Introversion and extroversion are likely two of the most widely discussed personality characteristics of all time.

There are shelves full of books written about extroversion and introversion; a myriad of TED Talks given; and dozens of online tests that evaluate individuals for these personality characteristics.

In this post, we’ll discuss introversion and extroversion as they relate to the workplace. We’ll also discuss how one is not better than the other, but rather, how either one may be a more beneficial trait for workers in specific job roles.

Is a job candidate more likely to gravitate toward the center of the room or be found inching toward the edges? Is a prospective hire first to raise their hand or do they prefer to quietly consider their response? Does your interviewee seem distant and “standoffish”? Does another one talk too much?

Answers to these questions could reveal whether they tend more toward being an introvert or extrovert.

You might be wondering how this relates to the world of business. Read on to learn more about what it means to be an introvert or extrovert and how these traits affect workplace performance.

Opposites Attract in Surprising Findings

Between introversion and extroversion, the latter is often viewed as “more desirable” in business.

A 2017 study from the University of Missouri correlated extroversion to an increased chance of job success and satisfaction.

Other studies show that 96 percent of managers identify as being extroverted.

In another poll, 65 percent of senior executives viewed introversion as a disadvantage.

That supports the axiom that extroverts must be more effective leaders and employees, with more success in the workplace, right? Not exactly.

Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tracked leadership effectiveness and discovered that extroverts and introverts were equally successful – but they “shine” when working with employees different from themselves.

Teams with extroverts managing groups of introverted employees had 16 percent higher profits on average, with their enthusiasm and firmness drawing the best out of passive employees. Teams with extroverts managing employees who were vocal, proactive, and equally extroverted, had 14 percent lower profits. They dominated the attention in a way that curbed the efforts of their employees. As a result, the employees became discouraged, causing the entire team to suffer.

Introverted leaders were found to excel with teams of extroverted employees by allowing their employees to take the stage, validating their initiative, and listening to their suggestions. The former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant, is an introvert whose success as a leader speaks loudly through his manual writing of more than 30,000 personalized thank-you notes for his employees.

Hire for Fit, and Manage for Fit

You can set your company up for success by hiring employees that are a good fit for your management, and vice versa. You can also use advice like the below for the day-to-day management of employees based on their tendency toward introversion or extroversion.

Tips to Manage Introverts

  • Allow time away from the group to recharge, focus on tasks, and create an atmosphere that is conducive to their learning and participation.
  • Schedule regular one-on-one meetings for giving updates or teaching new skills.
  • Rather than throwing them into a new situation, allow time for observation.
  • Give time to think instead of demanding answers on the spot.
  • Provide deadlines in advance, such as giving a one-hour warning before an important task should be completed.

Tips to Manage Extroverts

  • Delegate structured collaborative work so they can develop their ideas in the presence of others.
  • When possible, keep their assignments high energy and engaging to avoid under-stimulation.
  • Commend and encourage their enthusiasm.
  • Let them dive right into their projects once they have a game plan.
  • Give clear signals (physical and verbal) in response to their performance.

Key Takeaways

Personality categories help us make sense of who we are and in turn help us navigate the social environments that so strongly bind us together.

By finding the balance between action and reflection, we better serve ourselves and each other. This not only has tangible implications for society but for the workplace, as well.