In modern behavioral terms, “introvert” is used to describe individuals who are most comfortable in the inner life of the mind, come across as more reserved, and are less likely to seek numerous or large interactions.

They represent approximately half of the population. In the workplace their presence is less obvious and misunderstood, though their ability to actively listen at a very deep level makes them major idea contributors. There’s risk in confusing their self-containment with a lack of ambition.

American society is often described as being “extroverted” — “What you see is what you get,” “Say it like you mean it,” “Brainstorm your way through the problem,” are all examples of an extroverted approach. Coupled with a disproportionate percentage of extroverts rising into top management and you begin to understand how the group that really doesn’t need the spotlight (the introverts) can seem a bit alien, maybe labeled “not a team player,” or ignored. This is a huge oversight as introverts play an important role in work groups and can share recognition with ease and grace.

Many people are familiar with the designations “extrovert” and “introvert” from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This widely used assessment tool (using less than 100 questions) looks at how the participant approaches and operates in the world. One of the key factors considered is extroversion vs. introversion.

With electronic imaging clearly showing formerly unknown regions of the brain, we now better understand what many had intuited — some peoples’ brains just work and respond differently. Case in point, when it comes to extroverts, we know they require a higher level of stimulation to certain regions of the brain in order to register response than self-described introverts. Anyone who has gone into a noisy, bright room can pick the introverts out instantly. They’re generally the ones with their hands over their ears shading their eyes. They’re also more likely to leave large events early as they get their fill quickly and risk overwhelm.

If you were to peg introverts, you’d call them gatherers rather than hunters. They collect thoughts, often in solitude or away from the fray. Because their inner conversations are so rich, they are content being alone for extended periods of time. In order to accumulate and process, they must have space — real and psychological.

So how can you best manage and work with or as an introvert?

Give them a quiet space in which to work. A bullpen is an introvert’s idea of hell.

Allow them time to process thoughts. Press an introvert for an immediate answer or spontaneity and their response may sound disjointed or ill-prepared. Neither is the case.

Don’t confuse lack of words with an absence of ideas. Thoughts rather than verbiage are an introvert’s default.

Limit interruptions. The re-entry, post interruptions, takes time and wastes their energy.

Appreciate their creativity is processed and can’t always be expressed in a sound bite or tagline.

Let them recharge alone. Don’t push activity or camaraderie as a repair or “cheer-up.”

You won’t hear “happiness” as being an expressed goal for this type. Contentment and fulfillment are more likely desired.

Never assume that because they “hate” holiday parties they wouldn’t welcome a one-on-one coffee.

You’ll do yourself a disservice if you operate on the premise that introverts dislike the company of people. To the contrary, they are fascinated with human contact, especially in small numbers and in limited doses.

Create opportunities for introverts to talk because when they speak, they actually have well-constructed thoughts to express.

Know that introversion is not the same as shyness. Shy individuals find it painful to socialize. Introverts just aren’t the center of attention and enjoy people.

Keep in mind, a closed door is a means of reducing unnecessary stimulation and recharging. It’s not a statement of anger or avoidance. “Nothing’s wrong, I just shut the door.”

When I speak about the advantages of diversity in the workplace, I don’t just mean cultural, racial, gender, or sexual orientation, it includes temperament. Most groups, teams, and even couples would benefit from a mix of temperaments — part of that is a blend of extroverts and introverts.

Are you an introvert in an extroverted workplace? Is branding and selling yourself difficult? Is your current work environment hindering your ability to perform at peak? In the process of changing jobs or careers and curious about what the perfect fit might be for your temperament?

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.