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We live in a culture that values extroverts, but the quieter staff members add value with secret strengths.
By Rebecca McClay
More By Rebecca McClay
They may pass on happy hour. They may not say “hi” in the elevators. And they may avoid eye contact at all costs.
But while introverts may not exert energy into socializing in a workforce that’s increasing teamwork-oriented, they’re often putting more into their job and company than they’re given credit for.
Think about how workplace culture has evolved from the autonomous, independent values prized by the baby boomers to one with a bonding, group-think atmosphere prized by Gen Y. Think about how introverts, whose quiet diligence may have been lauded in years past, are underappreciated in this more talkative society.
About half the population is introverts, meaning credit unions’ staff is likely 50% introverts. So, credit unions that champion talkers as the “smart ones” could be neglecting the value of half its staff.
“Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man’s world,” Susan Cain, author of the Quiet: Power of Introverts, tells Forbes. “Our most important institutions are designed for extroverts. We have a waste of talent.”
So what’s a credit union operating in this mingling millennium to do? First, be aware of your introverts. And, as Cain says, ensure that you’re not biased against shyness, seriousness, and introversion so you don’t waste their talent, energy, and happiness.
Instead of encouraging your introverts to act like extroverts, recognize your introverts’ strong attributes. In certain circumstances, an introverted leader is the best leader. In fact, in engaging and innovative workforces, it’s the more introverted leader who allows employees to run with their ideas whereas an extroverted leader likes to put their own stamp on things.
Remember that extroverts crave stimulation, but introverts don’t need additional stimulation to be happy. And that doesn’t mean they’re anti-social.
Introverts may just prefer to have an evening with a close friend than join your boisterous office happy hour. They may enjoy listening intently in meetings instead of fighting to get their idea heard. And when an introvert avoids eye contact with you in the halls, don’t be offended. They may simply be more oriented on their day’s tasks instead of their outside world.
Be aware that your introverted employees may harbor a secret sense of shame about being more introverted, Cain says. So, make sure you’re rewarding all your employees equally for their performance and not simply favoring the loudest.
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Apr 30, 2012
7/26/2012 04:04 PM
High-5 from a fellow introvert, who also likes to socialize. I enjoy helping others and working on projects no one else wants to tackle. I would rather listen intently, gather information and create something useful for everyone. Jane is absolutely correct! There is no shame in being a "Behind-the Scenes" contributor. I am happy just being who I am (An Introvert) and nothing is more rewarding than being valued for the work you do, the ideas you contribute and the investments you make towards continued growth. Thank you for the validation. Way to Go Social Introverts!
You can hear Susan talk about these ideas on her TED talk (TED.com or get the app for your smart phone.) Credit Unions could differentiate themselves from other financial services access points by consciously capitalizing on (and marketing to) diversity of all kinds, and introverts are clearly a huge untapped resource. Thanks for bringing this subject to light.
I have to jump right in here and applaud this article. I am an introvert at heart. I have often wished for a pill that I could take to make me an extrovert - but even if one existed, I probably wouldn't take it. Even though I tend to be invisible, I find great satisfaction in helping others to succeed. I am a stage hand, not an actor. So when something needs doing, I'll be the one behind the curtain moving the furniture around. Thank you for confirming that there is great value and productivity in being an introvert. (And yes, I'm sure many introverts wouldn't dare to comment on a public blog. Even stage hands come in to the light on occasion.)
Like Jane, I am by an introvert by nature. But like Kim I like to socialize. While I may go to the boisterous office happy hour, I am usually in the back of the group, observing and contributing on a quieter level. And I am usually one of the first to leave. I have direct reports who are on either side of this and I have to remind myself to actively solicit the introverts' opinions. I also am now comfortable and happy with how I am and appreciate the reminder that introverts are valuable to any organization.
This is a very nice article that sheds light on an important issue. I agree, in our society generally speaking we talk too much and don't listen enough.However, I'd add that there are real problems on the introverted extreme of the spectrum as well. Two-way communications means both sides give and take. The introvert who rarely talks is just as bad as the extrovert who rarely listens."Introverts" as described in this article need to bear most of the burden when it comes to changing one's environment. Fundamentally, even most introverts want others to communicate to them more rather than less.For example, who do most introverts value in a restaurant, the wait help that talks too much or too little? The fact is, few people enjoy eating at a restaurant where the wait help is perceived as being shy or worse, ignoring the customers.Another example is this: Do introverts shop more at stores that advertise, or don't advertise?At work we are all getting paid like the wait help is getting paid at the restaurant. Much of the reason why people notice our work (or don't) is similar to stores that know how to get noticed (or don't). When you are getting paid, others will expect you to communicate. Even others who fall in the introverted half of society.If collaboration, employee empowerment, and recognizing achievement for the benefit of members are important to a credit union, that means everyone must be open to true, two-way communications. One-way communication is rarely the most productive method in a dynamic, productive environment, either way.PS. I fall in the introverted half of the world myself.
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