How to Motivate Introverted Employees

Do you have an employee who gave the first impression that they are a very thoughtful, creative, and smart person?  Even though this person can produce high-quality work from time to time, they seem a bit distant and uncommunicative or even arrogant…

The chances are your new employee is an introvert!  You wish there was a way to motivate them and make that employee more productive and communicative.  The solution is first to understand how and why they are different, to realize that their minds are made-up differently from the mind of an extrovert.  

Introversion versus extroversion:

The basic definition of introversion versus extroversion is that extroverts are more comfortable with and prefer to direct their mental energy toward the outside world, other people, or objects.  In contrast, introverts tend to prefer living in the world of their minds and their thoughts.  When introverts are forced into a team or a very crowded environment for too long, the situation will deplete their energy, and they will become very drained. 

Introverts gain energy from the comfort of their inner thoughts and feelings

Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was the first to distinguish extroversion and introversion, the two major orientations of personality.  We continue to learn from Jung’s findings and ongoing psychoanalytical research leads to greater understanding of personality types to help managers in the workplace.

Cognitive sciences have discovered two main ways that introverted minds are different:

1.    Introverts process incoming information more slowly because they filter information thoroughly before considering the input. Their neural pathway to process information is longer than that of extroverts.  This is because they use the parasympathetic side of the brain, and the pathways are much longer, meaning they need more time for the information to be processed.  Hence introverts can easily become over-stimulated with too much external information from the environment. 

Scientists can detect the differences between introvert and extrovert babies as early as four months old. Extroverts easily take stimulation because the two parts of the brain they use have a much smaller pathway than introverts. This neurological difference explains why extroverts tend to be active and action-oriented, actively seeking out stimulating experiences. While, in contrast, introverts tend to be more idiosyncratic in their preference for a slower and manageable pace.

Scientists can detect introverted babies as early as 4-month old!

2. The second difference is that because the part of the brain used to process information and the part of the brain connected to communication and processing verbal input are quite separated in introverts.  Hence, they can go on for long periods of time without talking or communicating with other people.   Conversely, an extrovert will get the juices flowing, think, and speak at the same time.  They will enjoy brainstorming with other people, thinking and talking simultaneously.  

So, when you know these differences, you can begin to understand why there are behavioral differences between introvert and extrovert team members.  You see, it’s not that your introverted employee is having an attitude or trying to be distant on purpose; it’s just how their brain works.

How to spot an introverted employee

They tend to be

  1. Calm: He or she exudes a calming presence.
  2. Listeners: They tend to listen more than they talk.  This is especially noticeable in a team meeting when they appear more reflective.
  3. Having subdued Dress Style: Introverts tend to dress subtly.  Their clothing is usually understated, preferring dark colors.  They don’t want to stand out too much.  Compare this with extroverted employees who dress in more vibrant, outstanding colors and styles.

In fact, a lot of people think that introverts are a minority in the population.  However, many surveys have shown that introverts and extroverts are actually about 50/50 in a population.

The reason they seem to be the minority is that they don’t compete with the extroverts for attention.  They don’t speak up that much, preferring to think through the information before voicing an opinion.  They’re the silent half of the population! Another possible explanation is that many introverts would put on an “extrovert mask” on social settings to blend in better (even if it’s pretty draining), giving the impression that there are ways more extroverts to the untrained eyes.

Introverts bring unique strengths to the team

Now you know the differences between introverts and extroverts, you can appreciate the unique strengths of the introverted employee:

  • Because they spend more time reflecting and coming up with something that is truly unique, you can expect their work to be more creative and original.
  • You can also expect them to be thorough and meticulous because they think things through and process a lot of information inside their head before they talk about and show the result.   
  • Lastly, introverts have high moral principles.  Most of the time, introverts value their integrity and authenticity very highly.  It’s a useful attribute to balance the team in the workplace, especially against the fast-paced and cut-throat cultures of many workplaces nowadays.

How to motivate the introverted employee

So, how do you as a manager nurture and encourage better productivity and motivation from an introverted employee?  There are four ways you can do it:

1. When you assign them some work or a task, give them a lot of upfront information so they can process it, but then give them space.  There is this golden rule of two to forty-eight hours, depending on the complexity of the task, that works very well with introverts.  Give your introverted employee the time to think through all the input and process the information. In return, they will give you very thorough and very considered work results. 

2.  The second way you can help them is to complement their weaknesses.  Since they are a more reflective and somewhat individualistic employee, you can support them with your own strengths or that of another team member:

For example, you can provide them with social connections to others in the team.  Because it’s usual that introverts find it challenging to initiate social contact themselves, you can quickly introduce them to other team members.  By introducing them to other stakeholders that are relevant o the project, you help them to be able to touch base and integrate into the team.

You can assist an introverted employee by introducing him or her to other stakeholders/coworkers

3. You can assist them by giving clear deadlines and KPI expectations.  Because introverts are so reflective and usually perfectionistic, they are not good with deadlines.  So, you need to be clear regarding when you need the result.   When you have clear KPIs, they are certain of your expectations, and you can best optimize their thought process and creativity.

4.   Lastly, keep your introverted employee motivated.  Once they have finished their work, it’s important to praise the work, but moderately, because they can easily detect unnecessary and superfluous compliments.   So give them the praise that they deserve for their originality and creativity.  Praise them for their hard work and their meticulousness.  This valid, genuine praise will be a sure way to make sure you keep your introverted employee happy and motivated.

Conclusion

When you are aware of introverted characteristics you are better able to manage introverted team members.  Doing so is a case of considering how the different personality types function.  Introverted employees are motivated by receiving information in advance of meetings, enabling them to think about the content prior to the meeting.  Introverts will also think about ideas and get back to you later with their contributions.  A manager who considers personality types of the whole team are rewarded with wider contributions and a happier team.  

References:

https://www.lifehack.org/412467/why-introverts-are-introverts-because-their-brains-are-different

https://www.insperity.com/blog/managing-introverts/

Perceiving Cognitive Processes: Intuition & Sensing

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and framework have popularized the concepts of extroversion, introversions and the cognitive processes that you probably have heard of: Thinking vs Feeling, Intuition vs Sensing. However, these concepts were first introduced in the early 20th century by Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), a famous Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology.

Understand the fundamentals of these processes is crucial for any further learning and reading of MBTI-related theories and Jungian psychology. At the very least, you will be able to decipher the various functions that make up your personality type and how they interact together to form your unique cognitive patterns.

So let’s dive in to the first pairs of two opposite processes: Intuition and Sensing! If you prefer to watch instead of reading, below is a detailed video explanation I have made on the same topic:

The Definitions

This dichotomy is how we perceive and make sense of information, either in a dominantly concrete or abstract manner.

Concrete information is tangible sensory information, something that you can feel, see, taste, hear. With regards to time, it’s also related to what is here and now, what’s currently going on in society and most immediate environment. Jung termed this process of accessing concrete information: sensing and those with this preference are called sensors

Abstract information is intangible conceptual information, such as reading between the lines, metaphors, meaning behind things, future possibilities … The person likes to think far ahead, using past data to foresee future outcomes and behaviors. The process of using abstract perception is termed Intuition and the people who prefer it over sensing are called intuitives.

We both can use sensing and intuition at will, we have preference to prioritize one over the other. Our preferred side is more dominant, natural, and more developed like the left and right hand. Sensors are generally better at noticing and remembering details of a discussion while intuitives often only remember the key points or vibe. 

 Intuition dominantSensing dominant
How an intuitive and sensor notice a book in bookshop differently (in order
of what the person see first)
Essence of what’s it about
Relevance to me
Seem a bit worn out
Eww one corner is torn off!
The cover design is corny
What is it about?
Example of how an intuitive and sensing person would notice an object differently

According to statistical studies, Sensors significantly outnumber Intuitives in the general population.(70-75% of the population are sensors). It is a big advantage if you are aware of the sensing-intuitive difference because this dichotomy is often a common source of misunderstanding in work and personal relationships.

Sensors look for concrete facts and details and take things as they are and work with them. Intuitives look for abstract patterns and connections because they prefer to deal with the potential of objects, believing that reality can be different or changed, with a hopeful lens for the future. Sensors are more realistic and grounded while intuitives are more idealistic.

When Sensors intuit for too long, they feel impatient with too much theory and abstract thoughts. Meanwhile, intuitives can easily be put off by feeling forced to explain or sequence “every little detail” and would rather get back to entertaining new or interesting possibilities to restore equilibrium to their personality.

Evolutionary and social roles

Many would think that Intuition – the ability for more abstract thinking should exist only in humans or modern humans but the truth is both Intuition and Sensing exist in animals too. A lot of animals are known for their gut feeling or ability to memorise patterns (like salmon or birds that migrate thousands of miles to the places they are born). Of course, abstract thinking is more pronounced in humans because we have developed tools like languages and the concept of time, which significantly boosts our capacity for abstract thinking.

Any MBTI types are capable of both, as mentioned above. The average humans, regardless of types, are capable of comprehending and using way more abstraction than any other species on planet earth. I suspect that the part of Intuition and Sensing in our brains are pretty distinctive and mutually exclusive. However, why don’t we all evolve to become abstract thinkers? 

Because both ways of thinking are important to get any society or any project to function. It is a matter of spectrum. For example, Einstein came up with the E=MC2 formula, which is an example of highly abstract work! But society don’t just exist out of a formula! We need to further “concretize” the abstraction into practical and applicable tasks – the realm of Sensing. We further apply it to build space craft, atomic bomb… then we need people who like to take specific instruction on how to make that part of the space craft, what color is the craft, what materials is it made of… down to the smallest details!

What does it mean for you?

I hope the overview above gives you a more accurate and objective view of the two primary modes of information perception in the population. Keep it in mind when you interact next with other people and see if you can tell if they are sensors or intuitives. Two people of the same types will have an easier time communicating while you should be a bit more mindful of people who do not share the same preference. In essence, intuitive people love abstract and somewhat theoretical discussion while sensing-dominant people want to know the details and concrete steps.

No preference is better than the others. We have our respective social roles and strengths and weaknesses. In particular, if you are an intuitive, you might be the minority but with great potential for big-pictured thoughts and acquisition of abstract and innovative information. If you ever feel misunderstood or broken in some ways cause you are not in tune or don’t care about the latest social trends or norms, it’s ok. There are other people like you and there are exciting discovery ahead when things start to make sense and you will finally discover your true identity and purpose, even if it takes slightly longer than usual.

Why Does Your MBTI Make You A Late Bloomer

Source: truity.com

Let’s face it, even in the 21st century, what society defines as success is still very much materialistic. Whether someone is considered to do well in life depends on how high is his or her earning, his material possession and other status symbols including having (attractive) romantic partners.

The average income chart above by MBTI types portray a perspective of success. The highest earners on average are ENTJ and ESTJ while the lowest earners are INFP and ISFP. Overall, higher scores on extraversion (E), thinking (T), sensing (S) and judging (J) better predict financial success.

The reason that I phrase this article as “late bloomer” is because even though there is no survey that I know of, I do believe the material gap between types will lessen as people become more mature and balanced. The second reason is that even if the gap is still there, you will better accept who you are and the non-material and non-traditional sense of success that you create, which will give you better self-confidence and happiness down the road.

Introversion

There has been a rising support for the power of the introvert in the past decades with many books and articles that talk about the hidden advantage of being an introvert. They might be stereotyped as wallflowers who are meek and easily pushed over.

The truth is that introverts are not the minority. They are almost equal in the share of population as extroverts and introversion and shyness are not the same, though they can be easily mistaken. Introversion simply means the information pathway/ processing is longer and consumes more energy. Hence, introverts tend to think more and are easily overwhelmed and overloaded by external stimuli.

It’s easy to see how introversion leads you to become a late bloomer. Life is tough and complicated at the start. You can easily be overwhelmed by the world when younger and it will take longer for introverts to consolidate and master this wave of insights and nuances in their brilliant but overwhelming minds. 


Not only can introverts catch up with extroverts later in life in material success, their insightful minds allow them to excel in highly skilled and specialised careers such as writer, scientist and philosopher. These careers might not be the best paid, but they have the potential to be highly celebrated and propel society forward.

FEELING

If your type has letter F instead of T, you lean more towards feeling, which has to do with either intrapersonal or interpersonal relationships than efficiency and logic (T).

Feeling (Fi) can either be introverted or so-called intrapersonal (most dominant in INFP and ISFP) or extraverted/interpersonal (Fe) (which is dominant in ENFJ and ESFJ). Introverted feeling will likely have it the hardest at younger age because it is very hard to express and easily misunderstood. It is primarily concerned with moral right and wrong, living authentically and freely according to their inner compass of beauty.

This inward feeling may make you artistic yet impractical because deep down you yearn to express something of profound beauty but also makes you unable to take on more practical tasks and jobs, which feels inauthentic to your being. It will take time and sometimes luck to find a path that is both spiritually fulfilling yet lucrative. Introverted feelers like ISFP and INFP make the best artists and poets but their path will be long and rocky.

Extraverted feeling users, especially introverted ones (INFJ and ISFJ) would also feel underpar because they find it hard to assert themselves and risk upsetting others. This function chiefly concerns maintaining a harmonious social atmosphere, causing you to feel it hard to just simply put people aside to get what you want. But humans are ultimately social creatures and being able to get on the good sides of the group often can take you far ahead, including in finance and career.

INTUITIVENESS

I believe the Intuitive (N) – Sensing (S) dimension is the most interesting yet often overlooked in MBTI. Only about 25% of the population are intuitive, so they are way more rare than introverts! You can think of the intuitive-oriented person simply as a nerdy book-smart kind of person who is more interested in philosophy and theories than concrete facts and actions.

Intuitives, especially INFP, INTP, ENFP and ENTP (extraverted intuition) are often scattered-brain big-pictured people who have a hard time being decisive. To them the world is full of possibilities where traditional and well-accepted concepts like marriage, houses, children and even money should be questioned and explored.

With so much information and so many questions being shifted and synthesized, no wonder it takes longer for them to reach a stable stage in life. They make for smart students but somewhat clueless and restless young or even middle-aged adults while their sensing-dominant peers have happily accepted and settled into more traditional paths and roles.

However, the gift of this unconventional and big-picture mindset is the potential for paradigm shifting and holistic perspectives. Survey might suggest that intuitives earn slightly less than sensors but one reason is because the former takes longer to systhesise their perspectives, which can go beyond the immediate needs of themselves and families to challenge the status quo and propel society’s understanding forward. They make for wise and profound innovators and teachers of arts, philosophy and sciences.

So in conclusion, even if you are at the receiving end of all the disadvantaged factors above, like even in the case of INFP and ISFP, don’t be discouraged. Your mind is uniquely created for a special purpose with unique strengths and values. Of course life is tough for everyone and everyone needs a certain degree of material and practical success, but social contribution and your path to success are just not in a traditional sense. Your life purpose might be more towards helping others or helping society make new breakthroughs or to find the secrets of the universe, at the expense of the practical aspects – and that is ok!