Restful Leadership for Black Introverts
Strategies for finding meaningful rest in the workplace
Image: Path through a forest in winter.
Black Introvert Week (Feb 8-15) was founded by Jeri Bingham, creator of the Hush Loudly podcast, to empower and encourage introverts while educating others about this highly misunderstood personality type. As a rest researcher and scholar, who also identifies as an introvert, this week provides a perfect opportunity for me to explore how Black introverted femmes access rest in the workplace, and how employers can better support us.
Stereotypes have been ascribed to Black women across centuries of patriarchy and racial capitalism. These tropes have resulted in Black women being taught implicitly or explicitly, to work "twice as hard to get hard as far". We rarely have the freedom to be shy, quiet or reserved. When we are reticent, we are accused of being stuck up or angry or not a team player. As introverts, we often thrive in 1:1 conversations and meaningful relationships. In the workplace, this can result in the disproportionate labor of holding everyone’s problem and often being pushed into being the workplace mammy.
Restful leadership involves acknowledging the impact of white supremacy culture and exploitative work environments on individuals and working towards being trauma-informed, minimizing harm, and fostering an environment that enables everyone to recharge, recuperate and engage in a more restful and harmonious workflow.
Here are ten tips that can help you manage stress effectively and prioritize rest for yourself, and your teams. These tips are simple, practical, and effective, and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to help you minimize the stress and anxiety of work.
Know and understand yourself and your environment: Learn about the ways in which trauma can impact people and how white supremacy culture contributes to it. Understanding the root causes of trauma can help you recognize it in yourself and others, and respond in a supportive way. Additionally, understanding your personality type can help you identify your strengths and areas of growth, as well as recognize what environments and situations may energize or drain you. Take personality assessments, such as Myers-Briggs, to gain insight into your personality type and preferences.
Create spaciousness: Introverts often need more time to recharge and process information, and being in constant meetings or collaborating all day can be draining. Leaders can help by creating a schedule that allows for more solo work time and minimizing back-to-back meetings. It may also help to turn off your notifications. Constant distractions, such as notifications from Slack, email, and texts, can be overstimulating for introverts. Leaders can help by setting boundaries around when employees need to be fully available, and encouraging employees to turn off notifications during heads-down work time.
Practice setting boundaries: Introverts may struggle with setting boundaries, but it's important to establish limits on your time and energy in the workplace. Leaders can support employees by helping them practice setting boundaries and acknowledging the importance of prioritizing rest and self-care.
Create space for introverts in collaborative settings: Introverts may feel less comfortable speaking up in large group meetings and may need more time to process information before offering an opinion. Leaders can help by providing agendas ahead of time, outlining key questions, and encouraging introverts to come prepared with their ideas.
Trust your intuition: Decision-making can be challenging for introverts, but it's important to trust your intuition and rely on your personal values and principles to guide your choices. In white supremacy culture, "gut feelings" or "vibe checks" are often dismissed. Recognize your bias around this, and make space for all decision-making styles. Leaders can help by being clear about the decision-making process and acknowledging the importance of different perspectives and approaches. In addition, be mindful of power dynamics, especially in decision-making. Provide opportunities for people to participate in decision-making processes and advocate for historically marginalized and excluded voices.
Recognize the emotional labor involved in introverted leadership: Introverted leaders may be expected to do emotional labor, such as taking care of other's feelings (being a work mammy), masking, and/or code-switching. This can be exhausting. Leaders can help by acknowledging and reducing these expectations and creating a culture that values authenticity and vulnerability.
Create rituals: Rituals can help introverted leaders recharge and manage their energy. Create rituals that allow you to pause, reflect, and respond to situations with intention and focus, such as taking a few deep breaths before starting a task or taking a walk during lunch break. Build rituals (such as inhale/exhales, or check-ins) into your collaborative spaces. This allows introverts to better know what to expect.
Be authentic and prioritize your well-being: Introverted leaders may feel pressure to conform to extroverted norms and behaviors, but it's important to prioritize your own well-being and be true to yourself. Leaders can help by creating a culture that values diversity of personality types and encourages authenticity.
Focus on "being" rather than "doing": Introverted leaders may feel pressured to constantly be productive and busy, but it's important to take time to just "be" and recharge. Leaders can help by creating spaces where employees can relax and recharge, such as quiet rooms or meditation areas.
Remember, practicing restful leadership not only benefits your team and organization but also promotes personal well-being and contributes to creating more equitable, trauma-informed and human-centered workplaces, for introverts and extroverts alike.