Introverts vs. Extroverts in the Workplace: How They Can Work Better Together
We often use the terms extrovert and introvert to talk about our friends or work colleagues. In fact, categorising people using labels isn’t new and the contribution of Susan Cain to the Quiet Revolution, as she coined it, has instilled a growing interest in the subject of introversion and extroversion in the workplace. Extroversion and introversion are concepts we use to describe the way we approach other people and our environment in general.
Psychologists have long debated the distinction between the concept of acquired and innate behaviour – what we do naturally, without thinking and what we learn after birth – to better understand why we do the things we do.
As an employer, manager or HR professional, it’s important to know your employees and understand the way they operate to adopt an inclusive management style, which allows people to deploy their full potential. Employees themselves would benefit from comprehending their own character and personality traits better in order to work better with others and maintain good relationships with their colleagues.
This article explores how organisations can get the best of both personality types to build strong teams.
The Difference Between Introverts & Extroverts
Simply put, introverts and extroverts differ in the way they like to be engaged and motivated. Extroverts draw their energy from people, social interactions, conversations and enjoy being stimulated constantly. On the other hand, introverts prefer to spend more time on their own or in small groups of people, and enjoy thinking rather than talking to recuperate. These two opposed personalities make a community of workers that HR and managers have a responsibility to understand and recognise.
While we can be situated at either end of the introversion-extroversion spectrum, the reality is, that most of us lie somewhere in between. People who sit in the middle share characteristics common to both extroverts and introverts, meaning that it’s easier for them to understand the opposite personality better. A good understanding of one’s own personality can help interpret and anticipate our own behaviours as well as others’, which is especially important in the workplace and to work in groups.
Adapting to the Needs of Different Personalities
Extroverts are naturally driven to interact with others. They spontaneously engage in conversations, even with people they don’t know, and like to grow their network of contacts. They are generally at ease talking in public and are particularly comfortable working in sales or customer service roles. Extroverts usually enjoy an open space office layout, which facilitate frequent communication with colleagues.
Introverts, on the opposite, enjoy working in smaller groups, and often prefer working in their own office. The reason is simple, they need calm to be able to focus and concentrate. They think in silence first before verbalising their thoughts.
Going Beyond the Stereotypes
The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung has largely contributed to establishing the distinction between introversion and extroversion. The researcher invites the public to go beyond the traditional stereotypes we associate with the two personalities to comprehend their underlying compatibility and complementarity.
Although stereotypes in the workplace have been fought forcefully in the past, especially when they are related to age or gender, personality types such as introversion and extroversion still suffer from misjudgement. The effect of such stereotypes can be noxious to highly functional teams and can affect their level of engagement and productivity.
Most often, when we assess extroversion or introversion, we focus on the negative aspects rather than the positive aspects – which is the cause of many misunderstandings and misconceptions. For example, we doubt the ability of introverts to be great leaders because they are shy and don’t like others, and on the other hand, that extroverts are loud and obsessed with themselves.
We live in a culture where people who can communicate and express themselves are perceived as superior. This means that we fail to see the value of more quiet and introverted employees, who are often ignored. Employers who are not able to appreciate the qualities of their introverted employees miss on their input and contribution.
The traits that are inherent to your employees are ultimately inherent to your organisation. This is because the operation and success of your organisation solely depends on them, and they should therefore be embraced.
Creating Complementary Teams
When managers create work teams that empowers employees to choose the tasks that they are strong at, introverts and extroverts are best positioned to utilise their strengths. It is then safe to bet that projects will be completed successfully. For example, at the beginning of a project, when it’s time to collate data and facts, introverts will be very useful, as they are good at researching and synthesising information. Extroverts will be better at contacting people or organising meetings for example. In another situation, like for a presentation or a conference, it’s best to let extroverts be the orator and let introverts answer questions from the audience individually.
To sum it up, it’s important that managers consider the differences of their employees and adapt their processes consequently in order to maximise employees’ contributions. If you’re planning a brain storming session, you will need to ensure that extroverts don’t take up the whole stage. Encourage introverts to communicate and share their thoughts by providing your team with a brief prior to the session. This will allow introverts to think in a quiet environment prior to the meeting and enable them to deliver greater insights during the session.
Respecting the differences and respective strengths of your employees is an excellent way to create efficient teams while letting people flourish in an environment that is more satisfying for them.