Introverts vs. Extroverts in the Workplace

Introverts extroverts workplace

With such a diverse mix of personalities in the workplace, managers are presented with the sometimes-difficult task of adapting their leadership styles to engage, motivate and create a productive environment for various types of personalities.

As you consider the different personality types within your organization, your mind probably immediately goes to introverts and extroverts. While we're likely aware of the characteristics of each, businesses, and more specifically managers, are often challenged to create an effective work environment that caters to both types of personalities. But managers can't get there alone. Human resources has a unique opportunity to educate managers on the most effective ways to work with introverts and extroverts.

Identify your employees' passions - what motivates them. For example, extroverts might jump at the chance to be part of a young professionals' initiative. Introverts might prefer to be part of a smaller group, say a focus group dedicated to uncovering insights around a particular problem or challenge. But we're just scratching the surface. In this article, we'll deep dive into the most effective ways HR can help organizations create a holistic work environment that appeals to different types of people and motivates them to become involved in the day-to-day life of your organization.

Working with Introverts

Never mistake introversion for lack of motivation. No, your introverts are not going to be the ones who are super-jazzed about making a presentation to a large group or participating in a team-building event with people they've never met. In fact, those scenarios are things they typically dread. Introverts may take a bit of time to warm up to the group setting, so they'll likely be hesitant to share their ideas at the onset. These employees are simply more comfortable flying under the radar. Introverted employees are just as smart and tenacious as their extroverted counterparts, so don't overlook them. Sure, your more assertive team members are probably heard and recognized more, but the contributions of introverts shouldn't be discounted.

introvert-business-man

How to Communicate

When it comes to communication style, introverted employees prefer email, instant messaging, and texting as opposed to face-to-face meetings and conversations. They definitely do not like surprises or being put on the spot, so an unexpected phone call can be anxiety inducing for them. It pulls them away from what they were focusing on, breaks concentration, and makes getting back on task difficult. They want to have the time and space to think things through and provide a thoughtful response rather than an immediate, off-the-cuff answer.

Ideal Work Environment

Introverts can have a tendency to feel "lost" among their more extroverted co-workers. It's important to their motivation to help them feel connected to the team. Make sure you specifically ask them for their feedback. Appointing them to serve on task forces or work on special projects can help them feel more linked in to their more outgoing teammates.

How to Recognize & Reward

Reception to feedback is another area where these two types of personalities vastly differ. Even if it's for a positive occasion, such as receiving an award, most introverts dislike being the center of attention. Private praise, or a congratulatory email they can read and save to their "kudos" file are more appreciated.

How to Manage your Extroverts

Unlike the introverts on your team, your extroverted employees adore talking and being in the spotlight. They're less risk averse and are typically the first to volunteer for pretty much anything. They also love sharing their opinions. So, while it's not a bad thing that extroverts occupy more time than your other team members, make sure they don't steal anyone else's thunder.

introvert-business-man

How to Communicate

On the communication front, extroverts thrive on talking to and interacting with others. Collaborating with their colleagues and thinking out loud gives them energy. And, they think nothing of picking up the phone for a quick call when they have a question or want to discuss a project. In fact, the phone and in-person conversations are their preferred methods of communication. Their thinking is, "Why send an email or IM when I can just call or drop by their office?"

Ideal Work Environment

When it comes to office spaces, a bull pen at a newspaper or a spot on a trading floor are the ideal working environments for the more gregarious employees. If you're, like most companies, not in either of these businesses, having an open area where your extroverts can work together to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another is a perfect solution.

How to Recognize & Reward

Naturally, your extroverts also appreciate praise. A 2013 study conducted by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that extroverts weigh external motivational and reward cues more strongly than introverts. These team members respond very positively to public compliments and praise for a job well done. Positive feedback motivates your extroverts to keep doing what they're doing, increasing productivity and engagement.

In Summary

Preferences  Introverts  Extroverts 
Work Style  Never mistake for lack of motivation  Enjoy the spotlight 
Communication  Email, instant message, text  Phone calls, in-person conversations 
Office Setting  Privacy  Open area
Recognition  Private praise, congratulatory email Public praise, recognition in team meetings

Conclusion

Good managers know that it's important to work with employees' strengths and weaknesses to manage the team dynamic. HR should encourage and train all managers to make it a point to get to know their employees and understand their unique personality types, communication styles and motivators. It will help both managers and the entire organization make better decisions about structuring a team and creating an effective work environment that yields involved, motivated and productive employees.

Immersing your employees into the culture of the company is just one step in building a culture of engagement. For more advice and inspiration, check out this article on what goes into creating the ideal employee experience.

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