Introverts and extroverts ­– how to successfully manage the two

Productive workplaces will have a variety of different personalities coming together to get the work done on a daily basis.

Diverse ways of learning, thinking and acting help shape great outcomes at 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 and bouncing of energy off others, the introvert has a well of internal 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.”

The importance then is identifying the strengths within the two parties.

SEEK research has uncovered that self-identified introverts see themselves as ‘independent workers’ (53%) with the ‘ability to focus for long periods of time’ (49%) and strong listening skills (42%).

Conversely, introverts saw their disadvantages as being overlooked in social settings (46%), with a propensity to overthink things (44%) and poor social skills (38%).

By contrast, self-identified extroverts were confident in their ‘strong social skills’ (54%), ability to make friends (53%) and having an opinion heard in the workplace (47%). However, work life isn’t always easy for New Zealand’s extroverts in the workplace with 51% being viewed as attention-seekers, shallow (32%) and impulsive (31%). 

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 in concert with each other, your office becomes better able to reach team goals. Managers can create an environment that allows for an exchange of values, combining strengths and learning from each other. 

As the Manager of Segment Optimisation at Westpac Australia 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. 

Genevieve Baijan PhD is a research psychologist who has completed a project investigating the science of resilience at the University of Sydney. Genevieve 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."

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. 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.

SEEK research also uncovered this natural division of personality and how they may translate to roles chosen within an organisation.

Introverts appear to gravitate towards problem-solving and deep focus roles in accounting (66%), science & technology (65%) and administration & office support (38%).

Introverts also appear to embody a strong work ethic, with 39% of respondents stating introverts demonstrated productivity. Loyalty is also a key defining factor by staying with a company longer (59% introverts compared to 8% extroverts).

Trust by peers and colleagues (34% for introverts and only 13% extroverts) was also prominent for introverts, who were also seen as easier to work with (31% versus 20%).  

Extroverts, on the other hand, lead the charge in front-facing roles such as sales & business development (70%), entrepreneurs (63%) and people working in retail & consumer products (57%).

Extroverts are seen to perform well in high-pressure situations and team environments. Extroverts present well in front of others with 55% succeeding in job interview situations compared to only 8% of introverts.

Once settled in the workplace, extroverts also are more comfortable socialising with the team with 63% citing no issues, while only 10% of introverts have the same confidence. This may mean that an extrovert is an ideal worker for tasks where they must hit the ground running and easily slot into a working team.

The best of a balanced situation

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 complement to create a stronger, more productive and infinitely more resilient whole.

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Rebekah Lambert

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...

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