Is your workplace introvert-friendly? Whether you work remotely or go to a physical office each day, our work environment makes a difference to not only our productivity, but our emotional and physical health, too.
If you’re an introvert, you’ll appreciate the strategies we discuss here that support you. Or, if you’re an extrovert, our conversation will help accelerate your awareness of what you can do to make your work culture more introvert-friendly and help the introverts around you do their very best.
Watch my interview with Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces
Want the audio only? Download it here.
Is your workplace introvert-friendly? Take the quiz here.
Here’s the transcript of our chat about introvert-friendly workplaces:
(slightly edited for readability)
Jennifer Kahnweiler, the author of the brand new book, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, and the author of many other books on introverts and their place in our world, welcome to Red Cape Revolution.
Oh, Darcy. So always a pleasure to talk to you engage with you, and your community and fans, of course,
I’m so excited to talk to you about the new book. There’s so many relevant things to what we’re going through today when we think about remote work. And we think about biases that we have, and the introversion extroversion spectrum I know is one you’ve been working on for a long time.
So before we begin, tell me a little bit, you know, tell our audience a little bit about your work and really where you focus.
Right. Well, I’ve been working in this space of of being a champion for introverts in the workplace, particularly for the last 12 years and I’ve, I’ve written about how introverts lead, how they influence using their quiet strengths. I’ve even written about genius opposites, about how we don’t drive each other crazy— introverts and extroverts.
And this latest work really was was born through my work in my, the interest of many of my communities who spoke to me about not so much changing who they are in developing themselves. We’ve always talked about introverts meaning to draw from quiet strengths. But let’s take a look at the organizations that we work in.
Let’s not always be asking introverts to adjust, right and even extroverts, we need to have systems and structures and we’re talking about relevancy now, you know, organizations that really support all kinds of personality styles, and I don’t really think we’re going to have major change until we we have that and so that was where this book was born: “Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces”
I wanted to take a look at where the needs were what what I was hearing from about where they were most frustrated where the pain was in really coming to work authentically who they are as who they are. But I also wanted to search out those organizations and companies and workplaces that had best practices. Like we could find maybe introvert inclusion pockets, we kind of call them.
One of the things you and I have always had in common is that we really want to work with people to bring their best selves to work, you know, bring their superpowers to work to be who they are.
And what I find really interesting about this book is that now turning it to how do we influence our workplaces and those of us who are leaders? How do we be more conscious about our both our own style, as well as a style of others so that we don’t work with a bias that says, hey, if I’m an extrovert everybody needs to be like me or if I’m an introvert, everybody needs To be like me, so into the book a little bit more.
Congratulations by the way, this is I think your fourth book, fifth book?
It’s the fourth on this topic. The fifth, my fifth book overall. Yeah.
Okay. I think we first met after “The Introverted Leader.”
Oh my gosh, that was a long time ago. Yes, that was the first one. Since then we had a second edition come out.
That’s great. But so tell tell our audience the true definition of extrovert and introvert. I think we make up a lot of stories about what these things mean. What does it really mean?
Yes, and you know, the definition keeps actually flexing a little bit which is quite interesting Darcy, but it always comes down to a couple things.
Introverts get their energy from within, they recharge through being in their heads. They can be out with people and out in the world, but they need to come back and decompress. And that’s usually the way you determine oftentimes, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. Must you have that time to recharge and take that quiet time and embrace silence in order to do that.
Extroverts, on the other hand, get their stimulation and their batteries charged—it’s actually brain chemicals, they need more of that outside stimulation, you know, getting out in the world and being with people and connecting with all kinds of social stimuli. So that’s what we were talking about the, the pandemic and being at home that’s been very difficult for a number of extroverts. So I’ve come across, right, because they don’t have that, that going and busyness being out there.
Now, when I say we’ve learned a lot, right over the last years, the last decade, I would say we’ve really moved like we have with a lot of aspects of neurodiversity. And that’s really about you know, differences that you can always see, right people that are introverts or extroverts or, you know, people that have other learning, desires, other kinds of things on the spectrum, if you will.
That term spectrum is actually used with introversion and extroversion. And what we know is that most in terms of the numbers between 40 and 60% of people are are introverts, but it most of us kind of are in the thick of it is like a bell curve. We’re sort of in the middle.
So we prefer slightly, you know, to be more introverted or extroverted but we’re not. You know, there are outliers on the end. If you think about the bell curve at either end. We have flaming extroverts. And then we have a friend of mine who’s an introvert who calls herself a hermit.
You know, most of us are not either hermits or flaming extroverts, but we’re somewhere in the middle.
And what we know too about those two definitions is that as we grow and develop and have experiences, we become we around those parts of our psyche ourselves out because we all have introvert and extrovert qualities within us.
There was also a term you may have heard ambivert, you heard that term? Some people identify with that they go well, I go back and forth. I’m not probably not as many people identify that with that as they do. saying I’m an introvert or an extrovert.
Yes, I know that most people would label me as an extrovert. And I play well in that mode. But I like you’re saying, I need my recharge time. I need my quiet time.
And it’s been surprising to me personally, during this whole crazy time in the world—we’re recording this in late June 2020—that there’s a lot of things I haven’t missed that I would have gone to or groups I would have been with. But I get to engage like this. I get to engage in some other small groups. And maybe that’s been enough.
So I think there’s probably lots of different people thinking about how much how much out or in do I need? And I and so tell me, one of the chapters in your book, I mean, you didn’t write it knowing that we would have a global pandemic that no half of the world would be moving to remote work, especially even companies and organizations that never thought they would have a majority of their people in remote work.
But you have a whole chapter about remote working and, and using it as a workplace, you know, the tool and how it works for introverts. So tell me a little bit about the learnings of remote work and how we think differently differently with introverts and extroverts.
Well, thank you for that question, Darcy. Even before corona when one of the areas that I looked at was remote work, because I kept hearing from introverts that and their leaders that that was extremely positive. They were seeing it very positively. In fact, we did a survey that that actually they got over 240 responses mostly from introverts where we looked at a number of dimensions, excuse me, other workplace, and remote work came out interesting.
We asked the question “how open is your company to embracing remote work?” How much is it being used? And the answer came back: 60% of those people that answered said their company was open and actually using remote workers an option, which to me was encouraging, you know, and that the fact that what we know from from the research is that even if you give people one day a week, you know, I’m talking about pre-corona, it does increase motivation and increases retention.
So remote work has always had very positive high marks, in terms of work, life balance, all of these things. So here we are in corona and everybody is many people are told, okay, you’re going like from a sprint to a marathon. You’re going to do this five days a week.
You know, for people like you, for me, it probably wasn’t as big an adjustment as it was for others. But introverts in general really do relish having that time to be to be out of the workplace. And not all the time though, because you know, there were other things that we looked at in remote work. And in that chapter about the downside, I can talk about that for a moment. But the downside of remote work because too much of a good thing can be can be a weakness, right?
Darcy Eikenberg: Right.
So what what people do miss and I’m hearing this now at this point in the stage of what three months in is that they are missing those pockets, those moments of socialization, that are important to build relationships. So some companies are actually overcoming that by structuring more, you know, one on ones and sort of fun, happy hours and things like that, but that doesn’t really do it, especially for introverts who don’t really like happy hours. Right?
Right. I get that and I hadn’t yet had a client say to me a couple weeks ago. She she was feeling like, you know, like she was missing something, you know, and really diagnosed that it was the the casual vibe that she just would get passing by people’s desks and hearing snippets of conversations and seeing who was in what meetings and conference rooms and and it just was all this informal communication that goes on when you’re physically together. That..
Jennifer Kahnweiler: Yes.
That you know, as an introvert, she didn’t recognize she was missing it, but she just kind of felt like there’s a there’s a layer of knowledge that I’m not getting.
Very well put Darcy. Yes, and another thing that we looked at when we looked at open space offices, which was probably where the most pain came in the survey, and in my interviews with people who are more introverted and their leaders, that people founded the open space as it was before to be extremely frustrating on a lot of levels, but the part that they did like and that I didn’t expect to find was sort of similar to what you’re saying the socialization, but it was also it helped the work. It was about the collaboration part.
So one example of a company that went total open space, from a from a private office situation said to me, a couple of people there said we didn’t expect and they were introverts, we didn’t expect that one of the advantages is that we’re hearing conversations, we’re getting more context to our own work, we’re able to contribute in a richer way to the team goals, because we’re sort of all together in this pen, you know.
Now, again, downsize to that, but also what’s happening now, are we using our tools virtually some companies are they using Slack, they’re using Microsoft Teams to try to at least replicate that. But I think we are losing some things.
But in general, the bottom line is introverts love remote work. They are more productive, and we just need to manage how we implement it and execute it.
So if I’m an introvert right now, what are the things that you would suggest that I need to do to manage my career because we’re also in a place where, you know, jobs are being downsized, lost, just trimmed for just because they they can right now. And often visibility equals viability and in a remote world, and if your tendency is that, you know, you need that, more of that private time, how does an introvert stay visible, valuable, but also, make sure that they don’t get lost in a lot of things going on in an organization?
Right, right. Well, you no, I don’t think the real actual productive networking app actually happened to cocktail receptions before. You know, I so I think look at it that way, we’ve been, we’ve been introduced to the virtual world. So there are a couple of things that introverts that I have found in my research have done very effectively and been highly visible and highly connected.
So consider this, start with looking at your strengths. So one of them is to prepare, and to take quiet time and to reflect so use the time to do the kind of exercises Darcy that you provide, where you do really thorough self assessment. And that does a couple of things. You kind of take a look at what you’ve done well, and so you can really present yourself that’s a real reflection of your skills and, and all your experiences in a very coherent way.
And I know you have methods I’m I think I know, I’ve seen them right, to do that it structure that in a framework. So you take that quiet time and do that. And then to share that, I would consider two strengths that you have as an introvert to do that well. One is to build on those relationships, those one on one conversations, and that conversation can be starting out on email, you know, that’s fine or through your company intranet.
You know, if you’re going to be leaving the organization, looking at your network on LinkedIn, and really making sure LinkedIn now it just seems to be right, a very, still very potent part of the process to do that. So I would do that as the second area and then take a look at it scheduling some time some one on one, some learning a lot online.
You can spend a lot of time without talking right and and be starting to become visible that way. I’d love you to chime in too as to what you have found and that’s helpful in terms of a structured way of looking at your career when when you’re not necessarily the one who’s always out there talking
Well I appreciate what you were saying about the best networking is not what we think of as networking, you know, that the that one on one reach out is is exactly the introverts strength those those smaller conversations, I’ve always talking about networking, talking about you make it about the other person. It’s like I want to know about you and your work. And that totally feeds to things that are our, you know, the introverts are even, I mean, better suited and it’s more natural temperament.
I had an interesting experience, recently where I was speaking and helping facilitate some sections of a conference that used to be in person, used to be a, you know, 1500 people conference in person and now it was all online. And I was actually pleasantly surprised at seeing how people were jumping into the chat in a way that if we are you’re in a conference room, you know, we’ve all been there, right with the chairs lined up, and they’re linked together and you can barely fit into the chairs. And and once we all
Don’t remind me, I hope we don’t ever have to do that again for a while.
Yes, well, you know, or even a workshop room, you know, it’s a couple hundred people, that it’s that the more people were engaging and connecting with each other in the chat, then I think would have done it live because it’s a safe place. It’s again, speaks to the introvert strains of, you know, I mean, I am going to, I’m going to chime in, I’m going to have that discussion, I’m going to pull out somebody to talk to you later.
So, yes, so I think that there’s a lot of assets right now that I worry sometimes that that folks who will label themselves introverts don’t believe that there’s an access point for them, you know, don’t believe that the world wants to know hear from them or listen to them.
Quiet influence. We outlined six key strengths and how introverts use them to, to make a difference and to create change. And to your point about helping, I think it’s really important or looking into not just at yourself, right, in networking is about giving and getting.
But if we’re out there saying, I need a job, and you know, we’re kind of and that’s introverts and extroverts. But think about who is it that you can check in with to see how they’re doing and how you can support them. So it I really do think particularly and I’ve been laid off several times myself in my career, and I remember that, that feeling of kind of like a, you know, it’s almost desperation. You don’t want to come off that way. Even if you’re feeling scared and fearful. You still want to reach out and say, how are you doing and show that you’ve done a little research about what they’re up to, and and offering you support them and your first kind of connection with somebody online shouldn’t be while I’m looking for a job. You know, and I think that’s again, that’s for introverts or extroverts, but don’t you think that’s a part of it is like looking at how you can be of service?
Oh, absolutely. I always say “serve not sell”. I mean, the selling will come through when when someone trusts you to serve.
Right? The trust. Thank you. That’s really important. And introverts are really good at building those deeper relationships. And I think that’s an asset that you shouldn’t forget if you’re introverted. That it’s not just superficial talk.
What you refer to to the chat is been a lovely phenomenon that I have noticed for the last 10 years of teaching online courses. And people would say, Well, how do you get introverts to participants? I was like, take a look at the chat right there, take a look at the chat. And as you build trust in your conversation, we’re kind of going into online training here, but I have always found it to be so cool to then have it have folks who are chatting to feel comfortable enough with you as a facilitator or if let’s say you’re running a meeting, she then say, you know, John, would you mind just coming into the room now and telling us a little bit more about that. So you’re again, just like you would do in a real meeting in a live meeting, not virtually, you would make it comfortable for somebody who’s not going to jump in to do that. And we can all do that for each other, we can be allies for each other. And in the job search or if it’s in a meeting, we need to support and be aware when people are not participating and not engaging.
So tell me more about the being allies, because we’ve been hearing that a lot in some of our, in some of the social justice conversations that are going on now some of the conversations around our unconscious bias, you know, whether that be, you know, people of color, whether that be sexual orientation, but also introversion and extraversion is another one of those. You mentioned the spectrum. And so how can it How can a leader who is maybe a leader who’s also an extrovert what do they need to do to be a better ally for their introverted teams.
Well, that was when I talked about the research and looking for pockets of inclusion. I was really struck by the amount of leaders I came across. I did some work in Silicon Valley, visited companies there and it wasn’t just there. I found leaders who were willing to do the work on themselves, to get to know we’re talking a lot about this our own biases and what makes us tick, and also our own style, our natural proclivity, you know, as an extrovert, maybe you interrupt a lot, because that’s how you talk to other extroverts. And that’s always worked for you. But do you realize that you know, three out of four of your team members are feeling shut down when you do that, you know, you may not intend to do that.
But you are, you’re causing that kind of a climate. So by starting with yourself and understanding your own strengths, your own preferences, the way you are in the world, that’s where you have to, I believe you have to begin. And then number two, get educated. I’m what it means to be an introvert in an extrovert, just like in other dimensions of diversity, and understand that so that, the third thing you can do is when you’re out in the world, and we talked about this in terms of being a change agent, when you’re out in the world, you’re intentionally looking for opportunities to support and showcase people who are quiet or who not are not getting a chance to express their opinion because maybe they’re not comfortable doing that.
So I think those three ways you can be an ally and I heard many examples and all levels of diversity, and particularly with introverts and it’s, you want to be careful, you’re not condescending at all, but you’re supporting, you’re supporting and you’re you’re saying, you know, Darcy, let’s say you’re an introvert. I noticed Darcy hasn’t had a chance to get her opinion in here. I see she’s chatting over there. Darcy, would you be willing to share that? You know, just like we said before, or I had a woman yesterday, staffing a conference and I’ve been involved in gender diversity for a while. And there’s many analogous themes here. I was on a panel two years ago and we I was on with another woman was on another panel, the next next session, and we looked, I said, are you on a man-el?
And because people weren’t and people would laugh at that kind of like, oh isn’t that cute? But the reality is, if you don’t have diversity in your conferences, and your programs and your meetings and your sessions, whether they be internal or external, think about what you’re missing out on in terms of the the diversity of opinions and creativity and innovation. And really, in companies, you’re affecting your bottom line, because there’s total research now it’s it’s overwhelming, that companies that draw from a diverse standpoint of individuals are so much more higher in performance.
Right! And for companies, especially thinking about the introvert-friendly workplace. You know, this is the new book.
Hold it there a little longer Darcy, you went like this.
That’s all right. I have posters!
I have links to this stuff . I’ll have links directly to it in the blog post.
I’m not shy about promoting…
Right, exactly. Hey, but hey, you believe in your work and you!
I want to get the word out there. That’s it. Introvert-friendly!
Well, because, you know, as we think we don’t, we don’t know what the physical workplace is going to look like. But all of this is really the cultural workplace. And you know, I and you have some tools to be able for people to assess what’s happening in their workplace from their experience. Right. Tell me a little bit about your quiz and some of those other tools.
Yes, right. We created a quiz that was based on the seven dimensions that we encourage organizations to look at, including hiring, including teams, teaching, and things like that. And we developed this quiz, it’s very short, you can take it, its on my website. We’ll put the link in the notes. And what you learn from that quiz is how you stack up compared to companies that are doing a really good job of being introvert inclusive. So you can see A, where its going well for you, because you are probably doing well in some areas. But where you have some work to do is where you can focus your efforts. So whether it be learning or whether it be how you hire whether it be how you communicate, how you set up those kind of perimeters around remote work and those kinds of to be inclusive of introverts. You’ll get techniques in the book to do that but it’s great to start with a base line. So that’s the quiz that we’re talking about the interviewer friendly quiz. And by the way, we have three other quizzes on there, too. That being of leadership and influence and genius opposites. They all correlate with the work that was done in the other book, so and they’re all free of charge. So….
Great, great, and we’ll link to all of them as well as you and I think you’ve talked about that. Last couple of books in forum like this, so we’ll link to that. So as people are upping their introvert IQ, that they can go back to some of the previous work too and, and and check in on that and you know as as leaders, we’re always doing our, our own self awareness in our own and recognizing what our biases are. And as you’re talking about it, you know, I definitely know there’s been times when, you know, I’ve talked over somebody instead of letting their idea flow or that I’ve labeled somebody is Oh, she shy or she’s quiet, as opposed to figuring out where I’m not giving her the space and you know, it’s been part of my journey to try to get better and places where I’ve continued to get better and, and knowing you and learning about some of your work has been part of that to raise that awareness. So hopefully this conversation helps somebody else whether they’re an extrovert who wants to be more inclusive of their own We’re friends and, or whether it’s an introvert who wants to make sure that they’re creating the space that they need, but not getting left behind. And there’s, you know, I think there’s a lot of really good stuff in here for all of us no matter where we are on the spectrum.
Well, thank you Darcy, and do I see a red cape back there?
There IS a red cape back there.
I love the work that you do in terms of the Red Cape Revolution and how you support people, no matter what stage or issue they’re dealing with in their career.
And this is relates really well to that, you know, and having more knowledge, as you say, and, and being honest about our own biases, and then working and taking actions to overcome them. We’re never going to totally overcome them, but to be aware and conscious and acting, that’s the key.
And so I’m so encouraged by the change that we have seen from people like you by promoting us and as we go forward and you know, my I wrote in the dedication to my two granddaughters Ava and Millie, I said, you know, to, may you inherit a world that embraces everyone. So I couldn’t say it any better than that.
The world needs all of us and now more than ever, so, Jennifer Kahnweiler, it has been a pleasure to have a chance to catch up with you hear about the new book called “Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces.” We’ll have links, wherever you see this video and thank you so much for being here on Red Cape Revolution today.
Thank you Darcy so much for having me.
Want more introvert-friendly learning? Watch my past interviews with Jennifer here:
Bringing Her Superpowers to Introverts: Meet Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.
Do You Have Quiet Influence? Interview with Introvert Expert Jennifer Kahnweiler
Introvert? Extrovert? It’s the Genius of Opposites: Interview with Author Jennifer Kahnweiler
If it’s time for more help …
A 30-minute, introvert-friendly conversation with me can help you get unstuck and move forward, fast. It’s completely confidential, safe, and easy.
Just hit the button below, and pick a date and time that’s available. If, after we talk, it sounds like one of my coaching programs or courses will help you going forward, I’ll share details after our call. There’s no pressure -my goal is to be helpful immediately.
Spots fill up fast, so schedule yours now and start getting the support you deserve.