Introverts vs. Extroverts: How Each Adds Value to the Workplace
How does your personality affect your performance? We talk about the value introverts and extroverts in and out of the office.
Do you tend to gravitate towards the center of the room at parties, or do you find yourself inching towards the periphery? Are you the first to raise your hand or do you prefer to quietly ruminate before you speak? Your answers to these questions could reveal whether you are more of an introvert vs. extrovert.
You might be wondering how this relates to the world of business. Does that one coworker seem unapproachable and aloof? Does another one talk too much? Read on to learn more about what it means to be an introvert or extrovert and how to best work with each – it could make your team a whole lot stronger.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Bill Gates is quiet and extremely intelligent, but seemingly unaffected by the opinions of others. He is an introvert but is by no means shy. Barbra Streisand, on the other hand, is outgoing and charismatic but has a serious cause of stage fright. She is a shy extrovert.
Being an introvert or extrovert does not necessarily entail that you are quiet or outspoken, respectively. Rather, introversion and extroversion refer to the means by which one “recharges” and processes stimuli. In the simplest terms, introverts gain energy through solitude while extroverts gain energy by spending time with other people.
Introverted adults are more prone to overstimulation in their daily lives. Overstimulation can come in forms of public speaking, large business meetings, or crowded parties. On the flip side, extroverts have a low threshold for excitability, so they can actually feel drained if they spend too much time alone.
Here are some examples:
If you’re an introvert, you probably relish the time spent alone after a busy day at work and thoughtful one-on-one conversation with a friend. You like having a small but close group of friends. You think things through before you speak, and you produce your best work when separated from the distractions of other people. Nikola Tesla, a brilliant inventor, engineer, and introvert, explains: “Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone-that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
If you’re an extrovert, you find excitement in engaging in small talk with strangers and enjoy hopping from one circle of people to the next at a party. Your social circle is extensive. You are quick to share your opinions, and produce your best work when collaborating with others. One extrovert describes how she gains energy by interacting with other people: “When I am among people, I make eye contact, smile, maybe chat if there’s an opportunity (like being stuck in a long grocery store line). As an extrovert, that’s a small ping of energy, a little positive moment in the day.”
All of this isn’t to say that introverts are antisocial or extroverts are incapable of being alone. Keep in mind that introversion and extraversion refers to how we tend to recharge our brains; whether our energy generally flows inward or outward. As the father of analytical psychology Carl Jung once said,
“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
If you’re not sure where you fall on the introversion-extraversion scale, take this test to find out (many people actually fall somewhere in the middle, or are ambiverts).
What this means for managers
Studies show that 96 percent of managers identify as being extroverted. In another poll, 65 percent of senior executives viewed introversion as a disadvantage. So, extroverts must be more effective leaders, right? Not exactly. Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tracked leadership effectiveness and discovered that extroverts and introverts were equally successful – but shined with different kinds of employees.
Teams with extroverted managers and passive employees who sought direction from higher ups had 16 percent higher profits. However, teams with extroverted managers and employees who were vocal and proactive had 14 percent lower profits. While extroverts had the enthusiasm and firmness to draw the best out of passive employees, they dominated the attention in a way that curbed the efforts of proactive employees. As a result, the employees became discouraged, causing the entire team to miss out on their ideas.
Introverted leaders excel through validating employee initiative and listening intently to their suggestions. The former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant, is an introvert whose success as a leader speaks volumes through his manual writing of more than 30,000 personalized thank-you notes for his employees.
As a manager or coworker, understanding the people you work with is key to a healthy, productive office environment. Here are some tips on how to manage introverted employees:
- Allow time away from the group to focus on tasks, and create an atmosphere that is conducive to their learning and participation.
- Schedule regular one-on-one meetings for giving updates or teaching new skills.
- Rather than throwing them into a new situation, allow time for observation.
- Give time to think instead of demanding answers on the spot.
- Provide deadlines in advance, such as giving a one-hour warning before an important task should be completed.
And extroverted employees:
- Delegate structured collaborative work so they can develop their ideas in the presence of others.
- Keep their assignments exciting and engaging to avoid under-stimulation.
- Commend and encourage their enthusiasm.
- Let them dive right into their projects once they have a game plan.
- Give clear signals (physical and verbal) in response to their performance.
What this means for employees
Introverts: Learn to tune out the societal pressures telling you to be more gregarious, aggressive, or social. Making apologies for who you are or pretending to be someone you are not stifles your creativity and your learning process. Set aside time during the day to regroup after back-to-back meetings, but remember to maintain connections with other people. Step out of your comfort zone when you believe it is necessary – you’ll find this to be significantly easier when you find something you are truly passionate about.
Extroverts: Invest time into listening to the ideas of others, and be cognizant of the importance of working with different types of people. Take a step back before speaking, and ask yourself if and how you will provide value by doing so. You have the ability to command the attention of the room and be a dynamic leader, so learn how to harness the strengths of different individuals.
It is easy to get caught up in the introvert vs. extrovert dichotomy, but personality traits live on a continuum. Human behavior is fluid and can be highly dependent on the situation. Yet, personality categories help us make sense of who we are and in turn help us navigate the social environments that so strongly bind us together. By finding the balance between action and reflection, we better serve ourselves and each other. This not only has tangible implications for the workplace but also society.