Introverts R Us: 4 Tips from Microsoft for Managing the Quietly Cool

Tech people are commonly considered introverts--but should they be managed differently than extroverts?

Caroline Marwitz

August 5, 2014

3 Min Read
Introverts R Us: 4 Tips from Microsoft for Managing the Quietly Cool

It used to be, being an introvert was almost as bad as being an axe murderer. Look at the descriptions people often use when confronted with a neighbor or coworker who went berserk: ‘He was always very quiet.’ ‘He kept to himself.’

Luckily, we live in a time when there is growing acceptance, and, one might argue, a yearning for the insights and skills introverts bring to the table. Even the business world, and extrovert-sympathetic America in general, are realizing that introverts are useful to have around.

They are more likely to let their teams try their own ideas rather than put their own stamp on things as an extrovert might. And introverts are lauded for their ability to stay calm and composed, which can help in stressful workplaces.

What exactly is an introvert, though? And why do some introverts seem so outgoing and definitely NOT reclusive and axe murderer-like?

There’s More to Introversion

Even if you work with nothing but introverted, technically inclined peers, you’ve probably seen varying degrees of introversion among them. Anyone who has ever gone to a tech conference has observed how, after a day in technical sessions, some people retreat to their rooms or a distant hallway to be alone.

Others jump at the chance to party with fellow attendees, speakers, and vendors.

But even among those IT party animals, some will go back to their rooms energized, while others will collapse on their beds, exhausted from socializing.

It comes down to energy. Extroverts gain energy from being around others. Introverts use up energy from being around others.  

Which is why they need to recharge by stepping away for a moment or several moments or longer, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or all three.

There’s more to introversion than meets the eye. And business is picking up on what introverts have to offer. So the logical next step is—how do you manage them?

We were interested to see recently an article at the Microsoft TechNet blog about how to manage introverts and extroverts.

4 Tips for Managing Extroverts and Introverts

The Microsoft MSFTforWork blog post acknowledges that both types are valuable. In typical Microsoft fashion, it attempts to set out in a straightforward manner the differences between managing extroverts and introverts. And it offers four tips that might seem trivial, or even obvious to some, but in extrovert-centric America are almost revolutionary:

  1. Give advanced warning. Let introverts know changes or news is coming, and give them an agenda prior to a meeting, even if it’s an impromptu one.

  2. Accept written feedback as well as verbal. When brainstorming in meetings, for example, give people the option of emailing you later with additional ideas.

  3. Consider focus when assigning projects. For an introvert who might have the talent for sustained concentration, you might assign a specific project area. An extrovert might be given multiple projects.

  4. Nudge work spaces to best suit personalities. The post mentions how introverts can benefit from headphones to filter the noise and conversation that doesn’t bother an extrovert. It also recommends offering remote work assignments for introverts.

What other tips would you include for managing introverts and extroverts? Do you feel the workplace favors one type over another?


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