically the following: Careful and thoughtfulness in contact, enjoyment of quiet tasks to be worked on alone, open-mindedness for the professional exchange, exact content discussion and a quiet, friendly courtesy. In dealing with emotions, introverts prefer a moderate style. This applies both to the revealing of one's own emotions, but also to the expressions of others. People prone to introversion show strong emotions late and often only when there is high external pressure.

What characterizes the behavior of introverted people?

On bad days, the otherwise good skills increase in the negative. The environment then experiences the introverted person as cool and distant. She looks distrustful, more reserved and more indecisive than usual. She actively avoids contact and withdraws. This then has different effects in everyday working life.

It is often said that introverts are hostile to change. That is not right. They may only examine more critically and more carefully the opportunities and risks involved. Or they just act without losing many words. Others might not even get it.

Misunderstandings in daily life are easily possible

Most introverts prefer to work in small teams or alone. So they experience their own way of working as more productive and less forceful. If they are in contact with many (extroverted) people in their everyday lives, either personally or through a medium, they often find that exhausting. Even with many interfaces in the day-to-day business, everything can quickly seem too much for an introverted person. Not infrequently, this also leads to misunderstandings in one's own team. So it may be that working with a colleague who likes to work productively in a team creates the impression that the more introverted opposite is disinterested. That this is not true, shows the following example:

A team discusses the annual Christmas dinner. The question is in the room, whether instead a January January kick-off event would be more appropriate. The extravert employees dominate the discussion. In the end, the louder representatives sit down with the kick-off event. The quieter teammates had been cautious in the conversation, but no preference made clear.

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Dissatisfaction on both sides

The result: on the day of the kick-off event, the reluctant colleagues only appeared in part. The reason: they felt overwhelmed when making the decision. The absence, in turn, caused disappointment for the rest of the team, which had pushed for the move. Incomprehension spreads: “Why don't they stick to our agreement? They just have no interest in the team. ”

To avoid further confusion in the team, this situation should be well and quickly cleared up. Here, the leader is in demand for mutual understanding. It is fair to explain both perspectives with their significance for the team. In doing so, it is important to reflect one's own preferences in order to be able to discuss the behavior of introverted and extraverted colleagues in a value-free manner.

Well meant, little effect

The same applies to the performance assessment. Quieter people are often underestimated because they speak less, present their achievements and successes less, act more calmly and therefore do not appear as dynamic. Managers who are spontaneous, sociable and solution-oriented always describe their own impatience in dealing with these employees. Sometimes they find themselves “working around” them. You delegate fewer tasks to these colleagues because it seems that they do it faster and more easily if they do it themselves. Sometimes there is the fear of overloading the employee - but the manager may not even know how resilient the colleague really is.

What is meant well by the executive often does not unfold the desired effect among all employees. Too often, bosses close too much on their counterparts. Example: topics are deliberately discussed in a team and the whole thing designed as a brainstorming. Everyone should have the same opportunity to participate. Introverts, however, rarely succeed in getting involved in these settings. Either they are too reserved, shy from the word or believe that enough has been said by others. Thus, they do not affect the outcome, although they could. The reason for this, however, is not shyness, but a clear consideration that further speeches mean no added value.

Ten tips to pick up introverts properly

So how do you best meet introverted team members? Here are ten tips to create a good environment for these employees even as an extravert manager.

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  1. Make room in group situations so that introverted employees are heard. That means: waiting, not becoming impatient, but also demanding an opinion. Do not accept the argument "everything said". Make sure that extraverts do not cut you short and cut down frequent speakers.
  2. In addition to team-based methods such as discussion rounds, you can also work in groups of two and do individual work. Collect suggestions by written way. This ensures that even introverts get involved.
  3. After team situations, offer the chance to retreat in order to fully restore the performance of your employee: “We'll continue talking later. In an hour in my office? ”
  4. Promotion and Development: Transfer demanding tasks in terms of content. Provide technically good work equipment. Offer opportunities for professional development. Support the understanding of other personality types.
  5. If you feel your restrained team member is having stress with teamwork, ask for his assessment. Discuss why you consider sharing / working in a team useful and useful. Ask for alternative approaches to working on the upcoming topic. Speak openly about advantages and disadvantages. Check openly which suggestions of the introverted employee are good and can be used.
  6. If you can not offer a job in a single, twin or four-person office, a place at the edge of a group, for example in the open-plan office, is a good alternative.
  7. Remember that introverts are reluctant to focus. Give feedback in private - both positive and negative. Provide feedback in the correct language and with additional background information. Encourage employees to formulate their own assessment.
  8. When there is a change, introverts will not discuss their opinions and attitudes out loud. Talk to them actively, ask questions and then enter into a constructive exchange of content with the employee. Communicate in two steps: Provide information about the project in the first conversation. Then discuss measures or decisions in a follow-up meeting.
  9. If you want to make better use of the strengths of the extraverts and the introverts in the team, you will enable mutual mutual acquaintance, for example in a workshop in which differences, similarities and wishes for cooperation are worked out. This promotes mutual understanding and acceptance.
  10. Do not be surprised if your introverts talk less about their successes. Self-marketing is often superfluous. Make the benefits clear to them and convey your interest in the superior role. Finally, they need this information for the performance assessment and to place the success elsewhere.

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  1. Lieselotte

    Great contribution, really. I'm an introvert myself and think that's great!

  2. Holger Prieske

    Good tips, but why those only apply when the boss is extroverted, is not so clear.
    Introverted bosses can do it exactly the same way, and it is precisely those who need such lists at all and cannot do it so “automatically from the gut”.

    How to determine whether someone is introverted, would also be an interesting question, such a clear binary question should not be. It should not make sense to re-educate quiet workers to talkative protegees. When you're done with something, you make a checkmark on the ToDo list and do not trumpet about how awesome you are, that you've made it.

    • Simone Janson

      Thanks for the constructive comment.

      • Holger Prieske

        If distinctions between extroverts and introverts were clear, and one could discover that through thinking, one would not have to write articles about it, would you?

        “Man” is an impersonal pronoun that can be replaced by any person. There has to be some way of knowing what someone is like. After 1 year of working together, it might become clear, but maybe there will also be a short test, right when you are hired? Especially in the job interview, where you address the person specifically, you don't notice it, that's the way to lure everyone out of the reserve.

        There should even be bosses who prefer shy little co-workers who never contradict him. This is not good for the company, but for the self-esteem of the boss.

        Anyway, it just seems to be about office jobs, which are meetings and communication.
        On the production line or in the canteen, this may be less relevant. A caregiver may not have much opportunity to observe if a caregiver is in or out of the blue.

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