In any workplace, effective communication is essential for fostering collaboration and maximizing the potential of every team member. However, introverted or shy (there’s a difference) employees may face unique challenges when it comes to expressing themselves and engaging in open communication. Understanding and implementing best practices to build stronger communication with introverted or shy employees can lead to remarkable outcomes for both individuals and the organization as a whole.
Below, 17 Forbes Human Resources Council members share proven strategies, such as creating safe spaces for communication, utilizing written channels, providing structured feedback and offering opportunities for one-on-one interactions.
1. Personalize Employee Experiences
Introverted employees are far less likely to reach out and initiate interventions that will create social safety. To build stronger communication, leaders need to build people-experience interactions that allow the employee to opt in vs. opt out, and to do that you need to personalize the experience around the employee. – Shane Kovalsky, Glue
2. Host One-On-One Meetings
Our managers are encouraged to have frequent one-on-one meetings with each of their employees. During these one-on-ones, employees can bring topics to discuss in a private setting. During these interactions, trust and psychological safety can develop which will allow more open conversations between introverted or shy employees and their managers. – Sherrie LeCheminant, Blackstone Products
3. Understand The Difference Between Shy And Introverted
First, there is a difference between introverted and shy people. Introverts create their own energy and don’t need others to get their juices flowing. Shy people are timid and afraid to speak, so understanding the difference is important. For example, introverts want to watch and listen before voicing an opinion into a cohesive response. Recognizing this will benefit the employer and employee. – Cyndy Trivella, TalentCulture
4. Follow Up Through Written Communication Outside Of Meetings
For introverted employees, creating a psychologically safe space to communicate is vital. Listening actively, offering feedback and having one-on-one conversations builds trust so there is comfortable sharing. Following up outside of meetings is also helpful. Written communication can be used in addition to verbal communication. These practices lead to better engagement and boost overall team and business success. – Chad MacRae, Tinder
5. Meet Employees Where They Are
Preferred communication channels vary from employee to employee, so developing content that caters to how information is received can increase retention of the message. We use many tactics including email, SMS and text message, intranet posts, podcasts, open forums and the list is growing. When you meet employees where they are, the response tends to be positive and action is likely to be taken. – Tammy Harper, CAI
6. Work With The Employee’s Comfort Zone
To encourage your introverted employees, engage with them in a way that makes them more comfortable communicating their thoughts. This can take the form of smaller group meetings or providing time in advance for your employee to come prepared to a meeting with their ideas. I often find our more introverted employees offer some of the most useful insights when you meet them in their comfort zone. – Susan Tohyama, Ceridian
7. Demonstrate That You Value Your Employees
Remind more introverted employees that they are valued. Validating not only how they work but how they communicate best. Small things like providing agendas, not forcing cameras-on policies and allowing there to be “dead space” in conversations all go a long way to building inclusive physiologically safe workplaces. – Jessica Wallen, Marten Law
8. Be Adaptable When Necessary
Understanding everyone is unique and that communication preferences vary even among introverted individuals is the key to building stronger communication. Be observant, adaptable and open to accommodating different communication styles. Encourage active listening, implement alternative communication methods, encourage one-on-one interactions and most importantly, respect personal boundaries. – JacLyn Pagnotta, Rose Associates Inc.
9. Ask Personal Questions
Ask questions about their hobbies and what they do for fun. This really opens up on a personal level and lets people out of their comfort soon since there is always something they enjoy doing for fun. – Matt Strauss, RiseKit
10. Engage In Active Listening
I work on adaptable communication skills that support the audience. When communicating with introverts, I feel it’s essential to create a safe environment where they can express their thoughts without fear of judgment. Active listening and refraining from interrupting or making assumptions, I demonstrate respect and encourage meaningful discussions. – Bill Fanning, Greetr, Inc.
11. Ask For Communication Preferences
I always like to ask employees how they prefer to communicate (in person, through video meetings, calls or text messages) because everyone’s personalities are different. For more shy employees they will often prefer to message or talk one on one. I also make sure I schedule one on one meetings. By recognizing individual communication preferences and building relationships, employees feel valued and cared about. – Hazel Kassu, Sudduth Search
12. Speak To Introverts Before A Meeting
One of the best practices is allowing for multiple options for communication. Often managers host meetings in groups to get feedback. What I have found is that for my introverts it’s more effective to ask them for insight on topics before the meeting and present them. I can see the pride on their face when their idea is introduced and appreciated by others. It encourages them to contribute more. – Tiersa Smith-Hall, Impactful Imprints, Training & Consulting
13. Allow Time For Responses
Create a comfortable, low-pressure environment for them. Encourage open dialogue, actively listen and allow time for thoughtful responses. This fosters trust, enhances engagement and leads to valuable insights from diverse perspectives, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and effective work environment. – Siddharth Sharma, JP Morgan Chase & Co.
14. Build A Rapport With The Employee
I think the best way to communicate with an introverted or shy employee is to use their preferred method of communication to build trust and break down walls. perhaps that’s instant messaging, a phone call or one on ones. Building a sense of familiarity initially can lead to a more comfortable and open communication dynamic across all platforms and methods over time. – William Stonehouse, Crawford Thomas Recruiting
15. Implement Internal Mentorship Programs
Writing as an introvert, sometimes, you have to “fake it till you make it.” In today’s visual, interactive world it is almost impossible to succeed without the ability to navigate an extroverted workplace. If possible, find an internal mentor, and provide a safe place for employees to practice improving communication skills. One day you may see your introverted employee conducting a TED Talk. – Patricia Sharkey, Sharkey HR Consulting, LLC
16. Have Employees Take A Personality Test
A great tool to tap for success here is Enneagram. By engaging employees in an activity that connects them deeper to who they are, and then empowering them to share that knowledge with their teammates, everyone is able to better understand how they work so they can ultimately work well with others. – Gianna Driver, Exabeam
17. Send Meeting Agendas In Advance
Building a psychologically safe work environment with a focus on inclusion for all types of communication interactions will help companies create an open environment where employees feel empowered to speak. Couple this type of company work culture with good meeting practices—sending out meeting agendas, allowing time and space for everyone to contribute and following up with recaps and post-meeting reflections. – Maria Leggett, AvidXchange
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