As an introvert there are many things I tend to avoid in the workplace: large meetings, crowded lunch rooms, and office social events.
The work environment can be a frightening place for an introvert; especially in collaborative settings where participation is not only expected, it's mandatory. How can you be noticed without being loud? How can you get recognized for a job well done? And how can you voice your concerns with confidence?
While introverts may feel overwhelmed at even the thought of collaboration, there really isn’t a better time to be an introvert. Thanks to a cluster of maturing enterprise social software, introverts are finally getting a chance to shine.
Enterprise 2.0 creates a level playing field by allowing introverts to contribute independently and on their own time. Unlike large meetings, Enterprise 2.0 tools provide the right balance allowing employees to contribute without the pressures traditionally associated with public collaboration.
I actually witnessed this first hand years ago when I implemented a social collaboration tool at a tech company. What surprised me most was that it wasn’t the marketing and sales people (who in this instance were extroverted) that glommed onto a new way of communicating; it was the quiet Developers and IT people. The marketing and sales folk were resentful that ‘yet another tool’ was introduced (although this is the same crew that hate CRM). Meanwhile the IT employees were embracing a new-found connection. What I recall most from the experience was not just how happy the introverts were because they finally felt included, but how excited I was to be ‘invited’ into their discussions, and therefore learn who they were, what their role was, and how they contributed to the bigger picture.
Enterprise 2.0 can also help introverts receive recognition they may not otherwise received. Because extroverts are more willing to talk about their work and share it, it’s no surprise that they are often rewarded more than introverts. The right Enterprise 2.0 tool will and should create opportunities for recognition on all levels.
All of this is excellent news for introverts who are often mistakenly lumped in with those who are disengaged. When barriers are removed creating an atmosphere where all personality types can collaborate, it’s pretty clear who is engaged and who isn’t. Introverts require a different environment to be successful than extroverts, and if you aren’t taking this in account, you really aren’t fully harnessing the power of all your people.
We have a long road ahead to create an atmosphere that’s inclusive to all learning styles, but Enterprise 2.0 is a darn good start.