You are trying your best to be friendly to that introverted coworker..to include him or her in teambuilding activities, to invite him to lunch, or to consider her opinion on projects. But no matter what you try, they seem to prefer working alone, and can come across as moody. Why bother? Before you throw in the towel, try these tips:
Consider his/her personality. Some people are just naturally more cautious, private and contemplative. This doesn’t mean they are a full-fledge Eeyore. They simply aren’t going to jump into activities right away and don’t mind–in fact even enjoy–being loners. Be careful about demanding they participate in all team initiatives with the same enthusiasm your outgoing team members will display.
Use variety. Don’t always default to high energy team building activities or require full participation all the time. Keep some initiatives low-key. For example, try this activity using a puzzle.
Talk one-on-one. When you can, spend some time with this team member in private and ask his or her advice or feedback on a project.
Avoid praising publicly. Some quieter team members hate to be publicly praised. Find what works for them–a thank you note or gift card left on their desk is appreciated more than having to get up in front of a crowd to accept a bouquet of flowers.
Don’t put him on the spot. You might think it is best to ask them, “Drew, what do you think of this?” but this may backfire on you. Again, talk privately, as in, “Drew, I think you may have a good idea about what we talked about at the meeting earlier. What do you think?”
Establish some expectations. While you don’t want to alienate these folks, don’t let them control your efforts either. From time to time, there will be required events for the entire team and as a leader, you may have to be firm about expecting participation.
Be considerate of personal time. Some employees are resistant to activities that cut into “their” time even if most perceive it will be fun. For example, I know of people who didn’t care to do an overnight retreat even though it was at a great location and costs were covered. Since you don’t know the personal life of all your employees, avoid making “off time” events required. In turn, you may talk with the employee about an agreement that if you don’t require them to attend off hours functions, you would like to see their full participation in activities/initiatives that do fall within their normal work time.
Be sensitive to workloads. Some team building activities/meetings are seen as an unnecessary interruptions to an already heavy workload. Don’t add more stress by ill-timed meetings. There are other ways to show appreciation and build teamwork during especially heavy seasons.
In the end, as the leader, you will have to determine if this employee’s resistance is something you can work with or not. Being a team player is important, but having some grace with your employees is, too.