It’s really easy to connect with the showboat personalities in your office. The people who light up a room and start chatting up the first person they see aren’t difficult to manage (at least most of the time). Sure, they might stir up drama from time to time, but they’re not hard to make friends with. These extroverts may attract a lot of attention, but there aren’t as many of them as it seems from their big personalities. In fact, at least 40% of people would be considered shy—a large portion of the population of the world and your office.
Shy peers and employees often avoid making first contact unless they have to. This doesn’t mean that they are disengaged from work or don’t want to connect—it’s just more difficult to draw them out of their shells. It can take a long time before shy or introverted employees feel comfortable opening it up, and you may have to be a little more patient to get the good ideas out of their head and into a meeting than you would with more outgoing personalities. However, you don’t always have to wait a year or more to get your quieter employees to open up. A concerted effort on your part can speed up the process and help you connect with the introverts in your office. Here are some tips for connecting with quiet employees.
1. Communicate Properly
Your communication style has to change from employee to employee. You won’t have the same success using the same communication style with an outgoing employee and a shy employee. Many shy employees tend to prefer electronic forms of communication where they have the space to think without feeling pressure to comment right away. This is especially true when dealing with feedback, be it good or bad. This doesn’t mean you can’t give negative feedback, just be sensitive in the way you deliver it. Shy employees are often more creative and self-aware, so a more tactful and constructive communication style will serve you well.
2. Don’t Blindside Them
Many quiet employees freeze up when asked to give feedback on the spot, particularly during a meeting. Instead of calling on them in a group setting, give them a heads up about what will be discussed, and ask them for feedback or thoughts in advance. That way, they know what to expect and will come prepared.
You might also want to consider allowing them to tailor their feedback style to what makes them the most comfortable, as long as the communication is clear. If they’d rather give written feedback, don’t feel you have to force them to give verbal feedback. They’ll present their best ideas if they’re communicating on their own terms.
3. Remember Their Strengths
Quiet employees aren’t necessarily less invested or less able to generate good ideas than their more outspoken peers; they just aren’t as comfortable speaking up. Don’t forget to leverage their unique skills for the good of the team. It’s well worth the work to connect with quiet employees, learn what their strengths are, and inspire them to use their gifts.
4. Invest in Training
Expanding their skillset, be it public speaking or digital communication, can be a great way to boost confidence and inspire empowerment within the office. In fact, investing in training can be a huge boost for all employees, not just the quiet ones. Businesses and organizations with teams that work closely together may also wish to have team-building trainings on occasion. These don’t have to be often, but even a session only once a quarter can really help team members open up and really get to know their peers.
5. Give Them Collaborative Responsibility
Once you fully understand your quiet employees’ strengths, ask them to share their knowledge. Bring them in on training new team members, or have them send out a guide to enhance their co-workers’ understanding of the subject in which they have unique expertise. Working one-on-one with people is less stressful for quiet employees, and it can help them build confidence and integrate with the team.
6. Talk One on One and Ask Questions
In a group setting, quiet employees are very unlikely to speak up. They tend to thrive more in a one-on-one setting, which is where you’ll get the best chance to connect with them. Ask questions, and don’t expect them to volunteer information without prompting. As they answer questions, they’ll likely open up and feel more comfortable. Remind them they can always reach out and talk to you one-on-one if they need help. You don’t have to be their counselor, but being available can help employees open up. Connecting is a give and take, and you want quiet employees to feel comfortable both giving and receiving feedback.
The Rewards of Patience
Creating equal access for your employees, whether they’re the big personalities in your weekly meetings, or the shy folks who contribute under the radar, is important for a cohesive and productive team. Ignoring your quiet employees does everyone a disservice: you’ll miss out on the great ideas they have to offer. Try to connect with all your employees, and your patience will be rewarded with loyalty and stellar work.