Introverts and extroverts ­– how to successfully manage the two

Any healthy, productive workplace will have a variety of different personalities coming together to get the work done on a daily basis. Here are some simple tips for successfully managing both the introverts and extroverts in the team.

Diverse ways of learning, thinking and acting help shape great work. They can also create situations where conflict can arise. Perhaps one of the most well-known contrasts and opportunities for this conflict is when managing introverts and extroverts together.

How do you manage the life of the (workplace) party, while at the same time as giving appropriate space to the alleged office wallflower? And does the story really appear to be so cut and dry?

It’s the differences that make it work

While the extrovert thrives in the hustle and bustle, bouncing off energy off others, the introvert has a well of inside energy that powers them through the day. Some issues can arise when the extrovert, who draws their flame from interaction, can dwarf the introvert or even sap that precious internal energy.

Similarly, extroverts enjoy public speaking, meeting new people and are adept at dealing with interruptions and surprises. Introverts, however, prefer quiet, solid work and often generate their best ideas after contemplating solo without any interruption.

It can seem like you are managing two very different sides of a see-saw when combining the two.

Nick Arvanitis, the Head of Workplace Research and Resources at Beyond Blue explains, “The root of stress for a worker lies in feeling as though their core skills do not match the working situation. That’s why it’s imperative to match skills, personality and working style appropriately with tasks.”

This is where the keen eye of a good manager can make all the difference

Instead of seeing the differences, it’s important for a manager to recognise the simpatico. By tapping into the differences and using them to complement each other, your workplace becomes better able to reach team goals.

As the current Manager of Segment Optimisation at Westpac, with a wealth of experience as a graduate recruitment officer, James Taylor has seen the difference pairing worker to manager can make.

“Managers need to firstly understand the natural style and personality of those they work with and to help provide opportunities that they will find rewarding, but more importantly, energising and challenging,” he says.

“Supportive management is one that understands the workforces on a broader level of engagement. Knowing the career goals and the preferences of team members helps keep your workers fully engaged,” agrees Arvanitis.

Genevieve Baijan PhD is a research psychologist who has just completed a project investigating the science of resilience at the University of Sydney. Baijan believes understanding a person’s nature helps foster strong, capable workers.

“Introverts recharge their ‘resource bank’ through working independently and having sufficient time alone, so providing an environment which respects this aspect of introverts will help foster resilience. Similarly, extroverts need plenty of opportunity to engage with others in their day-to-day work. If they can’t do this first thing each day, then carving out a set time where they know they can interact with colleagues should help contribute to maintaining their available coping resources,” says Baijan.

For managers unsure of the kinds of workers they have in their midst, tools are available to help identify the personalities within the workplace.

“Find a good personality profiling tool to help you understand your staff. In my opinion, the best is The Myer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which classifies people into one of 16 types of personality based on a number of factors. One of these factors being whether someone is introverted or extroverted. You’ll be surprised at how effective and rewarding to productivity understanding these personality types and bringing them together based on their strengths can be,” shared Taylor.

A little knowledge goes a long way

Seasoned business coach and small business trainer, Brook McCarthy, advocates for applying knowledge about the individual when designing teams and group activities.

“We are doing a huge disservice to people’s talents, experience and expertise by not being more thoughtful and proactive with how we structure groups. The louder, more forceful voice is not necessarily the most relevant or useful. If managers can change up how they structure training, feedback, meetings and information sharing, we can make far better use of the talent in organisations,” said McCarthy.

Smart managers can bring out the best in their employees. They do so by understanding not only the individuals they work with, but also how to best combine the human resources at hand.

By understanding personality, temperament and preferred relationship styles, we can foster a culture where strengths are complementary, creating a stronger, more productive and infinitely more resilient whole.

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About the author

Rebekah Lambert is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist. She’s also the founder of Hacking Happiness, a project designed to remind Australian businesses and professionals that stress has a productivity cost, and she runs The Freelance Jungle, an online...

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