How to Get Your Quiet Employees to Speak Up More in Meetings

If you’re a manager with quiet employees, you’ve probably encouraged them to “speak up more” in meetings. But these words alone aren’t enough. Here’s simple steps to help strengthen their speaking skills (and be a better boss).


Disengaged Employee or Quiet Personality?

As a manager, it can be frustrating when you have team members who don’t say much during meetings.

It can be easy to take someone’s silence as a lack of interest in the business.

But before you make any quick judgements about employee engagement, keep in mind you have many different personalities working for you. And some personality types prefer to think before they speak.

While extroverts like to think out loud, Susan Cain explains that introverts often prefer to have completely worked something out in their minds before they start speaking–which is one reason they usually don’t speak up right away.

The idea of spontaneously sharing their point of view on a topic, especially in front of a large group of coworkers, can create major meeting angst among quiet people.

What is Meeting Angst? 

Meeting angst is a fear of not contributing anything meaningful or valuable to a work discussion. In other words, remaining a silent spectator while coworkers expertly share thoughts and opinions.

Many professionals, especially introverted employees, suffer from meeting angst in the workplace.

This was something I personally experienced when I worked in the corporate world. Back in the day, my brilliant approach to meetings was to find a quiet seat in the back of the room, actively listening and observing, but letting my coworkers do the talking.

One time I even had a colleague start to tell me about a meeting he had attended, only to remind him that I had also been at the same meeting with him. I was so quiet he didn’t even know I was there!

Giving Advice to “Speak Up More” Isn’t Helpful

Here’s the thing: If you’re a manager with quiet employees, you’ve probably encouraged them to speak up more. But this action alone isn’t enough.

In fact, those three words could even add to their anxiety rather than foster growth and development as you intended.

Chances are, your employee is already acutely aware of their silence in meetings and struggling with confidence. And you don’t want to make them feel badly about their quiet nature.

So, you need to make sure your employee understands this isn’t a personal criticism – it’s about an opportunity for professional growth.

And this is especially important if your employee has aspirations to take on additional responsibilities and advance into higher-level leadership roles.

Speaking Up is An Essential Skill to Develop for Career Advancement

According to this Harvard Business Review article, work meetings are one of the most effective ways to raise visibility and build a relationship of trust with colleagues.

Like many unwritten rules in the business world, speaking up in meetings is essential for career advancement.

Although I sometimes struggled with how to participate in meetings, eventually, as I worked to advance my career, it got easier, and I became better – because learning how to speak up in meetings is a skill that can be developed over time.

And just like any skill, the more one does it, the better they get.

Offer Coaching for Professional Growth

Given the importance of speaking up in meetings to long term career success, you can’t just encourage your quiet achievers to speak up more. You also need to find ways you can personally help them speak up more too.

The best leaders help their quiet workers grow and develop new skills – even when this means gently nudging them outside their comfort zone ☺️.

How Can Managers Help Quiet Employees Develop Speaking Skills?

Here’s 6 steps you can take to help your quiet employee develop speaking skills and be a more active participant during work meetings:

  1. Boost Confidence
  2. Lower the Pressure
  3. Encourage Open Communications
  4. Provide Feedback
  5. Show Your Support
  6. Discuss Growth Opportunties

Let’s dive into each one of these steps.

1. Boost Confidence

Let your employee know how much you value their perspective and opinions. If possible, share specific examples of times when they’ve shared great ideas with you. A confident employee will be much more likely to speak up and participate in meetings.

2. Lower the Pressure

It’s a good idea to help your team member get comfortable with their coworkers — and you too. It’s much easier for employees to speak up and share their thoughts when they’re surrounded by friends instead of strangers.

3. Encourage Open Communications

This can be especially true for individuals who are new to your team or company. So, create more open communication across your team members by encouraging them to get to know each other better. Prioritize time for social interaction, like hosting an early happy hour.

4. Provide Feedback

Share your observations from a recent meeting where you noticed your employee spent more time actively listening than participating in a discussion.

You can even share your concern that other business leaders may mistakenly perceive their silence as a lack of engagement, even though you know that’s not the case.

5. Show Your Support

From here, praise their listening skills, but also share how you would love to hear more from them and want to help them find ways to be more vocal next time – you’re in it together!

Position it as a new skill to strengthen as part of their professional development plan.

Having a meaningful conversation like this can go a long way in helping quieter employees feel better about their career path.

6. Discuss Career Goals & Growth Opportunities

Work with your employee to identify ways to get them more involved in work meetings. For example, even if they don’t have a new idea to share, suggest they start by building off their coworkers’ ideas.

And as they grow more confident and sure of themselves, give them a topic they know well to discuss during an upcoming meeting.

One of the easiest ways for quiet individuals to speak up more in meetings is by taking steps to prepare before the meeting ever begins.

Here’s some helpful tips you can share with your employee.

Last, don’t forget to give your employee positive feedback after they start taking steps to speak up more in a group setting.

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to discuss their progress. This can boost your employee’s willingness to keep at it and continue to speak up more in meetings.

More Advice for to TAP into the power of introverts

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Take Pride in Progress

Bottom line, speaking up is a skill — the more your employee does it, the better they will get.

Give it some time, and you’ll soon take pride in their progress as you see them confidently share their thoughts and ideas in business meetings!

Then you might have a different problem — how can you get them to stop talking (like their extroverted colleagues) embarassed.


About Author

As a former CMO who started her career as an admin assistant, Alison writes about climbing the corporate ladder. After several frustrating years stuck in middle management, Alison set a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom – and make work optional.

You can read more about her story here.



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