As part of the Employee Engagement Design method, we interview employees. I could do this 10,000 times and I will always be amazed at what I learn.
Recently I was interviewing an employee of a company as part of an effort to understand their current culture. He was one of hundreds of engineers who have been labeled as introverts. He said that anything we do must take into account that fact that we are dealing with many introverts because they respond differently to company initiatives.
When he said this, a little devious thought came in my mind.
I asked him what he loves to do outside of work. He said he loves to play video games. I asked what kind. Because I don’t play video games he described a type of game I have never heard of before.
“Do you play this game with others?”
He smiled. “You bet. There are a lot of people who play.”
“And when you hang out with others who play this game, do you talk about the game?”
With great enthusiasm he said, “Sometimes that’s all we talk about. We discuss strategy, different levels, how to get powers and weapons. We kind of geek out on these games. It is a lot of fun.”
By the end of his explanation he was leaning forward, talking without hesitation, and was really quite animated.
I sat back, paused, and smiled.
“So, are you introverted now?”
He sat back, his eyes darted off to the side, and there was a long silence.
“No. I guess I’m not.”
Suddenly this shy, introverted man was transformed before me into a vibrant, extroverted game player.
This made me wonder – why is an introvert an introvert? Is it mostly because that is who they are, or is it that their environment creates them?
Now I’m not suggesting that introverts are bad and that extroverts are better – or that there are not those that naturally are introverted. But I wonder – how much is the work environment encouraging it?
How are you designing your culture? Are you just letting it happen, or are you specifically designing it so that the environment brings out the characteristics, skills, and passions your employees already possess?
Does your environment create introverts that hold back, are shy, and don’t want to engage? Or does it create those who are passionate about their work; those who will give you their discretionary time voluntarily and enthusiastically?
When we let our environments just happen, it will take the path of least resistance. But when we purposefully design employee engagement, we can bring out the valuable characteristics our companies need.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have mostly introverted or extroverted people in my company?
- What in the work environment reinforces that behavior?
- Is it the behavior we want?
- What can we do to make it better?
(Photo: © 2013 Nguyen Hung Vu, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio)