Ten Strategies for Introverts to Excel in the Workplace
Introverts are often unsung heroes at work, but they can win over the rest.
Posted March 21, 2018
Introverts tend to be misunderstood in many settings, particularly in the American workplace, which tends to emphasize outspokenness and engaged interpersonal dynamics. Because of the mainstreaming of extroversion as the norm in our work culture, introverts sometimes fall into patterns of feeling misunderstood, overlooked, or out of sync with the rest. Nonetheless, introverts are great contributors to societal innovation and productivity everywhere, with great problem solving and analytic skills, a focused work ethic, and the ability to think creatively and outside the box. Here are ten tips for introverts to weigh in meaningfully at the workplace, work well with extroverts, and get the credit they deserve.
1. Toot your own horn and share your knowledge
One key issue that introverts need to work on is that they tend to shy away from the limelight. Oftentimes they are quietly getting the job done and have a deep body of knowledge they are using, but they don’t always let others know that they know what they are doing. This leads to highly competent introverts getting overlooked for important roles where they could really do the best job and help everyone excel. In such cases, introverts need to nudge themselves to let others know what they know. Share the knowledge upstairs with others, and this will help your hard work not go unnoticed, and help everyone else improve too.
2. Put yourself in leadership roles
Along the lines of needing to toot your own horn, introverts, despite their natural inclination to avoid such roles, should volunteer whenever possible for leadership positions. Such roles help introverts establish their authority without the usual methods of being louder and prouder than the crowd. By virtue of their position, others will naturally defer and listen to the introverts when they do decide to speak or make their interests known. The bonus is that people actually end up liking many introvert leaders because they tend to be more thoughtful and cautious, less overtly pompous, and less impulsive.
3. Use alternative means of communication like email
If speaking and socializing are not the natural venues for getting noticed or heard around coworkers, introverts should not hesitate to use other means of communication that they feel more comfortable with. For example, many introverts tend to prefer writing: if so, they should distribute any thoughts, ideas, jokes, etc. via email or handouts to let people know what’s going up upstairs, albeit sparingly, since many are overloaded with emails. While some do complain about too much email at work, the truth is it’s still a foolproof and organized way for everyone to get alerted to what you have to say.
4. Generate ideas and distribute them
Introverts tend to prefer the mental space to problem solve and analyze issues. Accordingly they can come up with great solutions to organizational tasks at hand. Introverts shouldn’t hesitate to proactively look at issues or bottlenecks that have been plaguing systems for some time, and then let everyone know what they come up with. Demonstrating the ability to generate innovative ideas and solutions will help introverts win over everyone’s good graces.
5. Build quiet time and down time into schedule
Introverts are sensitive souls and get easily overstimulated by the usual social cacophony of public workspaces. In order to reduce stress and maximize work efficiency, introverts should not hesitate to build in quiet time and breaks into their work schedule so they can recharge and let their ideas flow. They end up actually being more productive and efficient with their work when they are allowed to control these factors.
6. Don’t let things build up
Introverts sometimes are stuck in their heads, and their thoughts can take a life of their own, including negative ones like stress, resentment, and sticking points. These are times when reaching out to others and bouncing thoughts off of people, in person, can actually unlock an introvert’s flow and help prevent a build-up of frustration or misunderstanding. The worst situation is when an introvert lets stress build up to the point where they become uncharacteristically cranky or restless, which can frighten or worry others who don't expect and misinterpret such behavior from the typically low-key introvert.
7. Prepare and rehearse for meetings and presentations
Interpersonal settings such as meetings can provoke anxiety in introverts who prefer a more controlled, less spontaneous space to get their thoughts in line. The key is to prepare ahead of time, even write up lists of goals or ideas you wish to convey or reference when asked during a meeting. For presentations, rehearsals and practice can also help build a sense of inner confidence about your ability to successfully convey your internal knowledge to others.
8. Do the dirty work and get it done
Sometimes introverts can excel at projects neglected by others who are more scattered, distracted, or overextending themselves, and these introverts can complete or solve work that would seem difficult or insurmountable to others. This is again, a solid way to win over extroverts’ good graces and respect.
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9. Knowledge is power
Because they don’t talk as much, introverts are often mistaken by extroverts for not knowing as much or lacking confidence, because they don’t automatically say what they know. They key is to still know your stuff as much as possible, and then present your knowledge at strategic and wise moments, so that others will realize you are no fool and that you are to be reckoned with. Use your measured analytical skills and thinking to help everyone accomplish their goals, and you will be respected. Think of the adage, speak softly but carry a big stick.
10. Use mystery to your advantage
Sometimes, it can work to an introvert’s advantage to be slightly mysterious to others, by joking and playing off that mystery. Flashes of unexpected humor, unusual hobbies, or more relaxed behavior to others can win over extroverts who think there is no personality underneath an introvert’s quiet shell, and intrigue them even more.
Overall, introverts should not sell themselves short, and while it may take a little extra effort, they can excel in the workplace and help the whole team achieve bigger and better goals. Introverts have just as much to contribute to any team and should not be underestimated.