How to get the most out of shy employees

It can be hard to manage an employee who is shy when you yourself are not a shy person. Being understanding of your employees and their actions is the key to a successful working relationship that will empower your employees to be the best they can be.

shy girl with hand in front of her face

The world is full of people with many different strengths and abilities. Whether you or your employees are more introverted or extroverted, those skills and abilities are present and powerful tools when used well.

With 40 to 60% of adults identifying as shy, fostering these skills in a shy employee is important. However, it can be difficult if you don’t work together to understand each other. To get you started, here are some tips on getting the most out of your shy employees.

Foster a positive relationship

The first step is to foster a positive relationship with your employee. Interact with them on a one-on-one basis. Shy people tend to work better one-on-one compared to larger groups. Working with one person allows shy people to feel as though their voice can be heard and gives them a safe space to do so.

Tip 1: Try having more one-on-one meetings with your employee. Give them a safe space to voice their concerns or ask questions.

Tip 2: Break out into pairs or small groups during a meeting to discuss an issue. This will allow shy employees to voice their opinion comfortably in a smaller team before bringing it to a larger group.

Tip 3: Thank your employee for sharing their thoughts with you. Feeling appreciated and understood will help your employee grow their confidence and feel more comfortable expressing their views in the future.

Understand how they may be feeling

Understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings is hard enough as it is. It’s even harder when the way you interact with people is completely different to your employee. The most important thing to understand when working with a shy person is that things that may be easy or come naturally to you could be a huge hurdle for them.

Everyone is different and everyone’s fears and concerns also differ. Take this into account when organising tasks, events or training. Make sure you cater for everyone.

Tip 4: Before assigning a task, make sure they are comfortable with doing it. Check what their concerns may be and remember, their concerns may not even register to you as a possible problem. Use this to help them develop their skills. Most people want to develop and do what they can to excel in their career.

Tip 5: Talk to your shy employee and see if there is anything they want to become more comfortable with. Let them identify their concerns and give them the option to develop skills to combat those concerns. Creating confidence in your shy employee will work wonders for both you and them.

Let them think

Shy people tend to think about what they’re going to say before they say it. Allow your employee to consider what they’re going to say by giving them time to answer questions.  

Tip 6: When someone is quiet in a meeting it doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention. Sometimes, a shy person needs to fully consider what they’re going to say before they can put it into words. Give them a chance to think the situation through before asking for their input.

Tip 7: If you want your team member to discuss a topic in a group, let them know beforehand. By giving them the material or letting them know the plan before the meeting, you give them time to come to a conclusion and make a decision about their thoughts, without the added pressure of having to give instant feedback.

Use new ways to communicate

There are so many ways to communicate within the business world including online chats, emails, in person and via teleconferencing. Find the platform that best suits you and your employee. Some employees may prefer to type up their thoughts in a chat or email, while others may prefer to speak to someone face-to-face. Make sure you consider what fits best, both with the employee and the rest of your team, as well as yourself.

Tip 8: Be open to using new or different forms of communication that you may not be used to. This will allow you to show your shy employee that you understand their needs and their way of thinking and will allow them to come out of their shell and grow their confidence. The more their confidence grows, the more they will contribute their skills to the team.

Don’t be blunt or pushy

Being too blunt or pushy with a shy employee can have a negative effect on their confidence. Shy people don’t react well to being pushed to do something. In this situation, it’s best to be logical and explain the thinking behind your decision.

Tip 9: Discuss a task or plan with your employee. Instead of just bluntly telling them the task or pushing them into doing a task they are not comfortable with, discuss it with them first so that they understand exactly what’s required of them. This will prevent the anxious feelings that arise when someone is unsure or unconfident.


By following these tips, you'll be able to create a positive working environment for your shy employees. The more positive a person feels about their work, the better their work will be. Giving confidence to your shy employees will have a lasting effect on them as a worker, plus the business and team will benefit as well.

Learn about the best collaboration tools for increasing productivity in your workplace.


Last updated on July 25, 2017 09:45

Melinda Vaelioja

Written by Melinda Vaelioja