5 management strategies for introverts

“I can’t do this job quite as well as others would,” you might think if you’re an introvert, “because I’ll never be as assertive, outgoing or friendly as it requires sometimes.”

Dr. Nancy Goldman of New York University won’t let you dwell on these supposed shortcomings. As an introvert, you bring unexpected qualities to the table, such as a capacity for deeper reflection, preparation and focus.

Perhaps all you really need is a set of strategies to offset what Goldman refers to in her webinar, Quiet Strength: The Introvert’s Guide to Management, as “interaction fatigue.” A few too many meetings, a little too much teamwork … even casual office celebrations can cause an unpleasant level of it. Try these workarounds to keep your productivity high and the impressions you leave on others memorable:

1. Set boundaries. There’s a natural human tendency to load work onto those who complain the least—a real dilemma for introverts. If you have trouble saying no to either assignments or interactions, rehearse your “no” scripts well in advance of the next request; don’t wait for the critical moment to try to magically tap some inner reserve of strength. The strength is certainly there, but asserting it spontaneously is a tall order.

2. Identify your “no talk” zones. Because the introvert’s space is often less chaotic than those of others, your colleagues are likely drawn to it, and an open door policy could be inviting stress in. Work on ways to be clear that there are times when it’s not really OK to approach you. Do you feel hurried in the morning, or out of sorts in the late afternoon? Close that door and hang a sign: “Glad to talk later.” Always put this kind of subtle positive spin on your seclusion lest it become mistaken for coldness.

3. Consider staggering your hours. Break free of the 9-to-5 paradigm that artificially holds us in one place. Your money is truly earned not through the hours you notch on a time sheet, but the actual work you do—so if you can get it done well during times when you have some distance from your colleagues, make that a hard goal.

4. Disarm potential intruders. Turn the tables by identifying the interruptions that may come during the workday and heading them off beforehand. Ask people what they may need from you in the imminent future so you can organize your time and minimize disruptions. Be liberal with checking and responding to email; the quicker you get back to people, the more willing they’ll be to lean on electronic communication instead of seeking out a verbal dialogue.

5. Be polite—and say “Good morning.” It sounds trite, but this is the key building block of office goodwill. A simple “Good morning” to all you pass ensures you won’t be seen as aloof. No need to add anything more; that can lead to conversations you don’t especially feel like having. These quick greetings become second nature soon enough, while their absence can reinforce the stereotype that the introvert just doesn’t care for people. That’s one misperception none of us, no matter what our personality type, can afford to suffer.