How to Engage and Manage Introverts in Software Development
What do Warren Buffett, Al Gore, Charles Darwin, J.K. Rowling, Mahatma Gandhi, and Larry Page have in common? In addition to the fact that they can be considered high achievers, they share a trait—they are all introverts. Approximately one-third of the world's people are introverts, and introverts often have a difficult time surviving and thriving in a world where the overwhelming majority are extroverts.
In the book Type Talk at Work, the authors differentiate between these two distinct personality traits:
Unlike Extroverts, who always wear their personalities on their sleeves, introverts often keep their best to themselves. With Introverts, you see only a portion of their personality. The richest and the most trusted parts of an introvert's personality are not necessarily shared with the outside world. It takes up time, trust and special circumstances for them to begin to open up.
Thus, due to their natural orientation, introverts are often the misunderstood lot in the organizations. As the managers and the individuals working along with introverted employees, there is a need to understand and treat this personality type with compassion. What could you as a manager or a colleague do to encourage introverts? Here are some thoughts:
- Being an introvert is not a disease—just a personality orientation. Introverts don’t crave special attention; they just have the need to be understood. Understanding this basic difference is the first step in encouraging them.
- Introverts love to contribute silently without blowing their own horn. In her book The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney says that extroverts most often manage to get good press for themselves. As a manager, make an effort to highlight the introverts' achievements.
- Because they prefer to be quiet, introverts may not seem to be good team players. Before labeling them as averse to the team environment, try to understand how they are aligned. Quietness does not always mean lack of team spirit. Quietness can actually be a virtue in team situations that demand intent listening.
- Even though introverted employees might have the best of ideas, they feel uncomfortable presenting them in front of other people. Often introverts will surprise you with their depth of knowledge once they come across a suitable opportunity to talk. As a manager and a colleague, help create more opportunities for them. Sometimes even a word of encouragement is enough to get them started.
- Introverted employees typically resist sharing their grievances. As a manager, it helps to gather the necessary clues and initiate a talk upfront if an introverted employee is not happy with something.
Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says, “Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.”
Let’s attempt to give introverts their chance to shine.