personality types

Introverts and extroverts in the work place


All of our lives we’ve been sold the image of an extrovert as “the most likely to succeed”. One needs to be determined, assertive, sociable and preferably loud in order to make it in life. Really, the field of work never mattered enough to be mentioned. What’s a scientist who doesn’t spend time by the water cooler, anyway?

Reality, however, is different. Somewhere around 30% of the population falls into the introvert typology (some argue that it’s actually a tie), which means there are a lot of people who prefer some alone time, who like having their personal space and thrive in a more quiet and calm environment. But the majority usually makes the rules so most of the attributes associated with extroverted people tend to become the norm.

A manager might think: “Is it really necessary to change something just for 30% of my employees? How much of a difference does it really make?” Well, introverts usually bring an essential set of skills and personality traits to the workplace. They are the analysts, the researchers, the deep thinkers, the strategists, generating so much of the content that extroverts then move on to selling with the help of their exuberant personality.

Just to be fair, all of these are not exclusive to introverts, only a natural tendency for this typology. However, failing to capitalize on them in the right field and, even more, pressuring introverts to perform on extrovert-oriented positions might mean a waste of talent, a gap in efficiency and, ultimately, a sense of unhappiness and un-belonging that might lead to significant turnover.

So, how do you tell an introvert by an extrovert? There is one question that will help point them out most faithfully: “How do you like to recharge after a difficult day?” Extroverts will usually answer something like going out or spending time with their many friends, while introverts will show a preference towards solitary activities like reading a book, jogging or, at most, meeting or chatting with an old friend. Both typologies need these activities in their lives in order to feel fulfilled, but they differ in their priorities.

So what would be some small changes that would make a huge difference for the introverts in the work place?

  • Count on them for activities that involve listening, reflection, empathy, deeper connections, creativity, as well as analysis, research and strategy;
  • Use one-on-ones for the best results in terms of feedback and engagement from their side;
  • Give them space – not necessarily a separate office, which is usually unattainable, but at least in the form of spaces where they can retreat for a few minutes, without being judged for “skipping work”;
  • Give them time when it comes to meetings, by avoiding blitz requests and by asking for their opinion last in large gatherings.    

And maybe you could also turn off the radio :).  

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