Extroverts, who thrive on being around people, tend to attract more attention than introverts. Don't make the mistake of overlooking your introverted employer or co-worker, though. Such people often have untapped wells of talent, and may make effective leaders. Think about Sir Isaac Newton, Rosa Parks and Albert Einstein -- all were introverts who made an enormous impact.
Don't mistake an introvert for a follower. Just because your office mate is quiet during meetings doesn't mean that she isn't mentally taking notes and very possibly coming up with the best idea the company has seen in years. In fact, many introverts make effective leaders, because they are prone to reflection and critical thinking, according to management professor Karl Moore. Introverts also tend to implement employee suggestions more readily than extroverts, and can be better listeners, writes Moore.
Introverts often solve problems that no one else in the office has the patience or tenacity to tackle. In her book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," author Susan Cain points out that solitude is an important aspect of creativity. Who is better suited for creative work than a person who flourishes working independently? Cain notes that solitude is often the critical difference between merely becoming proficient at a task and becoming great at it.
Be aware that while shy people can also be introverted, not all introverts are shy. In an article in "Scientific American," Cain emphasizes that shyness is rooted in a "fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation." In the workplace, this means that an employee who is quiet during meetings might be a dynamic presenter -- as long as he's had significant time to focus himself in a quiet place before the presentation.
If you notice an introvert dining alone at lunchtime, don't assume it's because she hasn't connected with her co-workers. Introverts need time away from people to "recharge their batteries." This is especially important in workplaces with significant interpersonal interaction. When designing office space, consider the introverts in your midst. For example, introverts might not do their best work in an open office space, because the noise and distractions of such an environment can sap their energy.
- Forbes: Introverts No Longer the Quiet Followers of Extraverts
- Monster: Understand the Inner Life of Workplace Introverts
- Quiet -- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking; Susan Cain
- Scientific American: The Power of Introverts -- A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.