Managing Quiet Employees? How to Help Your Team Be Heard At Work

You hired the best staff, picked the people with the best qualifications, ticked all the right boxes. Only, then it came to their first day in the office… and you noticed just how shy they were. Communication is one of the most important skills your team will ever have. So it’s only natural to want to help quiet employees become more confident. 

Let’s take a look at what’s going on behind the scenes and how you can best support even the most timid of employees in achieving their potential.

Executive coach’s tip: sometimes this means working with quiet employees to meet them where they’re at. Find out what this means below.

If you’ve got quiet employees, this might sound familiar…

If you’re a CEO, a manager or part of your organisation’s HR team, you’re likely working alongside a lot of different people. And you’ll notice that some of them are always happy to give their opinion. Whilst others have so much to share, but rarely speak out in a public setting.

So what does it mean? Are they shy? Are they lacking confidence? Or are they missing the soft skills that allow them to communicate in an office environment?

If you’re having one-to-one conversations with your team members, you’ll soon notice whether it’s confidence or a lack of soft skills that are causing the issue. Whilst the two challenges can be approached in different ways, there’s one shared key to confident communication.

The key to confident communication

More often than not, however, it’s not about the communication skills themselves. It’s about the internal work that employees need to do, and you can help facilitate that.

They need confidence, self-worth, a clear understanding of their values, alignment with the company’s mission and the ability to put themselves into other people’s shoes. Those ingredients form the foundation of good communication skills. And you have the power to help build them up. 

Employees working in organisations with effective communication plans are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. So it’s safe to say, it’s worth the investment.

Related: What to Do When Employees Don’t Want to Return to the Office

Managing quiet employees – start building confidence

It’s not unusual for employees to sit quietly in meetings, thinking of all the things they have to say about a topic but struggling to find the courage or confidence to speak up. Even when an employee has a vast sum of knowledge to share, low self-esteem and self-doubt can hinder their progression in the workplace. 

But, confidence can be developed when you give the individual the tools to start strengthening their confidence “muscle”.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Start small – provide opportunities for quieter employees to speak up in smaller groups first. Try hosting mini-meetings of 3-5 people where team members are able to practice speaking about a topic they know well.
  2. Invite opinions in – make sharing opinions a habit for all team members, regardless of their seniority. Each time a topic is discussed, get into the routine of inviting a different employee to share their input each time. Just be sure to always give a positive response.
  3. Create a culture of celebration – your employees need to see how talented they are if they’re going to deliver that talent on a daily basis. Make celebrations commonplace by asking your employees how they’d rather receive kudos – in public, in private, in written form, and so on. Then, be sure to deliver on that promise every time they do something that exceeds your expectations. 

Managing quiet employees – meeting your team where they are

If you have quiet employees, that’s not always such a bad thing. As a society, we’ve developed a culture where being loud and outspoken is often considered “better”. But it’s important to ask ourselves whether that’s always necessary.

What if you could work with your employees and their communication preferences? Sometimes it’s all about striking the balance between personal growth and acknowledging someone’s personal style.

Here’s how to find that balance:

  1. Spend more time together one-on-one – if you know an employee has lots to share but won’t do so in a group setting, you don’t always need to force that. Instead, set aside some time for a longer private conversation where they feel comfortable to share their thoughts and dive a little deeper.
  2. Protect the office environment – many quiet employees, especially introverts, will be put off by a loud office environment. Instead, take a look at what you can do to foster a quieter office space where every employee feels comfortable and understood.
  3. Give employees time to prepare – quieter employees are likely to need more time to prepare for meetings and presentations as they get themselves in the right headspace for social interactions. So try to avoid spur of the moment meetings where you can.

Managing employees – developing soft skills

Presentations. Leading meetings. Public speaking. Pitching. Client relations. These all require good communication skills, or soft skills. And the good news is, these can be learnt.

Just like the confidence “muscle”, the communication “muscle” can also be strengthened when employees are given the right tools. 

The key? Showing your team that, when they have the right system to follow, they are capable of communicating in every way possible. Rather than being a big scary thing they’d rather not think about, you can show them exactly how to start.

Try this to get started:

  1. Make it internal – create a safe space where quiet employees can practice their presentation skills without being judged by external parties. Get them comfortable with this practice before moving public speaking events to more formal settings.
  2. Pass the microphone – regularly rotate the meeting host so that other employees can have the chance to lead the session, even if they’re not in a leadership role. This will give them the opportunity to practice and build their confidence before progressing to a more senior position, making the transition that much easier.
  3. Review and improve – every time an employee steps out of their comfort zone to communicate in a new way, celebrate that and offer them feedback. It’s best to always start with a few positive comments, then add in some constructive criticism for next time and then wrap things up with another positive comment or two.

This is the key to the communication skills your team needs (with the right structure to get results)

Book a signature communications workshop and get a more productive team that knows how to work together:


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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.