A while back, one of my team members received some well-earned recognition via a companywide email. John, as we’ll call him, suddenly became the focus of attention and was showered with congratulations. When one of John’s teammates shouted “Congrats”, I observed John sink into his chair and quietly said, “Thanks”. When the team wondered what was wrong, I said, “John’s just uncomfortable with public recognition in front of such a large group.”

John, you see, is an introvert. Instead of being energized by public recognition like his more extroverted colleagues, the attention makes him cringe. Watching his reactions made me wonder if there’s a way to recognize introverts without making them uncomfortable. We know that recognition is important. In fact, employees in a recognition-focused organization are likely to feel five times more valued, six times more engaged, seven times more loyal, and 11 times more satisfied. (https://www.wolfmotivation.com/programs/creating-a-culture-of-recognition-manager-s-workshop)

At the same time, it is estimated that almost half of the American population is introverted – and even higher in the technology sector. Yet, as Susan Cain (https://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/) points out, American culture glorifies the extrovert ideal.

Understand that introverts are not necessarily shy, socially anxious, or anti-social. Introverts are people who recharge in low-stimulus environments such as reading, gardening, or watching a movie. Extroverts get their energy from high-stimulus activities like large parties, concerts, or sporting events.

5 ways to effectively recognize an introvert.

1. Send a personal email.

Send introverts a personal email recognizing their accomplishments. Everyone wants to know they are appreciated. Introverts just don’t want the spotlight. Introverts also tend to overthink, so make sure your message is to the point.

2. Recognize introverts in small groups of people they already know. 

It could be a simple, “Thank you” during a coffee break or a shout out during a team standup

3. Be an advocate. 

Make their contributions visible to the team and the larger organization so they get the credit they deserve. Since introverts won’t do this for themselves, knowing you went to bat for them will be greatly appreciated.

4. Set time limits on social activities. 

Unlike after work get-togethers lunch is preferable because there is typically a set end time.

5. Allow introverts work from home days. 

While most like working from home now and then, it can be a real boost for introverts. For example, if someone is pressed to finish a proposal or solve a complex problem, quiet time at home without distractions could be just what the introvert needs to finish the task. We all appreciate rethe cognition. Keeping in mind the preferences of our introverted colleagues helps them truly enjoy the recognition you want to bestow on them.

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