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Introverts vs. Extroverts in the Workplace

16/05/2018 by Nandip Aulak

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According to many theories of personality, we all sit on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion. But some people are further along one end of the curve than others. It's common in the workplace for these personalities to collide and it can be a challenge to work with or manage introverts and extroverts.

Introvert traits

Introversion is a major personality trait that is identified in many theories of personalities. People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on themselves and their internal thoughts. Rather than seeking out external stimulation, introverts are happy in their own company.

Introverts feel drained and tired in big groups of people. They prefer their solitude, being very self-aware and happiest in their own company. Rather than working in groups, introverts value their independence.

Tips for working with introverts

Introverts like organisation and preparation. Sometimes all it takes is giving advance notice for events and projects, and sticking with a schedule to ease their anxiety. They'll feel more comfortable and appreciate your consideration.

Go electronic

Because introverts prefer one-on-one conversations over group meetings, it's sometimes beneficial to host some conversations online to avoid unnecessary stress. This allows for introverts to provide their thoughts in a setting that is suited for their social abilities. Whether by email chain or conference call, you can make an introvert feel more comfortable by taking things out of the meeting room.

Be patient

Don't expect introverts to jump out of their comfort zone to share their ideas right off the bat. It takes time for them to articulate their thoughts and warm up to a group before sharing.

When discussing projects with introverts, you're unlikely to get lots of verbal feedback. That doesn't mean they aren't listening or that they have nothing to say. An introvert prefers to take some time to process information and respond in a considered way. Be patient and understanding. Sometimes, the best ideas are born independently over time.

Provide airtime

Once ready, introverts need a chance to speak, and since they likely won't ask for it, you might need to give them a little push. Reach out to them in private or follow up individually after meetings. Provide them with an opportunity to share their ideas without forcing them to present to the entire team.

Traits of extroverts

Extroverts are often described as talkative, enthusiastic, sociable, proactive, and out-going. On the other hand, they are sometimes described as attention-seeking and easily distracted. Extroverts tend to have a broad range of interests, work well in groups and enjoy talking about their thoughts and feelings.

Extroverts tend to spend more time with other people, spend more time engaged in social activities, and tend to have more friends. Research has also suggested that extroverts tend to be happier than introverts as well as being less prone to certain psychological disorders. On the other hand, extroverts are also more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours.

Tips for working with extroverts

Extroverts draw their energy from interactions with the outside world. They enjoy working in large groups and are stimulated by interactions with the people around them. When it comes to things like group meetings, team lunches and brainstorming sessions, they are in their element.

Let them speak

Extroverts aren't shy about sharing their opinions, but will become frustrated if not given a chance to voice them. Make sure they have a forum to express themselves and share their thoughts and views.

Be assertive

In order to make an extrovert's outpouring of information constructive, you need to be assertive. Carefully control when they can speak and for how long in order to make sure they don't take over a meeting. You need to allow everyone in a meeting to say their piece, not just the extroverts.

Ask questions

You can further direct the flow of an extrovert by asking them questions. Extroverts love to share their knowledge, so ask the right questions and you'll be able to glean the most value out of them.

Managing a team of different personality types

Everyone is different, even those that fall in the same social category. Not all introverts are created equally! A diverse team needs a flexible, unique management style. Managers need to recognise the temperament of every team member and delegate tasks in such a way as to highlight specific members' strengths. Weakness should be shored up by the strengths of others, so everyone supports everyone else.

For instance, don't ask a shy employee to make a presentation at a company meeting, and don't ask an extrovert to lead a project that demands a detailed, considered approach. Give each employee tasks that leverage their personal skills and character traits

You'll get the most out of an introverted employee by giving them clear expectations and a lot of space. As long as goals and deadlines are understood, there's no need to hover over their shoulders and micromanage.

Extroverts are stimulated by things like public praise and accolades. Focus on praising the steps your extroverts take towards success and keep negative feedback to a minimum in front of co-workers.

Sometimes, as an employee or a manager, you have to work with people who have completely different personalities to you. The secret is to find a way to work together to achieve positive results. At the end of the day, no matter what your personality, we're all working towards success.

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