Work meetings are a necessary business practice, whether your company is a large corporation or a budding startup. However, as a team leader or manager, getting everyone involved in meetings may be challenging, and you might notice that the same few people speak the most every time. While this isn’t bad, per se, it’s important to make your meetings less about those with the loudest voice and more about inclusivity.  

Here’s how you can make meetings more inclusive to Introverts and make your more reserved team members feel comfortable.

Take an inventory of your meeting format. Is it working?

Let’s face it — most work meetings have a structure geared toward extraverted personality types. From team-building exercises to Q&As to casual happy hours, team leaders ask their employees to get involved. Management praises chatty feedback and commends people who speak up about progress. Some team leaders laud employees with clownish workplace humor if it doesn’t distract from productivity and boosts the team’s morale.

All of the above scenarios can be well and good, but these sorts of meeting layouts are a nightmare for Introverts. Introverted people may feel left out of conversations due to over-loquacious coworkers who take up much time speaking and may feel uncomfortable participating in large team exercises. They may also be nervous about voicing their opinions in front of the entire office — or simply feel it’s something better communicated to their manager one-on-one.

With both extraverted and introverted employees in mind, you can start reshaping your meeting formats to include both parties comfortably.  

Provide a run-down of the meeting agenda in advance

One small change you can make to make your meetings more inclusive to Introverts is to provide a written handout of the meeting agenda and talking points in advance. This can be a simple outline of what the meeting will cover, what you want feedback on, and what the team will discuss overall. Knowing this information pre-meeting will make it easier for the introverted crowd because they’ll have time to meditate on the topics and formulate their ideas, input, and opinions. A brief is helpful for these thoughtful types since they tend to think (sometimes at length) before they speak, and the time restraints of being asked a question on the spot can prevent them from offering their best answer. 

Get employee feedback via a poll

Introverts may feel talking about their meeting experience is difficult, especially when the other Extraverted employees seem to be okay with the status quo. Since Introverts prefer discussing serious subjects in a more private setting, most won’t say what they don’t like in front of a large group of coworkers during a meeting. 

Whether your Introverted employees have feedback about a project, the company meetings themselves, or something else, they’ll feel more at ease answering questions in a written manner or face-to-face. A poll offers an easy solution to get everyone’s feedback — without the fear of judgment or overshadowing from other coworkers. Try incorporating a poll or survey at the end of each meeting to see how your employees feel about their work environment, projects, meetings, and company policies.

Help Introverts feel they can speak their mind (in private or in a group)

One of the most important things a manager can do for their introverted (and extraverted) employees is to make them feel confident, safe, and able to communicate their views during meetings and beyond. That means an employee should feel able to knock on the team leader’s office door and ask for a conversation.

They should also be able to say, “Though some people in this meeting might disagree with me, my input on this matter is still valuable.” Although Introverts won’t always state their concerns during a large meeting, managers should strive to install a sense of psychological safety in all employees. Employees should feel they can talk to their boss or entire team whenever something comes up and do so without fearing repercussions or toxic negativity.

Managers can try to get Introverts more involved by attempting the following:

  • Time each response during a Q&A, so some employees don’t take up too much time
  • Offer an open one-on-one meeting window before or after your company meeting to any employees who want to discuss something with you in private.
  • Provide written input opportunities during and after meetings — so Introverts can put their thoughts to paper if they prefer to write them down. 

Experiment with separating employees into smaller groups during meetings

If your company meetings often include team-building exercises, breaking the large group into several smaller groups can make Introverts feel more at ease and, thus, more comfortable expressing themselves. 

You may also consider including small groups to discuss project plans, problem-solving, or other items on the meeting agenda that could benefit from input from several intimate groups. Once the groups have completed their work, one group leader can summarize everything they discussed, providing a voice for each team member. In this format, Introverted employees will feel less pressured, thanks to the smaller group size, and be more relaxed in conversation—they also won’t feel they need to lead the discussion if they don’t want to.     

Cut down on unnecessary meetings

Sometimes companies can overdo it on the number of meetings they schedule. This problem seems to be ultra-common in virtual workspaces. Think about productivity: does your team need your next meeting, or can they do without it? Start narrowing down meetings that don’t make sense. If it feels like a waste of time to your employees, it probably is. 

Most Introverts don’t look forward to meetings as it is, but when they’re overloaded with too many, it can affect their mental health in the workplace. Too much overstimulation and demand to participate in meetings will leave Introverts drained and far less productive. 

Taking it all in

If you’re a manager with a bevy of employees, you may want to make your meetings more inclusive to Introverts. Introverted employees will start to take notice with a few easy changes, like including a written brief pre-meeting or breaking people into small groups during team exercises. By making your meetings more inclusive to Introverts, your team will develop into a stronger one, and everyone will get their say regarding important issues. Remember: more meetings doesn't equal higher efficiency in the workplace. Be mindful of both your introverted and extraverted employees.

Cianna Garrison
Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.