Do we consciously or unknowingly penalize introverts in the workplace?

Do we consciously or unknowingly penalize introverts in the workplace?

The short answer is yes.

But before I explain why, I think it’s important to define what an introverted person can be like.

An introvert is a person who prefers to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. They are quiet and enjoy a calm atmosphere. Often, they possess a small group of close friends and can find social interactions to be energy-draining. But, make no mistake that being an introvert does not necessarily equate a shy, lonely or anti-social being.

Introverts have feelings, opinions and ideas just like everyone else. They just don’t feel the need to be the ‘loudest’ person in the room and/or prefer to analyze those ideas before being confident in sharing them.

Not convinced? Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk on ‘The Power of Introverts’ to challenge your beliefs:

So why are introverts penalized in the workplace? Simple. Because of some of the qualifications managers look for in employees; such as, outgoing, lover of dogs, flexible, sense of urgency, energetic, eager to ______ etc. While these skills aren’t ridiculous to require, they tend not to be immediately visible to a manager who interviews an introvert.

Another thing to keep in mind is that an introvert most likely isn’t 100% on one side of the introversion vs. extroversion spectrum.


Take my experience as an example. I was once given a project to lead within a team. My manager explained to me everything I needed to know, but I needed the time and liberty of coming up with a detailed plan on how to best execute the project. In that plan, I discovered important questions that the manager didn’t think about/holes in the case study. Additionally, I had ideas that I wanted to bounce off of my coworkers. In this case, I was eager to set up a meeting to ask these questions and collaborate with my team.

According to Psychology Today, between 26% to 50% of the world’s population consider themselves introverts. To me, this statistic is huge as it includes millions of people. So why is it so hard for introverts to fit in without feeling judged for working differently?

I did some research over the week on the best jobs for introverts and was given what I consider ‘behind-the-scenes’ jobs like: animal care, archivist, industrial machine repair, plumber, baker and more. While these aren’t bad careers, they do have one thing in common: lack of social exposure.

This leads to my second question: Can introverts be leaders?

Of course they can! I’ve often received feedback that I was shy, quiet and needed to take the lead more often in the workplace. Did I believe I wasn’t a leader? Absolutely not. Think about executive Beth Comstock or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Activist Rosa Parks, Theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein, Businessman and Humanitarian, Bill Gates and many more–all great introverted leaders who succeeded in their fields.


While I do overflow with thoughts and ideas, I like to share them at the right time. And while I enjoy other people’s company, I’d much prefer to create deep and meaningful connections with 10 people over meeting 100 people who I might never see or interact with again.

All in all, I think it’s sad that introverts are sometimes mistreated by management and society because of their personality. In my opinion, if a person is an introvert, has all of the qualifications and skills for a job, and meets desired performance, they should be welcome onto any team with open arms. That, to me, is part of true diversity in the workplace.

If there’s one thing I want people to know about my introversion is that it doesn’t take away my ability to be productive, work with other people or take initiative.

So, embrace introverts! Treat them like you would any other employee, because we are truly valuable.



Whether you’re an employer or employee, here are some resources you can use to better integrate introverted individuals in a workplace:
What Is An Introvert?
Being An Introvert In An Extrovert World
The Quiet Revolution
Introverts, extroverts and everyone in between: how to connect in the workplace

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