man and woman high five

The performance review usually feels like a breeze for the employees who are easily hitting all the goals set out for them.  But when an employee struggles to meet goals, it leaves the manager wondering why.  Is their personality causing a lack of motivation?

The introvert’s quiet performance may be overlooked until the annual performance appraisal comes up.  Introverts want to grow and develop new skills and need guidance to reach their potential.  So how do you motivate an introverted employee?  The evaluation is one tool to galvanize change.

Revise expectations

When evaluating an introverts work performance, once the core competencies have been checked off, the real value of the review is the additional feedback.  Typical evaluations tend to tell introverts what they already know: they’re too quiet.  And giving them 10 additional points to improve on will quickly overwhelm an introvert.  The evaluation is meant to stimulate positive change, but often the expected change is too great.

Asking anyone to step outside of their comfort zone is scary.  So when you ask a quiet, reserved person to present their thoughts to a group, it puts them outside of their comfort zone.  When an introvert forces themselves to perform, they quickly lose energy and productivity.

Staying within the “learning zone” keeps the introvert eager and challenged.  Pushing into the “panic zone” produces stress, anxiety, and fear.  Avoid this stress by helping the introvert make small changes in the learning zone.  You’ll know you’re in the learning zone if the introvert is eager to tackle the challenge.  Together, you decide what the action is that encourages the introvert to step outside of their comfort zone, yet doesn’t cause exhaustion.

Ideally, there is prompt feedback and praise when you see the desired behavior happening.  Laurie Caton, Vice President of Account Management at Corporate Fitness Works, says, “Providing feedback immediately is essential for employees to understand exactly what the growth area is.  In addition, sitting on feedback and then sharing it in an evaluation does not build trust between an employee and their supervisor, nor is it as effective as delivering feedback immediately.”

Focus on one critical goal

Goal setting during the evaluation is a collaborative effort.  And getting the introvert self-motivated to grow is paramount.  Success comes from how the goals are set.

In many cases, speaking up is a skill that introverts desire to learn and managers would like them to develop.  Simply setting a goal to speak up more in meetings will not motivate the introvert to do so.  Again, they may push themselves to do so for a while, but will likely burn out.  Then it seems like the introvert didn’t try hard enough.  Yet an expectation was set versus a plan that provided the introvert the tools and clarity needed to accomplish the goal. 

In their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, professors Dan Heath and Chip Heath stated that change is easier when you focus on one critical move and make it very specific. 

Cultivating relationships is one example of a critical move used for an introverted employee.  “One manager was perceived as not being collaborative or even interested in brainstorming with the rest of the team.  Her supervisor shared this feedback from her peers year after year with not much change, “ says Caton.

The introvert finally started contributing “when a new supervisor assisted her in building better relationships with the rest of the team,” says Caton.   “The new supervisor created opportunities for the employee to work one-on-one with the others and over time, relationships were built, one by one.  Eventually, this led to a stronger team,” she says.

Concentrating the efforts on small manageable goals helps the introvert feel in control which is crucial to performance.  Help them to see these small wins.  People will remain stuck in habits and attitudes until they actively do the work to change.  The more they realize they have already taken action toward the goal, the faster change will happen. 

Future-pacing goals

Prior to the evaluation, have the introvert set their own goals.  As author Dr. Benjamin Hardy states in his book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, “The primary causes shaping your personality are your goals and the identity and behavior that flow from those goals.”

Determining the goal(s) prior to discussion allows the introvert time to decide what behavior must change and puts the onus on them.

Use these questions to illuminate your introverted employee’s goals:

Envision your future self…

How do you interact with other people?

How do you view your present and future?

What is your purpose?

What skills and talents do you have?

In many cases, the introvert will want to make the same changes you would like to see them make.  And having them bring that to light before the day of evaluation gets them to buy in. 

Review the goals together during the evaluation and establish a specific plan to achieve the one main goal.  Make sure the goal is small and written in a way that the introvert can control.

Once the goals are established, a clear destination is visible.  Change is easier when you know where you’re going.