Leverage Personality Differences in the Workplace

Managing introverted and extraverted employees calls for customized meetings and discussions that cater to each personality type.Within every organization, employees range in personality types from professionally outgoing to socially reserved. Managing a mix of extraverts and introverts can be a challenge, but encouraging each personality type’s strengths and encouraging both groups to understand these dynamics is key.

Extraverts

By nature, extraverts are energized by being around others and that enthusiasm translates as an outgoing personality. Roughly 75 percent of the US population is extraverted.

Common extravert traits:

  • Directed outward toward people and things
  • Relaxed and confident
  • Gregarious, want to be with others
  • “What you see is what you get”
  • Process outward: Speaks to think (“shoots from the lip”)
  • Seek variety and action
  • Often act quickly, sometimes without thinking
Introverts

On the other hand, although introverts can interact with people skillfully, over time their energy will deplete faster than an extravert. They then need “down time” to “recharge their batteries.”

Common introvert traits:

  • Directed inward toward concepts and ideas
  • Reserved and questioning
  • Seek quiet for concentration
  • Need time alone to recharge and think
  • Have valuable contributions, but may hesitate to speak
  • Process inward: Thinks to speak
  • Likes to think a lot before acting, sometimes without acting!
Understanding different perspectives is critical to effective team building

Extraverts often see themselves as actionable people who work successfully with others but they can be quick to implement tactics that are untested or poorly thought out. Introverted employees often view their extraverted counterparts as noisy and impulsive, actively working to solve a problem, but making many mistakes along the way.

Introverts often perceive their thought processes as more complex, and they often think deeply before sharing their thoughts. More outgoing employees might think their quiet coworkers aren’t spontaneous enough or are slow to respond, leaving them hard to integrate into solution-oriented discussions and team projects.

Because each personality type has a different perspective of the environment, managers should approach meetings with each in separate manners to promote success. Catering to both introvert and extravert tendencies serves to facilitate teamwork, creating better-prepared employees, communications and outcomes.

So how do you manage these two different types of personalities?

Extraverts: Let ’em talk

When meeting with extraverts, managers should allow time for discussion without the necessity of reaching conclusions. Extraverts learn and retain information better when there are active conversations. They tend to “think out loud.”

During a team meeting, managers should greet everyone as he or she comes into the room and conduct introductions. Because extraverts typically think faster—although not thoroughly—and tend to have shorter attention spans, it’s useful to break up presentations with questions and answer or discussion periods and other exercises. After it’s over, leaders should allow time for feedback and conversations with presenters to encourage input.

Additionally, putting extraverts into groups and planning active outings can facilitate their professional development.

Introverts: Let ’em think

Contrary to extraversion, managers should allow introverted employees more time before expecting an answer. Because introverts spend more time reflecting before responding, team leaders may want to hold back before asking for possible solutions. Instead of forcing introverts into groups, leaders could sit one-on-one with them.

To ensure that the opinions of introverts are captured during meetings, managers should provide all participants with an agenda and conduct polls before the meeting, especially regarding important matters. Anyone who hasn’t responded in discussions can be prompted for input with lead time to encourage eventual participation. Once the meeting has ended, leaders can summarize the next steps and distribute the materials via email.

A useful tip: Always call on introverts last when soliciting comments during or after a meeting. This gives them additional time to consider other participants’ responses and formulate their own with more confidence.

Finally, it’s important for managers to realize that people who are outgoing aren’t always extraverts, and shyness doesn’t necessarily indicate introversion. Most people display a range of these characteristics, although they lean toward one type or the other. The optimal brainstorming teams are comprised of people with diverse skills and perspectives.

It’s up to managers to engage each type of team member, regardless of personality, to ensure their optimal contributions are realized.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can help with your teams, please contact us.

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