Introverts vs Extroverts and their roles within the workplace

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Companies that are structured around dominating extroverted employees are at risk of ignoring valuable input from introverted characters which could be hugely detrimental to the business, according to cognitive and business psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.

Shaw argues: “There is a distorted perception that to be successful in business you have to have the loudest voice and to get noticed is all that counts. Many businesses are dominated by assertive, extroverted individuals and by all means we need charisma and confident people in business.” However, Shaw believes that neglecting the input of all staff including introverts is at the peril of the company. “Introverts are often misjudged as shy, possibly boring and by not speaking up potentially without opinions and ideas. An introvert may just prefer to take a back seat initially to enable them to assess a situation. They may be fantastic listeners and take time to reflect on the events around them. As a result their input and ideas will be extremely valuable; they will have a unique take on things as they have had time to process information and consider outcomes and potential consequences in more detail. Their thoughts are just as important as the extroverts and it is crucial that their opinions are considered too.”

Shaw argues open planned offices can be distracting for introverts, who may find extensive social interaction draining. Similarly, meetings or brain storming events don’t tend to allocate equal time to each staff member; instead it is left to each person to speak up when they have an idea. As a result the sessions are usually led by the same commanding core of people who may be rather overbearing.”

In a 2006 survey, 65% of senior corporate executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership. Shaw disagrees with this. “It is too black and white to simply conclude in this way. I actually believe it breaks down to the type of business it is. For example, in situations where the employees are passive and looking for leadership from above, it pays for the boss to be an extrovert. In contrast, in environments where the business model revolves around more teamwork and interaction, it may be better to have a more reflective boss.”

So how can businesses ultimately ensure that all staff are valued equally? “It is about recognising the team as individuals; getting to know and understand each of them on a deeper level. A great leader will know the strengths of each of their employees regardless of their introverted or extroverted tendencies and be able to bring out their best qualities. Additionally, I would recommend staff meetings where everybody’s input is requested and then listened to by the rest of the group so that the conversation is not dominated by the same people.”

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