A successful manager knows that open communication is
essential for smooth business operations. What about that employee or few
employees that never talk, never verbally contribute, and seem shy or skittish
around other team members? It’s not they aren’t a good worker or a nice person,
but you just wish they would open up, participate, and join in more. In order
to reach their full potential, they will probably have to. So what can you do
to get them to talk more and feel more comfortable interacting with you and
One thing you can do is ask for their feedback. If someone
knows they are expected to chime in, they are more likely to do so. Tell them
in advance of a meeting how you would like them to contribute so they will be
prepared. Ask him or her open ended questions and create space for the shy
person to join in the conversation.
Thank them for sharing. If they do say something publicly, a
simple “thank you” will reinforce the behavior. This will make them feel more
comfortable contributing in the future.
Point out that not speaking up is a risk. Employees who
don’t verbally speak up occasionally are simply shy or having a bad day. But if
they continue to stay quiet, this is one way of not meeting expectations. Try
to illustrate the impact of them speaking up and the impact of staying quiet so
they can see the contrast. They may realize that they are putting the team at
risk when they withhold their ideas.
Encourage this person to learn public speaking. There are
programs you can enroll in that teach you how to give short speeches off the
cuff when people put you on the spot. This training will get them more
comfortable speaking in front of others and may help them come out of their
Before a meeting, ask that staff member to write a memo that
will lead the discussion. Then have them circulate it to other staff members,
which will generate some conversation toward to the shy person instead of the
shy person going to them.
Finally, accept both written and verbal feedback. If you
just can’t get enough verbal input from them, seek written responses when
needed. A suggestion box might be a good idea as well and an incentive to share
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