Introverts and extroverts both bring their unique skills and abilities to the workplace. Here’s why your workplace needs a balance of the two.
Why You Need Both Introverts and Extroverts in the Workplace
According to a recent YouGov poll, 50% of Britons consider themselves to be introverted, 42% consider themselves extroverts, and 9% are not sure.
Despite this fairly even split between extroversion and introversion, it often seems that workplaces are designed to favour extroverts. From meetings benefiting those who are willing to speak up and be the centre of attention to leadership roles often going to the most outgoing and friendly people, there are myriad ways in which extroverts benefit from their personalities in the workplace. In fact, research from 2018 found that men with higher levels of extroversion earned nearly $500,000 more than their more introverted counterparts over the course of their lifetimes.
However, it’s important to also recognise the value that introverts bring to any workplace. Introverts provide balance, complementing the skills and abilities of extroverts with their more detail-oriented, analytical, and thoughtful natures.
Any work environment with only extroverts or only introverts is severely limited in its potential because it lacks this balance. Here’s a closer look at why the most successful workplaces need a balance of extroverts and introverts working together.
But first, what do extroversion and introversion actually mean?
Introversion and extroversion (sometimes also spelt extraversion) are personality traits that were defined in psychology by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The two traits refer to how an individual experiences and response to the world around them. Introversion and extroversion are usually viewed as a continuum, with people being more of one than the other, although Jung argues that everyone has both introverted and extroverted traits with one side being more dominant than the other.
Extroverts are people who enjoy and are energised by social interactions and stimulating external environments. They love being the centre of attention or taking the lead in the workplace. Preferring to work with groups, they may be less effective or motivated when working alone and can easily be bored in environments with less stimulation. In short, extroverts are more concerned with the world outside themselves, paying more attention to external stimuli than their own thoughts or feelings.
Introverts are quiet and reflective, preferring environments with lower levels of stimulation. They tend to be analytical and cautious, thinking before speaking and tending to avoid being the centre of attention. In the workplace, they often feel more comfortable working one-to-one or independently instead of in a large group. Overall, introverts are more concerned with the world inside themselves, paying more attention to their thoughts and feelings than the external world.
Despite the common misconception, introversion is not the same as being shy or having social anxiety. It simply means that introverts feel energised by less stimulating environments, requiring quiet and alone time to recharge.
Benefits of extroverts in the workplace
1. Extroverts are good leaders
Extroverts not only are more likely to become leaders in the workplace, but they’re also likely to lead effectively, according to research from Ohio State University. Outgoing and assertive, extroverts often enjoy being the centre of attention and thrive in leadership positions. They’re good at forming close bonds with other team members to create productive working relationships and are often charismatic and confident. A leader who is high in extroversion will often take time to get to know their team and encourage everyone to participate and thrive.
2. Extroverts are highly motivated
According to research from the University of Toronto Scarborough, one major advantage that extroverts have over other people in the workplace is their motivation by rewards. Extroverts are more motivated by rewards such as status, which leads them to work hard to achieve goals. Extroverts want to be recognised by their peers and superiors for their achievements, leading them to take the initiative and work hard for success.
3. Extroverts are enthusiastic and positive
The same research found that extroverts tend to experience positive emotions more frequently than other people.
These emotions make them less likely to suffer from work-related issues such as burnout or poor work-life balance, protecting their mental health and performance in their roles.
Moreover, the authors of the study argue, this makes it easier for extroverts to adjust to new environments when they change jobs, roles, teams, or locations.
4. Extroverts have good communication skills
Extroverts are skilled at communication, an important skill when working with others. They can be persuasive, which helps in negotiations, and these communication abilities also make them more likely to become leaders in the workplace.
5. Extroverts are proactive
Extroverts don’t mind speaking up and sharing ideas, even if those ideas go against the norms. Their proactive nature means that they shape the environment around them and can sometimes bring better performance and results for their entire team.
Benefits of introverts in the workplace
1. Introverts are detail-oriented and analytical
Good at thinking before speaking or acting, introverts can be trusted to always consider the details and look at problems from multiple perspectives. They think things through carefully and are good at focusing on tasks and details to ensure everything falls into place.
While extroverts’ enthusiasm and ambitiousness might lead to them taking risks or acting before thinking, introverts are there to slow them down and plan more methodically.
2. Introverts are reliable independent workers
While extroverts often find independent work boring and unstimulating and may work less effectively alone as a result, introverts thrive at independent projects.
Happy to be left to their own devices and thoughts, introverted employees are good at motivating themselves through independent tasks and have high levels of productivity in these areas as a result.
3. Introverts are creative
Due to their inward-focused nature, introverts are often extremely creative. In the right environment, they can focus and think deeply, coming up with bold and interesting ideas.
Introverts are very sensitive to their environments and this means that they often notice the details that other people miss, helping bolster this creativity. Their attentive and creative nature means that they can thrive in a wide range of careers.
4. Introverts make great leaders
While the naturally outgoing and friendly natures of extroverts might make them seem like the obvious candidates for leadership, introverts can make excellent leaders too. An introvert’s leadership style may differ from their extroverted colleagues’ style.
For example, introverted leaders may be better at focusing on the details of a project and ensuring that each person on the team is on track to meet deadlines. Studies have found that introverts are good at delegation and that they can meet the team’s emotional needs.
Another benefit of having introverts in leadership positions is that they can take steps to make the workplace more introvert-friendly.
For example, if there are introverts on their team who have a lot of good ideas but dislike speaking up in large group meetings, an introverted leader might come up with an alternative way of sharing ideas such as writing them down on slips of paper or using an online message board.
This allows everyone’s voices and ideas to be heard, ensuring that great contributions are never stifled because of the workplace’s tendency to prioritise extroverts.
5. Introverts are good at listening and empathising
Listening is a soft skill that is essential in a wide range of different careers. Although many people assume that employees in customer-facing roles must be charismatic extroverts, empathetic introverts can be equally successful in these roles.
For example, a salesperson who is able to listen and empathise with their customer’s pain points can be just as effective as an outgoing salesperson who uses persuasion and communication skills to make the sale.
How to unlock your team’s potential
Introverts and extroverts both have their unique strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. By ensuring a balance of both personality styles in a team, extroverts and introverts can effectively complement each others’ skills to create a happier, more productive workforce.
Teams and individuals can thrive when they better understand their own and their coworkers’ personalities. One way to do this is by using personality assessments in your workplace.
Giving everyone the opportunity to complete a personality assessment such as the DISC assessment and encouraging open discussion of the results can be a game-changer in any organisation.