The Link Between Quietness And Productivity

Some of you may have tried to reach me this morning and found that I was unavailable. That’s because I was knee high in muck with my husband and some friends. We were out having what I call clamming wars, here on Cape Cod.

I have to admit, my team was quite vocal everytime we scored a clam, which by my count was many. The other team raked for clams quietly in the distance. You can imagine our surprise when the quiet team hauled in considerably more clams than our team. Who would have thought?

Sometimes we forget that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. In fact, it’s often the quiet ones who out-produce everyone else.

Here are some reasons I think this is so.

Being quiet strengthens focus. It's hard to focus on the task at hand when you yourself are making so much noise. The other team, who participated in the clamming wars, never took their eye off the prize. Our team, on the other hand, did a happy dance in the sand every time we hit pay dirt. In retrospect, this was probably valuable time wasted.

Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For example, when everyone is stressing out because it looks like a team isn’t going to meet their deadlines, it’s usually the quiet people who are able to calm people down and carry them over the finish line.

Being quiet conveys confidence. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone when you are confident. You know you do a good job and you believe that eventually others will take notice.

Being quiet means you think before you speak. Quiet people are usually thoughtful thinkers. They think things through before making a statement. Something you probably wish many of your workers would do before taking up your valuable time.

Being quiet gives you the space to dig deep. Quiet people tend to delve into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. Compare this to the surface people in your organization, who often move onto other matters without giving thought to the gold that may be sitting right below the surface.

The next time you evaluate team performance, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not about the noise one makes, but what one actually gets done

Guest contributor Roberta Chinsky Matuson is an internationally recognized expert on increasing profitability by maximizing employee contribution. Her website is www.yourhrexperts.com. She is the author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-­5 Leadership pick. Download a free bonus chapter. Her new book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around will be published in 2013. Sign up to receive a subscription to Roberta’s complimentary newsletter.

[Image: Flickr user Benson Kua]

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165 Comments

  • QTIP

    As an introvert involved in production (I work in a screenprinting and embroidery shop.... I do everything from creating graphics to the actual applying ink to t-shirts and operating the embroidery machines), I have to say that the extroverted "salesperson" is more interested in such trivial matters like what type of vehicle our customers drive.... make, model, year, number of doors, color, type of transmission, gas milage, blah, blah, blah....( this is the kind of crap with which she disrupts my creative focus!) than how excellent their shirts turned out.  Yes, she gets and takes all the credit.  It's a team effort.  I am WAY too honest to be a salesperson.  NOTHING WOULD GET DONE IF SHE WERE IN CHARGE OF PRODUCTION!

  • Pkeller82

    My highest points of creativity are found in my time of quietness. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Guest

    From my perspective, some of the comments seem to miss the point.  Of course you can be loud and productive, but too often noise is made as a substitute for action.  That was the context the story was presented in.  Hand slapping and whooping it up is not productivity, and if you need that sort of thing to be productive, I would argue that you're not really in the right role. 

  • Aasim Saeed

    Disagree! Too Generalized! Too Stereotypical; perhaps the authoress likes quietness; if that had been true; Graveyards & Cemeteries would have been the most productive places :)

  • Dvv53

    Very well said.Many a times silent people are not understod by their superiors.Of course boss needs that much potenial. A separate aricle ca be wrttn o this matter.

  • Jennifer Brogee

    I am amazed at the number of comments on this article.  The only reason I can think of is that noisy people always trying to toot their horn feel threatened by considering the quiet folks too.  She wasn't throwing you under the bus, noisy people, she was just pointing out that we have to pay attention to the quiet folks too. Extraverts, stop talking and let introverts have a voice once in a while.

  • Pete Opietom

    What about different "types" of productivity. Head down, quite, nose to the grindstone is NOT conducive to ALL types of productivity. Absolutely quiet focus is a key component to apprehending the one footed clam. (bagged many myself that way) But what about times that need a rally call to push oneself, or others, over a point of resistance. (Mo Farah) And the times that your team needs an infusion of energy and excitement. 

    There are times for "quiet" enthusiasm, and there are times to charge - both of which can produce increases in productivity. It is more than just the situation that needs to be considered - it is the team makeup. I would have been forgiving of the author had she not knocked the boisterous enthusiasm of her own team. Perhaps the characteristic of team members required loud enthusiasm to get any clams at all. Since the author brought up the folly of her own group as a contrast to the winning diggers, she needs to note that with some teams, quiet can be a killer to productivity.

  • Maria Marquez

    Props to Roberta for articulating her thoughts on being quiet in the work place.  She is entightled to her opinion and she is entitled to publish it; Just as we are all entitled to read it, critiqe it, or support it. Naturally we are an audience of diverse characteristics some of us quiet, some of us not so quiet. After reading some of the reactions to the article I can't help but wonder if the readers that condemned the article are the people making all the noise. I agree that at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you are quiet or not so quiet; it is what you accomplished or contributed for tht paycheck  that matters. However, I would like to add that from my experience and maybe just my own opinion, people who talk too much or try to speak for others are control freaks and trying to innovate with people like this is useless. So sometimes "Shhhhhhh" is the better option. Speak when you need to speak voice your opinion whether they like it or not, and always be supportive of innovation for  the greater good of the organization.

  • Foo

    This is the perfect example of what managers latch onto so that they can make their rating decisions simpler for themselves.  And this attempt at a simple explanation of the results of your digging of clams is exactly that:  A simplification.  Just because someone may be noisy doesn't make them less productive... nor does it necessarily impact others.  Perhaps if we were not put into working environments that totally exposes us to others (i.e. if we were in offices rather than cube farms) then this wouldn't be brought up as a cause of reduced productivity rather than, say, an oppressive work environment. "oh but cubes enhances communication since everyone can easily find one another"... right.  And we don't use instant messaging or *gasp* telephones or *bigger gasp* get up off our fat asses and go and talk to our colleagues to communicate?  Perhaps the other "clam diggin'" team was *just better at digging clams" than yours.  How about when management cites some study that "changing your passwords every 90 days enhances security"?  Management then implements an edict saying: "thou shall change your password every 90 days or risk lockout of your work environement."  What happens when they see the study three years later that states: "changing your password every 90 days is a waste of time"?  I can tell you:  nothing.  You still end up doing the change every 90 days.  The problem is management picks and chooses what they will enforce as rules.  Your suggestion here is dangerous.  I know plenty of incredibly good but noisy people (yes I too am noisy).  But not in the "Look at me and see what I've done way".  Are you actually suggesting that they should be penalized because you can't handle occasional loud conversations?  I sure as heck am glad you don't make the rules where I work.

  • Margaret

    I agree. The noisiest people sometimes get the most attention, a natural reaction to their style, while quiet ones may be overlooked or underrated. I also believe that anyone, whether naturally quiet or naturally vociferous, can benefit from quiet time. It has been shown that we perform tasks better when not simultaneously listening to music, for example. And every time our work is  interrupted by a ping on the cell phone, it takes several minutes to regain focus.

    It has also been shown that it is easier for quiet people to learn to speak out more, but very hard, sometimes impossible, for the more vociferous to hold back. This may be why you have met with some resistance in other comments. Some of the more talkative may feel, "She asks the impossible."

  • Sarrodb

    Good one Roberta. I have just one addition, those that work quiet sometimes suffer due to lack of showcasing of their work. In my experience, those that publicise what they are doing tend to have an upper hand. Those that work quiet need for their results to speak louder than words.  

  • CL

    As someone who is a quiet worker, I appreciate this article. However, I know that just because I'm quiet, doesn't make me the most productive person in the office. I appreciate the different personalities that everyone in my office has and we all work hard to make our business a success.

    Again, I do really appreciate the article! Some great points are made!
    www.effectiveedge.com

  • Jpreachphd

    The writer doesn't claim that quiet people always out produce their more vocal counterparts; the most salient point that is made is that their are many not so obvious strengths that quiet team members bring to the table. As one of those more quiet types, I resonate with the insights shared of the link between quietness and particular ways of being productive. The writer, who says they are in the more vocal camp, brings a needed balance to appreciate more quiet performers. I say, "Hurray!"

  • Guest_2012

    Generalizations are fine in this case; anyone who socializes, is employed, or has lived recognizes that there are those who excel at being seen and heard, and those who don't and work quietly away in the background.

    As a possibly interesting addendum to this blog post topic:
    http://www.upi.com/Health_News...

    ".."In organizations, people are very easily swayed by others' confidence even when that confidence is unjustified," Anderson said. "Displays of confidence are given an inordinate amount of weight."..'  "The study, scheduled to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, sheds light on why incompetent people are so often promoted over their more competent peers."

  • Anon

    I agree with the points in this article; I also agree with some of the readers that you can't generalize but I think what this article  highlights is that quiet people are often overlooked in companies when it comes promotion time simply because they don't go around talking themselves up but put their head down and get things done. I've seen this in personal experience (I'm one of those quiet ones who doesn't tend to talk up unless I think I'm making a point that's really not been made before) and unfortunately it's those who can "sell" themselves better that get ahead while us quiet ones get all the work done. The current corporate environment is not set up to reward quiet people. There was a TED talk about introverts and the lady's name escapes me now but I thought it was excellent and every manager should hear it.

  • saaduddin shoaib

    Agree to all points that you said but at the end it all depends on the work culture you are in.

  • Chris

    Unfortunately, I am dealing with the repercussions of someone who was too quiet and assumed that by being quiet, his ideas would be unique and protected.  This article was a disappointing waste of my time.

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