What is introversion and extroversion?
Carl Jung (1921) explains that:
Extroverts - or extraverts – prefer environments with lots of stimulation, focusing their energy outwards. For example, an extroverted person would feel invigorated and energised at a place with lots of mental stimulation, such as a bar with a group of friends.
Introverts, on the other hand, prefer a quieter environment with less stimulation. They focus their energy mainly inwards and feel mentally energised in a more solitary environment focusing on introspective activities, such as reading or having a relaxed dinner at home with a few friends.
How do these personalities relate to the workplace?
It is no secret that the world values extroversion more than introversion. Society and teachers reward extroverted behaviour in children; being talkative, a team-player, and gregarious are qualities that are usually praised.
Similarly, in the workplace, companies encourage open plan offices, constant team meetings, brainstorming sessions, team lunches and group projects. They reward the loudest and most excited employees, neglecting the reserved ones.
This leads us to discuss...
The advantages and disadvantages each personality aspect – introverted and extroverted – offers in the workplace.
It has been proven by research that extroverts are better leaders, with 47% of senior-level managers in the survey strongly believing so. They are very outspoken, outgoing and they take the lead in decision making. However, a new study has shown that introverts can be great leaders too.
Finding on extroverts:
When extroverted managers worked in an active and extroverted workplace, where employees shared their ideas, made suggestions and actively participated in every decision, profits went down by 14%.
Extroverts tend to feel threatened and undervalued as leaders while leading in an environment where people are as equally dominant and decisive due to their innate assertive behaviour.
Findings on introverts:
Unlike extroverted managers, introverts are better leaders in an energetic and active workplace. Introverts listen to their employees more, encouraging them to develop their own ideas, and inspiring motivation and hard work by making them feel valued.
Frances B. Kahnweiler perfectly explains how introverts are effective leaders. In a few words, ‘they consider what others have to say, then reflect and respond’; they dive deep into issues and ideas, take less risks, and use their solitude for analytical thinking and productivity.
So, does this mean that all CEOs should be introverts?
No! Both introverts and extroverts can be equally successful, even though the majority of top positions belong to extroverts.
Extroverts are great leaders in a passive workplace where they encourage productivity with their enthusiasm and motivation, whereas introverts lead better in energetic workplaces as they encourage more creativity and self-exploration.
Susan Cain, in her powerful TEDTalk, explains how collaboration at work kills creativity. Group projects and team brainstorming sessions are the norm when it comes to creative thinking, but creativity is often the most powerful when accomplished in quiet solitude with one's thoughts.
How is that true?
A new study explains how solitude influences creativity. People who chose solitude due to unsociability – meaning not having a strong preference for either people or alone time – were extremely creative during their time alone.
Did you know...
Elon Musk describes himself as an ‘introverted engineer’ quietly working on his craft for years and eventually creating Tesla.
Solitude is an advantage introverts hold over extroverts; the solitude and focus introverts crave in the workplace should be encouraged amongst extroverted employees too. Yes, there are certain benefits from group settings and interactions, but during uninterrupted quiet time, it is where the magic happens.
In an office, there should be ‘a physical space for reflection’. It will help introverts mentally recharge from a busy environment in a highly stimulating office, as well as encourage extroverts to take a breather and reflect on their thoughts.
Extroverts generally exert more energy and positivity whereas introverts tend to be more reserved. This personality trait gives them considerably more of an advantage in the workplace.
Unlike introverts’ reserved demeanor, extroverts tend to be more emotional and more willing to emphatically share their ideas as well as show their enthusiasm in team meetings. Their colleagues are drawn to their cheerfulness and outgoingness, and their positive confidence is what wins them the pitch.
Because of this positive attitude,...
extroverts tend to feel more motivated to achieve positive results and emotions. They have more ‘resilience and mental toughness’, and are unafraid to take risks and fail if that could potentially have a positive outcome.
Introverts, on the other hand, are more thoughtful and strategic, keeping themselves back from striving for positive emotions and results.
Extroverted managers in an introverted workplace increased profits by 16%, as they encouraged productivity with their positivity.
On the flipside...
Katherine Lucas, in her fascinating TEDTalk, discusses how an extroverted person with their bags of enthusiasm can seem less intelligent and appropriate for senior roles. Cheerfulness has been proven to give the impression of being submissive.
The fact that an extrovert’s job performance is so public in the office - as well as their charming personality - is what helps extroverts rise to the top of their career ladder and dominate the senior roles considerably more than introverts, as shown in the bar graph below.
Introverts can be hard workers too with an equally good work performance. The difference is that extroverts love to show their enthusiasm, efforts and ideas, consequently appearing more productive, while introverts, with their reserved behaviour, prefer to work hard ‘backstage’ with their performance usually overshadowed.
Although a third to a half of the population are introverts, extroversion is preferred and admired as a personality trait in the office, and the workplace is mainly created with extroverts in mind.
However, both introverts and extroverts are needed in the workplace as both are beneficial to a company, each in their own unique way.
As Katherine Lucas says, the issue lies when ‘we automatically assume that being an extrovert is an asset’; CEOs and managers should be aware of how their workplace operates and act accordingly, in order to ensure that all employees are happy and feel valued – whether that will be by giving them space or giving them the spotlight.
Do you think there should be more introverts or extroverts in the workplace?