DO INTROVERTS HAVE FEWER CAREER OPPORTUNITIES?
"Too shy, quiet, cautious or distant..."
Many introverts often hear these words throughout their lives. As early as childhood, parents try to encourage quieter and perhaps somewhat reserved children to open up more, to speak their minds louder, to simply be more extroverted. Yet introverts have so much to offer and make up a significant part of our society. Still, the societal preference is for extroverted behavior, which can make it difficult for introverts in everyday situations to get promotions, be tasked with leading large teams, let alone be sent abroad. Inspired by an introverted client that I just coached, I came up with the idea for this article. Through her I have dealt a lot with introversion, their career opportunities and their challenges in the everyday work environment. I would like to show you what strengths introverts have, why they can also be an excellent choice for an assignment and give practical tips on how to nurture introverted team members in an extroverted environment.
Introversion in society and work environment
First of all, being an introvert is a normal, healthy part of personality and temperament, and there is certainly no need for introverts to change these basic traits and morph into a different person. They are the deep thinkers, the creative minds and also the innovators of our society. But unfortunately, many people and modern workplaces tend to cater more to extroverts. Between elaborate PowerPoint presentations, large corporate events, team events, presentations and open space offices without walls, introverts often feel overwhelmed. In addition, our society and many employers value employees who speak up in meetings, pitch ideas loudly in brainstorming sessions, and those who can speak and present in front of groups with ease. Despite this societal preference for extroversion, introverts make up 30-50 percent of our population. It is therefore important to understand introversion in order to avoid unconscious biases and at the same time to support them optimally in the work environment.
DifferenceS between introversion and extroversion:
First of all, intro and extroversion are different characteristics of character and temperament. The two "extremes" are at opposite ends of a spectrum with ambivert in the middle. Of course, there is not only the intro or extrovert, but there are also different strong characteristics. From people who need social contacts and events from time to time to those who prefer to isolate themselves completely, anything is possible.
The difference between the two lies in what they get their energy from and how they give it off. Introverts expend energy by being with others. Socializing with other people drains their mental batteries and they can only "recharge" when they are alone or with close friends or family. Extroverts experience exactly the opposite here: closeness to others recharges their batteries and loneliness drains them. Additionally, introverts' brains are more sensitive to dopamine, causing them to be less likely to take risks or enjoy intense experiences like loud noises, bright lights, roller coasters or something similar.
The strengths of introverts and HOW TO UNLEASH THEM
Thanks to their intelligence, their creativity and their innovative spirit, there are many strong introverted leaders who have come a long way: Steve Jobs, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein are among the more introverted people. So, people with introverted traits have many wonderful strengths that are sometimes overlooked. Unfortunately, many team leaders do not know how to best lead introverts so that they can develop. It is just as important that not only the team leader but also the whole team is made aware of how best to work together. Introverted and extroverted characters are very different and need to work together smoothly without feeling offended.
Here is a list of some of the strengths of introverts:
1.Quality: Introverts don't just chatter away and share their opinions. They choose their words carefully and attach great importance to the quality and meaning of what they say. They think first, analytically examine the issues. But when they do speak, the content certainly has substance and is worth listening to. As a boss and as a team, you always have the task of creating a space where the introvert dares to speak. Maybe it is more at the end of a meeting or after the meeting in a one-to-one.
2. Creativity: Introverts are at the forefront when it comes to rethinking and coming up with new topics. They think a lot, analyze and reflect. They can do this best in a quiet environment - open-plan offices are an absolute horror. So, make sure that the introverted team members have a space of retreat where they can think and work undisturbed. Working from home for a few days certainly helps.
3. Focused: Introverts are not easily distracted; they can work long and hard on a topic until it is completed. This can help the team complete projects despite the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As a manager, when choosing projects, you should think carefully about which ones might suit the introverted team members more.
4. Listening: This trait may be dismissed as many people consider themselves good listeners. But the truth is, there are very few who really are. And these are mostly found among introverts. Many people only half-listen to the person they are talking to while they are already thinking about what they want to say in reply. They are with themselves not with the other. (Recommendation: A book I think everyone should read, whether introverted or extroverted, is “Time to think” by Nancy Kline). Introverts are very good observers; they take the time to process all the information they receive and to filter out the essentials from the words and body language. This also makes them excellent managers, as they know the moods and needs of each individual well and can absorb them. As a team member and leader you can also work on your active listening skills, so that you really hear the messages that need to come across.
"Our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements. " by Susan Cain
5. Caution: Introverts think through big decisions several times and weigh up exactly where the advantages and disadvantages of a decision lie. In contrast to extroverts, who are more risk-affine, introverts have a high need for security. This tendency to make well-thought-out decisions makes introverts good leaders. Depending the business you are in, you can encourage your introvert team members to take sometimes risks when necessary or on the opposite use their deep analysis and knowledge to re-evaluate and take a real good decision.
6. Analytical Thinking: Researching, analyzing, comparing, creating structures, developing strategies - all of this is a great strength and passion of introverts. Especially in situations that require a lot of analysis and in the case of confusing topics, this quality is very helpful and helps to find good solutions. It is perfect to have someone on the team who enjoys these tasks. These are certainly not for everyone. Maybe other (less analytical) team members can benefit and learn from this? Mix different characters for a project so that a double learning effect can arise. The analyst may be able to teach a great presenter about statistics and research while learning from him about rhetoric and stage presence.
7. Rest: Radiating inner calm is a great gift of introverts and has a positive and calming effect on people around them or the team. In hectic everyday life, they often act like a haven of peace and can also have a positive influence on conversations thanks to their calm nature. Colleagues and team leaders should only be careful not to overload their colleagues, they also need rest from time to time to recharge their batteries.
8. Independence: Introverts like to be alone whether privately or at work. However, this also means that they are very independent and can work well on their own without needing constant supervision. As team leaders, introverts also give this freedom to their team members and thus promote freedom from their employees.
Do introverts have fewer career opportunities?
The answer is yes, as long as team leaders, teams and extroverted work environments do not start to rethink and see introversion as a strength, not a weakness! Therefore, I believe that much more needs to be said and done on this subject. Introverts can be excellent performers and leaders and do an excellent job on international assignments. We need to stop primarily rewarding and valuing extroverted behavior. As a good team leader or team member, the first thing to do is to notice who in the team is perhaps more introverted or who shows introverted characteristics.
The second step is to accept this and not see it as a weakness but as a complementary strength in the entire team. Take the time to listen, do not force them to work full-time in a team, but give them the freedom to work on their own projects, give them space to express their opinions without pressure, encourage them in an extroverted environment. Support in the preparation before big presentations and strengthen their self-confidence. Make them understand that their traits are good, they are comfortable in their introverted comfort zone, and can always return there to recharge. In some moments, however, they have to go out, for example to present or express their opinion. Introverts have to learn this step by step and need support. Also consider them for promotions or international assignments, with the right support introverts will make great and successful leaders.
Lastly, don't just make it your mission as a team leader, but make the whole team accountable. A personality test can help people understand their style, their strengths and the value they bring to the team. Individuals understand their own and others’ communication preferences and can connect better with their colleagues to improve collaboration.
If you would like to learn more or maybe you are one of the introverts yourself, please contact me here. I'm happy to meet you!
‘Time to think‘ by Nancy Kline and Cassell
‘The Introvert Advantage’ by Marty Olsen Laney
‘The irresistible introvert’ by Michaela Chung
Susan Cain: ‘The power of introverts’
Team personality test: https://www.insights.com/