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

In part one, we looked at some of the ways managers can help introverts “sit at the table,” both figuratively and literally. Encouraging reserved employees to come out of their shells benefits companies by enriching the flow of ideas in the workplace, fostering a culture of healthy debate and strengthening team dynamics within departments, but it can also have more personal advantages for employees, helping them to feel more empowered and confident within themselves.

The pros and cons of extraversion

Although cultivating traditionally extroverted tendencies among introverted members of the workforce might suggest that the characteristics associated with extraversion are somehow preferable, the behavior to which extroverts are naturally inclined comes with its own set of challenges and pitfalls for managers and employees to navigate. For instance, while it’s unlikely that executives will ever have to sit down with extroverts to encourage them to speak up in meetings, they might find it necessary to do precisely the opposite, noted Muriel Maignan Wilkins, co-author of “Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence,” speaking to USA Today.

Unlike their introverted counterparts, who typically worry about what others think of them and are eager for their colleagues and superiors to perceive them in a positive light, extroverts tend to be more individualistic, which introduces roadblocks when it comes to how they approach collaboration in the workplace. Specifically, it can be easy for people with strong personalities to overpower and derail collaborative efforts, and managers may have to make them aware of the effects their effervescence having on other members of their teams.

In an interview with NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” earlier this year, nationally syndicated columnist Anita Bruzzese spoke about the findings of a University of California-Los Angeles and Rutgers study that investigated how introverts and extroverts perform in team settings – and ultimately concluded that introverts may be more valuable.

“What happens is with extroverts, what they’ve found in this study is that they often are not as collaborative,” explained Bruzzese. “They don’t listen as well. They kind of want to be out there, you know, seeing and doing everything and are not willing to stay and get the work done. So, say on a Friday night, you need somebody to stay till 10 or 11 o’clock and finish up a project, that’s much more likely to be the neurotic than it is to be the extrovert who’s probably out with his or her friends having a good time at a bar somewhere.”

That said, Bruzzese noted, extroverts “do serve a very important role in the workplace.” For instance, when it comes to networking with clients and industry players, recruiting new talent, giving presentations and engaging in other social behaviors, these types of employees tend to excel while their shrinking-violet colleagues, well, shrink.

A happy medium

Ultimately, there are opportunities for both introverted and extroverted workers to thrive at the vast majority of companies, but managers need to know how to handle these employees in order to get the most out of what they have to offer. This means deferring to introverts’ quiet, detail-oriented natures when it comes to tasks that require meticulous, conscientious work, and letting extroverts run the show when charisma, charm and an abundance of energy are what’s required.

Companies undertaking executive recruiting efforts should be sure to look into how prospective candidates have bolstered performance across the workforce. After all, executives who are adept at reining in gregarious personalities and giving wallflowers a chance to shine are well-positioned to flourish in new positions themselves.

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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