Getting the most out of introverts and extroverts in the workplace, part one

It’s commonly said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this is often the case when it comes to employees, whether the grease in question takes the form of a promotion, another advancement opportunity or simple recognition for a job well done. However, workers who are more reserved may get passed over simply because they aren’t as aggressive about putting themselves out there, even if their performance is on par with – or even above – that of their more gregarious colleagues.

The introvert advantage

In fact, according to nationally syndicated columnist Anita Bruzzese, introverted employees tend to excel beyond the levels of extroverts – if they’re only given the chance.

“We all expect those people who are the brash, larger-than-life people to be the big success stories, because that’s what we’re told we’re supposed to do,” Bruzzese told NPR’s John Donvan during a “Talk of the Nation” interview earlier this year, in which she discussed a University of California-Los Angeles and Rutgers study that concluded introverts were more valuable in the workplace. “I mean, if you want to get a job, you’re supposed to go in there and sell yourself and be the best thing they’ve ever seen or heard from. And yet, what this research shows is that as time goes on, it’s the introverts who really perform better.”

In a piece for USA Today, Bruzzese dove deeper into the study’s findings, citing insight from UCLA associate professor of management Corinne Bendersky, one of the researchers who spearheaded the project.

“Extroverts disappoint us over time when they’re part of a team,” Bendersky explained, as quoted by the news source. “On a team you’re expected to work hard and contribute a lot. But they’re often poor listeners, and they don’t collaborate.”

Typically, companies tend to focus more on nurturing extroverts – which makes sense, as extroverts willingly draw much more attention to themselves than their quieter counterparts. Executives eager to redress the balance and encourage introverted employees to take their seats at the table – literally and figuratively – should consider this triad of tips from Diversity Executive Magazine.

Don’t make negative assumptions
Sometimes, managers assume that employees who don’t contribute to discussions are staying quiet because they’re disengaged. This could be an accurate assessment, but it’s also possible that workers are bursting with ideas they simply don’t feel comfortable sharing in a group setting, or are unwilling to interrupt a conversation to present their suggestions.

With this in mind, managers should “invite quieter team members to provide their perspectives,” the news source advised, noting that it might be beneficial to talk with these individuals beforehand to let them know their contributions are important.

Frame conflict positively
Some people don’t like to disagree with opinions and suggestions already on the table, but corporate cultures that prioritize healthy debate and the presentation of alternative points of view often reap the benefits of such an approach in the form of more robust, thought-out strategies.

“Managers should let team members know that disagreements can help move the discussion forward and are a form of problem solving,” the media outlet noted, recommending that executives publicly support shy employees’ attempts to speak up in order to validate their efforts.

Combat “group aversion” with 1:1 meetings
“Introverts and conflict-avoiders prefer a safe and non-rushed environment in which they can think and then voice their perspective,” Diversity Executive explained. It’s not always easy for managers to find the time to sit down one-on-one with workers, but even a couple of these sessions might bolster timid employees’ confidence enough that they feel less reluctant to speak up in a group setting.

Mitigating the glare of the spotlight
Introverts who can be eloquent and insightful in one-to-one or small group situations may feel put on the spot in larger meetings, and this deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon can affect how well they present their ideas.

Speaking with USA Today, Muriel Maignan Wilkins, co-author of “Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence,” encouraged managers to ameliorate this feeling as much as possible.

“Help them to see that speaking up is not about self-promotion or being in conflict but rather about offering the team key insights, making better decisions or increasing the efficiency for all,” she advised, as quoted by the news source.

Executive search and recruitment experts can help companies gauge how effectively potential candidates are likely to mobilize all components of the workforce, from the employee who says little but has a lot to give to the loquacious go-getter who’s far from shy when it comes to presenting opinions. Often, the best candidates for management positions are those who have figured out ways to give extroverts their time on the floor while also making sure introverts can get a word in edgewise.

Click here to read part two.

About Caldwell Partners

Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 40 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America and in London, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

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