Supporting Foolish Introverts


Supporting Foolish IntrovertsBy Tamsin Green, Office Dynamo

One thing we’re working on at The Fool is creating a culture that supports both introverts and extroverts. While extroverts tend to be energized by spending time around other people, introverts like myself expend energy interacting and need time to recharge. With the business world trending toward open floor plans and collaborative work, many offices seem to favor extroverts. But the Fool is home to many incredible introverts, and we want them to be able to do their best work here, too. While our efforts are still in progress, here’s a list of four things that we either are doing or are trying to do that help support our introverts.

(Note: Not all of these were designed specifically for introverts and all of them have benefits for extroverts as well.)

The Meyers Briggs Profile

Education about the introversion/extroversion spectrum is very helpful in building a knowledgeable and supportive community. Our internal university recently held a very well attended class on the Meyers Briggs profile. This tool does a great job at explaining the difference between introversion and extroversion and gives everyone a vocabulary to talk about the differences between the two. Education builds awareness, which helps both introverts and extroverts work better, together.

Mentoring program

Many introverts, including myself, prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to mingling in a large crowd. Our mentoring program creates a structured setting in which this can happen. The deep relationships that can develop through consistent one-on-one contact in the mentoring program are the type of interaction that many introverts crave.

Meditation

As part of our Wellness program, we offer weekly meditation sessions and periodic longer visits by meditation specialist Jonathan Foust.  For introverts this offers a regularly scheduled time away (and a dedicated Outlook calendar appointment) to re-energize and recharge. Including meditation as part of our Wellness program also is a company-wide indicator that taking time out of your day to ‘do nothing’ is not just supported, but encouraged.

Concentration areas

This is one of the areas that we’re still working on. Our open office structure is great for collaboration and for those who gain energy by interacting with people, but it can be taxing for introverts (and for anyone who needs to get work done without interruption). Based on feedback from Fools, we’re working on creating spaces in the office that can serve as ‘concentration areas’ where people can focus without distractions or simply escape to in order to recharge.

Finding the right way to balance the needs of introverts and extroverts in an office can be tricky, and we think we’re on a good path. But we also want to hear what other organizations are doing. Are you an introvert struggling with your open office? An extrovert constantly coming up with reasons to leave your office? Do you think your organization does a great job at supporting both? We would love to hear your comments.

For more information on introverts, a great resource is Susan Cain’s TED Talk on The Power of Introverts (based on her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking). Other articles about introverts have been published by The Atlantic, Time Magazine, and Forbes.

2 Responses to “Supporting Foolish Introverts”

  1. I’m an INFJ, and I approve this message. ;)

  2. In 2000, I used to work for AOL in Vienna, VA. I was only there for a few months before I was running off to find time by myself. Before that, I worked for a tech company in Crystal City and my desk was in “the bullpen”. I was constantly running off downstairs to walk the halls by myself just to think and gather my draining energy. This was when the “fun” atmosphere of offices began to boom and introverts like me were caught like deer in the headlights and we were suddenly sussed out as “the weird ones who don’t socialize or hide during the fun (never-ending) cycle of birthday celebrations.”

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