By Pira Kuramasamy
Last month we talked about how quiet employees can shine in the workplace by being proactive and playing to their strengths. Nurturing happy employees who excel, however, is a two-way street. According to Dr. Bernardo Carducci, professor of psychology at Indiana University Southeast and director of the Shyness Research Institute, up to 43 per cent of people are shy. Employers would be remiss to ignore this important subset of the population. Dismissing an employee as ‘too quiet’ and marking this as a strike against him or her is the best way to hinder untapped potential and lower morale.
A good manager is one who takes the time to understand his or her employees and learn how they work best in order to help them succeed. There are a number of ways you can do this and allow even your quietest employees be heard – in meetings and beyond:
- Help them prepare. If you feel it’s important for your quiet employee to be vocal during a meeting, it could help to prepare speaking points with them beforehand to ensure they have a role during the meeting. Think about the topics they would feel the most comfortable with, offer suggestions, and give them the opportunity to lead the discussion. If you know a topic will come up in which they have strong knowledge base, give them the heads up and suggest ways to contribute to the discussion.
- Give them credit. If you know your employee isn’t comfortable speaking up in a group scenario and you’re okay with this, make sure to give them a solid introduction and clarify their role. For instance, you might say something like “This is Samantha, our product lead. She’ll be quietly typing away so that she can provide you with a detailed product brief following this meeting.”
- When it comes to brainstorming, keep it one-on-one. It’s a known fact that quiet employees dislike brainstorm sessions. They find it nerve-racking to produce ideas on the fly and feel self-conscious about being judged. Knowing that your quiet employees likely won’t be the most vocal during a brainstorm session, find other ways to help them contribute like giving them the opportunity to submit written ideas or brainstorm one-on-one. Your quiet employee’s great idea might never see the light of day if you don’t find a way to get it out.
- Hone in on their strengths. Quiet employees might not win you a face-to-face sale, but they can work tirelessly in the background to make you look good. Get to know your employees and give them more of the work they excel in. For instance, if your quiet employee is a strong writer, give him or her more opportunities to produce written materials. If this means evolving or shifting their role, have the conversation and move them into something that’s the right fit based on their personality.
- Let them know they’re valued. Quiet employees often feel their quietness is a weakness. This simply isn’t the case, and letting them know this will help them feel like a valued member of the team. Encourage them by giving them positive feedback on their successes and remind them that the team is lucky to have them.
Nurturing employees with a range of different personalities is the mark of a positive workplace culture. Foster that culture, make your employees look good, and they’ll help your company flourish.