How Managers Can Create Spaces and Opportunities That Empower Introverts to Shine

Introverts are often creative and thoughtful assets. Leaders who manage work-from-home teams are finding effective ways to ensure such employees’ brilliance are empathetically engaged.
Written by Lucas Dean
September 26, 2023Updated: September 26, 2023

Psychologist and author Rollo May once stated, “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

For introverts, reaching equilibrium between socialization and solace, internal contemplation and outward expression, and exertion and rejuvenation is a primarily personal feat. 

Still, those who have ever dreaded attending a party or gathering but were persuaded by a friend and ended up having a great time can attest to the value of a polite nudge in the right direction. 

In remote work environments, managers must gain an understanding of each of their team members’ social preferences and inclinations and know when nudges and intentional interactions are ultimately beneficial.  

Although it may seem counterintuitive, studies have shown that most introverts actually prefer face time in the office. A 2022 Myers-Briggs survey found that 82% of extroverted respondents favored a hybrid work model, while 74% of introverts wanted to be in the office at least part-time. 

Knowing when to push oneself outside of one’s home or mind is a matter of introspection and the result of cumulative experiences — the good, the bad and everything in between. In this vein, an introvert’s desire for collaboration and participation isn’t as surprising as some might assume. 

At Mixbook and PagerDuty, people leaders have adopted formal strategies to engage with employees who might be introverts but blossom into active contributors when given the opportunity and encouragement. 

 

Patty Morris
COO + CFO • Mixbook

Mixbook is an award-winning design platform that transforms memories into photo books, calendars, home decor, cards and more. The company aims to leverage AI design, photo curation, image classification and other advanced features to optimize the user experience. 

 

What is the remote culture like at Mixbook? How do you make sure to engage more introverted team members? 

At Mixbook, we pride ourselves on our remote-first culture being both healthy and flexible. We’ve adopted a vulnerability-based trust model where our environment creates a space where every team member can thrive, regardless of their personality type. One of the subtle practices we’ve adopted that indirectly supports our introverted team members — myself included — is our commitment to setting clear meeting agendas and norms. By doing so, I feel like every team member knows the expectation and the objective and has time to prepare their input ahead of the meeting.

We also recognize the spontaneity of impromptu meetings. During such instances, my team may pause and take a few minutes at the beginning for everyone to jot down their initial thoughts. Either way, this structured approach removes the pressure of on-the-spot contributions and ensures that everyone can contribute in a manner that suits them best. From my experience, I’ve noticed that our introverted members often come with the most prepared and insightful feedback because they’ve had the chance to process and reflect.

 

One of the subtle practices we’ve adopted that indirectly supports our introverted team members — myself included — is our commitment to setting clear meeting agendas and norms.”

 

What tools are there for introverted employees to connect with colleagues meaningfully? 

In leading the team at Mixbook, I’ve always believed in striking a balance between structured and spontaneous engagements — especially now while in a remote-first environment. A personal favorite feature of ours is a 10-minute segment at the end of our weekly all-hands meetings when we randomly assign attendees to breakout rooms for an informal chat. 

These prompts can be business-focused or lean towards personal interests. For me, varying the group size is essential as I understand that different settings resonate differently with people. For many of our introverted colleagues, larger groups can sometimes be intimidating. Thus, we always ensure that they also have opportunities for more intimate, one-on-one conversations. These dynamics create spaces of genuine interaction.

 

What is the key to building a culture where everyone, including introverted employees, feels engaged and included?

To me, fostering a culture boils down to understanding and empathy. In my time at Mixbook, I’ve strongly advocated for the use of tools like the MBTI assessment to promote self-awareness. It’s not about categorizing people — it’s about sparking open dialogues. When a team member openly says, “I’m more introverted, and this is how I best communicate,” it’s like striking gold. 

It’s a signal for us to adjust our communication styles, which, in turn, creates a space where introverts can feel safe and comfortable enough to engage more deeply. From my perspective, ensuring each interaction feels meaningful and inclusive is a testament to a thriving, adaptable work culture.

 

 

Kandace Bona
Sr. Workplace Experience Specialist II • PagerDuty

PagerDuty is a SaaS solution that empowers companies of all sizes to respond to critical customer experience disruptions. The digital management operations platform is one of Built In’s Best Places to Work In 2023. 

 

What is the remote culture like at PagerDuty? How do you make sure to engage more introverted team members? 

I’m a global workplace experience team member, and our remote work culture has evolved significantly due to the pandemic. We’ve adapted to the challenges of distance by introducing syncs, which have become a hallmark of our team’s culture. These syncs occur weekly, bringing together team members in similar time zones for casual, non-work discussions.

We explore various topics in these gatherings, from the latest movies, books and podcasts to weekend plans and personal updates about our families and pets. What sets these syncs apart is their attendance-optional nature, which ensures team members can join when it suits their schedules without any pressure.

One memorable moment from our syncs was the creation of our very own “Animal Show.” One of our colleagues, a walking encyclopedia of animal facts, took on the role of the main commentator. With a few team members contributing dramatic reactions, we produced entertaining videos about various animal topics. These videos were shared on our company’s Vibe channel, providing a fun break during the workday.

As for me, this year has been dedicated to planning my wedding, and the syncs have been a platform for me to share this journey’s excitement and occasional frustrations. I’ve received invaluable advice, ranging from overcoming my fear of public speaking for a wedding toast — thanks to my team’s encouragement — to diplomatically managing unexpected guest list expansions by well-meaning in-laws.

These watercooler moments, even in a virtual setting, allow us to connect on a personal level, fostering the same camaraderie we would enjoy in an office. It’s reassuring to know that beyond collaborating on work tasks, I can turn to my team, whether it’s our senior director or a fellow specialist in Sydney, for both professional and life advice. Our remote culture has sustained our team’s productivity and enriched our connections as colleagues and friends.

 

What tools are there for introverted employees to connect with colleagues meaningfully?

In our organization, we leverage a variety of tools to facilitate meaningful connections among employees. A central platform for communication is Slack, which not only serves as a primary channel for work-related discussions but also adds an element of fun through memes and emoji reactions.

We’ve created local channels within Slack to keep everyone informed about work-related and personal upcoming events. These channels range from company-led virtual volunteer opportunities to good-natured banter between Warriors and Lakers fans, showcasing the friendly rivalry.

Our Slack channels have become micro-communities within our larger organization. For instance, I’m part of our company’s Asian American Pacific Islander employee resource group, called Illuminate. Our channel provides a space for like-minded employees to connect, share posts and participate in events centered around relatable topics. From live virtual lumpia-making sessions to tutorials on paper crane origami, these gatherings foster a sense of belonging.

Beyond work-related channels, we have various non-work channels that cater to diverse interests. The #parent_duty channel is where parents share adorable and humorous photos of their children, offering relatable anecdotes that bring a knowing smile to fellow parents’ faces. The #dogs channel is dedicated to heartwarming and entertaining moments with our canine companions, allowing us to share our dogs’ quirks. Additionally, there’s an #art_space channel where employees can showcase their artistic talents in various forms. These channels enable me to stay connected with my colleagues, discover shared interests and provide excellent conversation starters for virtual and in-person interactions.

We also incorporate social activities into our team meetings to enhance team bonding. Rotating hosts organize fun games and events, such as virtual escape rooms hosted by external vendors, ensuring that our team meetings are not just about work but also an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

 

What is the key to building a culture where everyone, including introverted employees, feels engaged and included?

In my view, the fundamental key to fostering an engaging and inclusive culture that embraces all employees is a multifaceted approach. It involves leadership setting the example, employees engaging in regular interactions within Slack channel communities and the organization hosting inclusive events.

 

Leadership plays a pivotal role in creating an inclusive environment. Encouragement from team directors and managers to participate in company-wide activities is essential.”

 

Leadership plays a pivotal role in creating an inclusive environment. Encouragement from team directors and managers to participate in company-wide activities is essential. For instance, our September Step challenge allows employees to form teams and compete while raising funds for nonprofit organizations. Additionally, leaders provide opportunities for participation in employee resource groups (ERGs) and in-person team events.

ERGs contribute significantly to a sense of belonging. They conduct regular meetings to discuss pertinent topics like representation in media and incorporate engaging activities like trivia games. Furthermore, people team town halls kick off with icebreakers, facilitating interactions among employees across the organization.

One particularly exciting initiative is our PagerDuty Pop-Ups program. This project, led by my core team, organizes live, in-person events in various global locations with a substantial number of attendees. These events feature a diverse agenda, including executive fireside chats, AMA sessions and workshops on themes like building connections. Social activities such as boat cruises and museum tours are coordinated, fostering interactions among employees who may not have otherwise met.

Building an inclusive culture involves leadership support, active participation in ERGs and the organization’s commitment to hosting events that facilitate meaningful connections among employees, regardless of their roles or locations.

 

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