When considering aspects of personality to make hiring decisions and build better teams, we've covered why personality matters in the workplace, how to view personality in team building, and even how "cultural fit" can reduce long term turnover. These all discuss crucial elements of personality as it relates to teams, such as how well team members blend together, balance leadership, and overall have key points of their personality that match their career, keeping them happy and interested in their job.
But what happens in the day-to-day moments of these employees? Understanding whether someone is an extrovert or introvert can be just as important, and often misguided.
On the surface, extroverts often seem like the desired hire. They're outspoken, energetic, and engage regularly with others, both in business and social settings.
Introverts, on the other hand, typically get a bit of a bad rap. Commonly seen as antisocial and unenthusiastic, it's not hard to understand why a hiring manager might be hesitant to hire someone with this as a dominant personality trait. Will they be a downer at the office? Will you be able to get any solid, consistent work out of them? What will their communication style be?
Considering that thirty to fifty percent of today's workforce consists of introverts, it's very important to truly understand not only why they make great employees, but why they could be essential to your success.
As someone who would classify himself as an introvert, I thought it best to clear up "myths" of introverts and highlight their real strengths as employees.
Introvert ≠ Loner
Harkening back to the days of the schoolyard, anyone that spends time by themselves is often deemed antisocial, or to put it bluntly, a loner. Opting to eat lunch away from a group or choosing to head home while the rest of the office hits up a happy hour can seem strange to an extrovert, but for introverts it's not only normal, it's a necessity.
Some people are energized by being in groups. Action brings out the best in them and allows them to flourish. Introverts function in the opposite way, using downtime to recharge and become their best person. As Nancy Ancowitz, a business communications consultant, puts it, "Don't assume that an introvert lunching alone is lonely." These moments of peace and quiet are embraced readily, used not only to energize, but also to brainstorm solutions to problems, develop new ideas, and internally plan out a project from start to finish.
As The Energy Project CEO states, "Renewal is not for slackers."
One negative element to this trait, however, is that an introvert, while still an exceptional employee, may not be as vocal and not as geared towards management or leadership as an extrovert. With the current trend of grooming employees in this direction, it can be a common mistake to overlook a talented introvert that could be an integral part of your team as a whole.
In today's modern office culture, open floor plans often create a "really uncomfortable way to work", with overstimulation making it hard to concentrate. The idea of constant collaboration is seen as a positive, but is now being seen as a negative environment long-term, even for extroverts, who have been found to be less productive as every conversation distracts and engages them. Creating positions that allow for working remotely, even if only partially, allows introverts to thrive in environments they're comfortable in, generating better work, and long term happiness.
Another myth regarding introverts is their tendency to be "quiet" compared to extroverts. In fact, introverts aren't necessarily quieter than others, they just tend to talk less. Pamela Braun, a Minnesota-based career counselor, stresses that introverts process internally and, "…often has as much going on inside as the extrovert is demonstrating on the outside."
While a meeting might consist of several people spitballing ideas, introverts will often be the last to speak but produce ideas that are well thought out and thoroughly vetted in their own mind before sharing with a group. Introverts take time to process and internalize all the information informing any thoughts or decisions and present deliberate concepts, not just the first thing that comes to mind. A constant stream of ideas can prove worthwhile in many cases, but often distracts from the end goal. Allowing an introvert to take time before sharing can end up saving time in the long run.
Being able to listen and absorb details before speaking not only brings out great ideas, but highlights some of the great positions introverts can fill within a business. Project managers need to be focused and methodical, communicating efficiently with different groups of an organization. Writers and researchers thrive when given time to be alone and embrace their subject matter, making introverts the perfect candidates for these types of careers.
One caveat to this, however, is that as a colleague or employer, you may find that an introverted employee appears disinterested or disengaged. It's something introverts tend to convey unintentionally, so it's important to connect with them directly if you need to open a channel of communication. Joe McHugh of Right Management Consultants accurately compares introverts to icebergs - "What you see on the surface is only a small percentage of their entire selves."
With introverts, appearances aren't always as they seem. While this personality type has traditionally been seen as underwhelming, it's hard to deny that their calculated approach to problem, and methodical dedication to their work isn't valuable and important to every type business. And with a growing rate of employees working remotely, it's a smart move to start considering introverts when looking for your next hires.
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