Management & Leadership Advice

Does your organization have some employees who are shy, introverted or simply quiet? Most do. However, to create and maintain a productive environment, you need everyone to contribute.

The Top Benefits of Listening to Quiet Employees

Make the Most of Your Entire Workforce
What if one of your quietest employees recognizes a major flaw in your newest plan? What if they are too shy to speak up? Or, what if they do speak up, but one of their more aggressive coworkers shouts them down? What if they are right, but no one took the time to listen? Your company added every person to your team for a reason. Strive to maximize each employee’s potential even when they are hesitant to participate.

Tap into a Unique Perspective
Although quiet employees don’t always add to the conversation, this doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged. While everyone else is talking, they may be listening, processing information and developing creative solutions. Often, these individuals are strong critical thinkers who pay attention to detail. By overlooking their ideas, your organization is missing out on different, and possibly more thoughtful, points of view.

Create a More Effective Team
In 2008, a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon and MIT studied 699 people to determine what makes a good team. One common characteristic among the highest performing groups was all the team members, both introverts and extroverts, spoke roughly the same amount. Or, as the study’s lead author, Anita Woolley commented, “As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.” (Smarter Faster Better, 2016)

Three Ways to Help Quiet Employees Speak Up

Ask for Input
Sometimes bringing someone out of their shell is as easy as asking, “John, what do you think?” One of the most effective methods to gain full participation is for team leaders to model inclusive behaviors. This may include inviting people to contribute, not interrupting when someone is speaking and showing the group how to intervene when someone is flustered.

Level the Playing Field
People who are introspective may require time to digest information and formulate a response. Set them up for success by providing ideal conditions. If putting them on the spot seems to trigger anxiety, let them know in advance what you would like them to speak about or ask them to express their thoughts in writing first.

Nudge (Don’t Push) Them Out of Their Comfort Zone
Forcing an introvert to act like an extrovert can be incredibly stressful. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage your quieter employees to be more outgoing. Just use common sense. Rather than throwing them into an impromptu hour-long speaking engagement, start by asking them to enroll in a public speaking course or to take part in a group presentation.

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