Workplace Wellbeing

Debunking the Top 4 Myths About Your Introverted Employees

Here are four common myths about your introverted employees, and what People leaders can do to level the playing field so both introverts and extroverts can shine.

Written by
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Shannon Maynard
Certified Professional Coach
Clinically reviewed by
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    Being an introvert in an extroverted corporate world is the greatest challenge I've had to navigate through my career.

    Introverted employees thrive in one-on-one interactions, so group meetings are draining for us, and back-to-back meetings don't allow for the processing and recharge time we need. Many of us can't think on our feet—a skill that tends to be unanimously valued in the workplace—and presenting fills us with elevated levels of anxiety and dread.

    Introverts also lead differently, and we worry about being overlooked as strong leaders because we're quiet.

    So, many of us choose to masquerade as extroverts. This often seems like the only survival strategy that allows us to be seen and heard, our work and contributions to be valued, and to ultimately achieve success.

    Not only is this exhausting, but it keeps us from using our unique strengths and gifts and operating at our best. 

    Here are four common myths about introverts in the workplace, and what People leaders can do to level the culture playing feel so both introverts and extroverts can shine.

    Myth: Introverts are quiet, so they must be on the B team

    I’ve been asked, “Why are you so quiet?” throughout my entire life. 

    Introverts have a rich inner world and are often deeply introspective. We spend a lot of time in our heads, mulling over and developing ideas, processing, and simply thinking. And we don’t feel the need to share most of our thoughts—only what’s most important and/or necessary. 

    The loudest voice in a room or meeting is too often perceived as the most confident and authoritative, and introverts are underestimated—a lot. 

    Introverts have so much to bring to the table, but because this looks different from the extrovert ideal, our strengths and the way we contribute is often overlooked. We’re full of creativity and ideas, and through listening, have the advantage of seeing a bigger picture that’s often overlooked by others.

    Pro tips for People leaders

    Diversity of thought and ideas will ultimately lead to the best, most innovative solutions. To create the space for your introverted employees to contribute equally, make a point to ask their opinion during meetings. 

    Create an agenda for every single meeting invite, and clearly indicate whether there’s prep work that team members can do beforehand. This doesn’t need to be mandatory. 

    Many introverts can’t think on our feet. This is because we store information in a different part of our brain than extroverts, so it takes longer for us to retrieve information. We compensate for this by overpreparing whenever possible. 

    Receiving a heads up before brainstorming meetings is particularly helpful, so we can bring our ideas to the meeting and be spared having to create them in real time. 

    The most comfortable way for many introverts to communicate is through email, Slack, and in the chat during a meeting. This allows us to be more thoughtful and take the time we need to effectively share our thoughts and ideas. 

    Lastly, understand that our value comes from the way we show up, the way we listen and understand, and the way we empathize—quietly. 

    Myth: Introverted employees don’t have strong interpersonal skills 

    With all the time we spend in our heads, introverts can come across as less expressive and more reserved, and therefore have less refined interpersonal skills. This perception couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

    Spending so much time observing increases our level of insight and allows us to have a more objective view. And because we’re usually listening instead of talking, or waiting for someone to finish talking, we hear and understand a lot more, too. 

    Introverts tend to be highly empathetic, with strong active listening abilities and emotional intelligence. We know that words matter and we choose them carefully. We think before we speak—often to the point of overthinking—and navigate difficult situations gracefully as a result. 

    Pro tips for People leaders

    Look for quiet leadership abilities in your introverted employees. These qualities show up differently in introverted and extroverted team members, but they’re equally valuable. 

    Additionally, if you give introverts permission to be quiet, stay true to the way they’re wired, and lead in their own unique way, your team and the entire organization will benefit from what they’re able to give. 

    Myth: Introverts are too timid to handle conflict

    It’s true that most introverts don’t enjoy conflict, and avoid it whenever possible. Conflict puts us in the spotlight and forces us to think on our feet. But this doesn’t mean we can’t handle it, or aren’t good at resolving it. 

    Introverts are actually quite skilled at conflict resolution because of our exceptional listening abilities–and we’re willing to consider all points of view. We try to hear everyone out before making a decision, and our quiet nature can be calming enough to de-escalate a tense situation. 

    Pro tips for People leaders

    If you engage in a conflict with an introverted employee, know that they may need a break if things get too heated. After processing and organizing their thoughts, they’ll be ready to continue the discussion and move toward resolution. 

    Conflict is good for introverts, because we tend to overthink. It’s healthy for us to communicate things we may be holding onto, so we can let them go. Conflict also helps us establish better boundaries to protect our energy and gain respect from both coworkers and managers. 

    Myth: Introverted employees aren’t creative or collaborative 

    Since introverts tend to share and actively participate in meetings and brainstorming sessions less than their extroverted counterparts, it’s easy to assume they don’t have great ideas or aren’t great collaborators. 

    But if you’ve ever been in a meeting with an introvert who is passionate about the topic, you know we actually do have a lot to say. 

    Talking in a group setting takes a lot of energy for us, so to protect that, we typically only “fight to be heard” when we really care. Even then, we may choose to stay quiet when the only option is to talk over everyone else. 

    Pro tips for People leaders

    No employee should have to fight to be heard. When people are talking over and interrupting each other in meetings, it’s not only unproductive, but it means that only ideas from the loudest, most assertive people will be heard—and those aren’t necessarily the best ideas. 

    As I mentioned earlier, it’s critical to ask introverted employees for their opinion during meetings, and encourage all employees to use the chat function and raised hand feature. You could also give the option for team members to process and then share their thoughts directly via email or Slack after a meeting.

    Lastly, when your introverted employees do choose to share their ideas, know that they’ve likely put a considerable amount of thought into what they’re conveying—and doing so comes at a cost, because talking during a meeting can be so draining. Give them the floor and ensure they feel heard, and you’ll likely hear more from them during meetings in the future.  

    Empowering your introverted employees to thrive

    Around half of the population is introverted. This means that half of your employees are likely introverts, and there are probably several introverts on your team. 

    But we tend to be quieter about our needs, while extroverts are more vocal, so extroverted needs tend to become the norm and the ones that are most often met.

    It’s on us to learn how to unapologetically ask for what we need, but in the meantime, understanding the way your introverted employees are wired and the small things you can do to help them thrive at your organization will go a long, long way. 

    Read this blog next to learn how to create a culture of belonging that inspires employees to be more engaged and productive, and produce higher quality work.

    About the Author
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    Shannon Maynard
    Certified Professional Coach

    Shannon is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Spring Health, and has 15 years of marketing experience. She is also a Certified Professional Coach, Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner, introvert, and HSP. She loves writing about introversion and mental health, and is a regular contributor for Introvert, Dear and Highly Sensitive Refuge.

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