How can managers create an environment that suits both introverts and extroverts?
Unhappy at work? New research says it might be due to your personality type. Myers-Briggs recently conducted a survey about employee well-being which looked at how personality types impact satisfaction and happiness in the workplace. The survey also took gender, age, geography, occupation and activities into consideration.
The researchers used Karl Jung’s personality type theory to categorise respondents as prone to introversion or extroversion. By this scale, introverts are people that have a preference for sensing, thinking and perceiving, whereas extroverts tend to be intuitive feeling types.
So which personality type fared better in terms of well-being? Extroverts, somewhat unsurprisingly. Dr Martin Boult said of the findings: “The results of this study show that organisations seeking to support workplace well-being should consider personality types and offer a range of activities. You want to avoid relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Different personality, same workspace
How should managers approach these two opposing personality types in the workplace? Harvard Business professor Francesca Gino says managers need to adopt a position of “understanding and curiosity” in order to handle diverse personalities.
Managers should have a firm grasp on the different personality types and their varying approach to work. Extroverts, for example, are more likely to be risk takers and are also more comfortable multi-tasking, whereas introverts are careful and considered in their approach. The former thrive on social engagement and business meetings while the latter often won’t respond well to these conditions.
Managers should then identify who in your team falls under which personality type, which can often be difficult to do. This is partially because introverts can feel the need to recast themselves as extroverts in the workplace, says Gino. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking says, “When introverts act like extroverts, it’s very stressful. It’s not their natural behaviour. It takes a lot of effort and results in them having less mental and physical stamina available to do their work.” She says managers should therefore encourage open talk about which personality type their employees identify with, and promote an air of and acceptance in the workspace.
The structure of the working day should take both introverts and extroverts into account. For example, consider your team’s approach to meetings. Cain recommends no meetings before 12:30pm, which “gives people who prefer head down time the freedom to have that, but it also gives extroverts the knowledge that there will be time to talk things out”.
Introverts and extroverts have different work style and needs. Introverts may feel edged out by their more exuberant counterparts, while they search for more facts to build a case. Management should openly appreciate both approaches, as both have merit.
Encourage don’t force
Introverts and extroverts can be encouraged to interact in ways that challenge what they are comfortable with. Managers should ensure introverts feel comfortable speaking their mind, which can be done by setting a meeting agenda in advance so that they can come prepared rather than feeling forced to improvise on the spot.
While extroverts can make a meeting more lively, they should be encouraged to listen and reflect on what their colleagues have to say. Addressing this issue with employees who tend to dominate will also make introverts feel like their opinions and ideas are valued and welcomed.