Since Susan Cain’s bestselling book, Quiet, was released in 2012, the internet has exploded with articles on how introverts and extroverts operate differently in just about every setting – parties, classrooms, parenting, and the workplace.
The thesis of Cain’s book says that while much of our society is set up to reward extroversion, introverts contribute their own quiet strengths to make everything from an award-winning movie to a Monday morning meeting a success.
As a manager, you’ve no doubt learned or observed that introverts and extroverts approach work differently. It’s usually pretty easy to identify who on your team is an introvert and who is an extrovert. Broadly speaking, the extroverts tend to send more meeting requests, volunteer for more team-based projects, and prefer open-plan office spaces. In contrast, you’ll find your introverted employees tucked away in their office or cubicle, wearing headphones while they work, and never requesting a meeting when an email would do.
Many of the articles about introversion/extroversion in the workplace focus on directing introverts on how to thrive in an extroverted office by using their introversion to their advantage or advising extroverted employees on how to relate to their introverted colleagues. Yet very few address how introversion should impact employee recognition.
Not all employees work in the same way, and not all employees like to be recognized in the same way. What is meaningful and flattering to one employee might be mortifying or uncomfortable to another.
If recognizing your employees is important to you (and it should be!), you should understand how personality differences come into play when giving employee recognition. An employee’s personal preferences will dictate how they receive recognition, so they should also dictate how you offer recognition.
Introversion vs. Extroversion: The Basics
Understanding what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert will make it easier to determine which forms of recognition each type of employee will find meaningful.
Essentially, the difference between introversion and extroversion is that while extroverts draw energy from their surroundings, introverts draw energy from within (and are easily drained by too-stimulating environments).
This fundamental difference is why you’ll see extroverts drawn to social settings like moths to a flame while introverts seek spaces within the office that are calm, quiet, and as secluded as possible. It’s why introverts tend to despise the trend toward open-plan offices and extroverts rejoice in it.
These definitions may seem straightforward, but they’re expressed in a wide variety of different ways throughout life. Here are a few examples:
- Introverts prefer one-on-one conversations to group discussions
- The phrase “the more the merrier” was without question coined by an extrovert
- Introverts tend to be more private and will share personal news with a select few rather than making an announcement
- Extroverts post more on social media platforms
- Introverts are less active on social media and follow fewer people
- Extroverts think out loud, while introverts prefer to process their thoughts completely before speaking
- Introverts are less likely to raise their hand in class, even when they know the right answer
- An extrovert might raise their hand even if they’re not sure they have the right answer
- An introvert would prefer to go out to dinner with a close friend rather than attend a party
- An extrovert would enjoy having dinner with a friend, but would plan to attend a party afterward
- Networking events are an introvert’s worst nightmare
- Extroverts are more engaged when they’re working collaboratively
- Introverts are more productive when they have uninterrupted stretches of independent work time
Considering how introverts and extroverts respond differently to the same situation will help you think through which employee recognition techniques are appropriate for your introverted employees versus your more extroverted team members.
For example, while an extroverted employee might greatly appreciate a party thrown in honor of their 5-year work anniversary, an introvert would probably prefer a one-on-one lunch with their supervisor and perhaps one or two close colleagues.
Now that we’ve established the fundamental difference between introversion and extroversion and looked at various ways those differences get expressed, let’s explore some ideas for how to reward different personality types in the office.
Employee Recognition Ideas for Introverts
In general, you should avoid public recognition when rewarding introverts for good work. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that introverts don’t want to be recognized at all just because they don’t enjoy more public forms of employee recognition. Everyone wants to be recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. Introverts just appreciate recognition in different forms.
- Second a personal email. When an employee does something deserving of recognition, it might seem like an email sent to the entire company would be a great way to let everyone know about their achievement. However, that mass email is likely to prompt a stream of congratulations from well-meaning coworkers. What could be wrong with that? Well, too much attention is an introvert’s worst nightmare! You’re better off sending a personal email to the employee letting them know you appreciate their good work.
- Recognize them in front of their immediate team. If you do want to make sure that others are aware of your employee’s achievement, you can recognize them in front of a small group of people that they know well and are familiar with, such as their immediate team. Keep it simple, such as a quick “Good job” at the weekly standup. Congratulations from those they work closely with will mean more to an introvert than well wishes from colleagues they only know by sight.
- Send recognition via your company’s employee recognition platform. Employee recognition apps are perfect for introverts. Because recognition is sent through the platform, it feels more private even if other employees can see it. The employee is able to respond in their own time, without being put on the spot. With apps like Recognize, employees can also redeem recognition points for rewards that are most valuable to them, such as a gift card or paid time off
- Give thoughtful feedback. Many introverts are strong critical thinkers, and appreciate when others demonstrate that they were also paying attention to the details. Instead of just telling them “Good job,” describe what challenge you saw them overcome and why you admired how they handled it. They’ll really appreciate that you noticed their hard work and took the time to recognize them for it.
- Take them out for coffee. An introvert might not enjoy a group lunch or a party celebrating their latest achievement, but taking them out for coffee is a nice way to make a gesture of appreciation that’s more in line with an introvert’s preference for low-key, one-on-one social interactions. A coffee date also comes with a more predictable duration; many introverts dislike the ambiguity of a social event with no definitive end time. Just make sure to schedule the date in advance – most introverts appreciate warning prior to a social engagement.
Employee Recognition Ideas for Extroverts
The biggest difference between providing employee recognition for introverts and for extroverts is the execution. While introverts are uncomfortable being called out in front of a group or taken by surprise, extroverts are quite the opposite!
- Public recognition. Being called out in a large meeting – even for a positive reason – might make an introvert want to hide under their chair, but it will make an extrovert glow with pride. If appropriate, save your words of praise for a setting when others are around to applaud and congratulate them. The brains of extroverts are actually wired differently to be more responsive to praise, so words of praise will go a long way.
- Work party. Because extroverts thrive on socializing, a work party thrown in their honor on the occasion of a work anniversary or promotion is a great way to make them feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work. Being the center of attention and receiving compliments from well-wishing coworkers are just the kind of validation that motivates an extrovert to keep doing their best.
- Surprise lunch outing. Along with being more responsive to praise, the increased dopamine levels linked with extroversion also cause extroverted brains to crave and respond more strongly to novelty. A surprise reward is like a rush to the system for an extrovert! Because they tend to seek out both novelty and reward, they will work harder know their company understands and appreciates them.
- Experience-based reward. Extroverts tend to get more enjoyment out of experiences than tangible gifts. So if, for example, you’re partnering with a social recognition platform, make sure to include options to redeem points for experiences, not just gift cards or a better parking space. Extroverted employees would be more excited to redeem their points for tickets to a concert or sporting event, a flight upgrade on their next business trip, or a spa package.
- Ask them to share their achievement. While it’s better to let your introverted employees savor recognition in private, extroverted employees enjoy showing off a little. If you start a meeting by recognizing them for a recent achievement, ask if they’d like to say a few words about it to the group. Sharing their accomplishment allows them to relive the success, bask in their pride, and receive positive reinforcement from their team – all of which will motivate them to repeat the experience in the future.
Every employee on your team is unique, and it can be hard to learn how to manage everyone’s different work styles and preferences. But learning how to give employee recognition in a way that’s meaningful to each employee will increase job satisfaction, productivity, motivation, and overall employee retention. In other words: recognizing your employees pays off in both the short- and long-term, and is well worth the investment.