How To Get Shy Employees To Open Up

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 their peers?

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 shell.

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 ideas.