Along with Corporate Culture, Employee Engagement is a hot subject these days. On the topic of engagement, I’ve been wondering about how we allow our people to get back to what Dr. Brian Little refers to as their “restorative niche.” I think we are not allowing for that. And not doing so may be making it harder to secure employee engagement.
Here’s what that’s about. If you are more of an Introvert by nature, you gain energy by being quiet and perhaps alone. To be around a lot of people, or to be making presentations to large audiences drains energy from an Introvert. And as you might imagine, pretty much the reverse is true for the more extroverted person. They gain energy from being around people and when forced to be alone, they soon become tired and frustrated.
What Little is referring to as a restorative niche, is, for example, to have an Introvert find time to be alone and give Extroverts a chance to be around people instead of working alone in his/her office. In other words, we, as leaders, need to make sure we create an environment that allows for people to repair to their restorative niches.
In all the personality profiles I’ve taken — and I’ve taken many — I fall significantly on the side of Introversion. Yet, most people find that hard to believe. I often speak to large crowds, I frequently speak to smaller groups (under 50), I facilitate groups of CEOs, I guest lecture at MBA classes and I am frequently at networking meetings, both large and small. So, most people believe I am extroverted.
In short, I have gained the skill of acting extroverted. I am passionate about leadership coaching and learning to be extroverted has been a requirement. Many Introverts have gained this skill. Just like many Extroverts have gained the skills needed to work alone for long stretches of time.
As leaders, we must gain the insight to notice when our people need their restorative niche. The Introverts need down time and the Extroverts need time to party. If we have an open seating floor plan, we need to have closed offices for those who need quiet.
Understanding the individual employee personality profiles may help avoid misunderstanding the level of passion and commitment an employee has. On the one hand, Introverts are often seen as disengaged since they tend to be quiet. And on the other hand, Extroverts may show lots of activity and passion while they really aren’t all that engaged.
Add the Niche:
From Daniel Pink we know that knowledge workers require Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to be engaged. I think to that sage advice we must add Restorative Niches to gain full engagement and maximum productivity. I can’t help but believe that employee retention and recruitment will take a positive turn as well.
Speaking for myself, one of the best things that happened to me in my corporate career was to gain the promotions necessary to have an office where I could work quietly, on my own. My productivity was greatly increased and allowed me to gain the energy for the many meetings required of me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. And now I will be much more aware of these needs in other people.