Have you ever wondered why you can relate to some people more easily and not others? Do you seem to click with some people at your first meeting? Do you know why you find some people more attractive? The answers lie in exploring our natural psychological differences. One contrast is the concept of introversion and extraversion. Introversion is a person’s preference for their inner world of ideas, thoughts and feelings. In other words they prefer to focus their attention internally. Put more simply they tend to think before they speak. Extraversion is a person’s preference for focusing their attention on the external world of people, things and activity. In other words these people tend to speak while they are thinking.
How do our natural preferences play out in the workplace? Read below about the different ways introversion and extraversion manifest.
What are introverts like?
They tend to be the quiet ones in meetings or interacting
They enjoy working more independently
They are inclined to examine daily tasks in more depth
They are apt to think first before responding to a colleague
They prefer no distractions when concentrating on their job
What are extraverts like?
They prefer to be the talkative ones in meetings
They need a work environment where there is regular interaction
Given a choice they like to work across multiple projects
They are inclined to act before they reflect on the results
They enjoy initiating conversations and are active in instigating social events
What are the implications of our natural preferences to the work environment?
If one preference dominates the work environment this can negatively impact team cohesion. Consider the potential tension where some people have the need for quietness to complete tasks compared to naturally extraverted people enjoying conversation as they work.
If there is a misfit of job to preference there are likely to be performance issues to address. For instance if a person is naturally introverted and they are required in a sales role, they may find this to be quite stressful, particularly in busy times.
If there is a lack of tolerance for one preference this can develop into potential interpersonal conflict. Extraversion is more easily seen by others and often more highly valued. Just because quieter employees think first and speak after, this does not mean inactivity or lack of initiative.
Generally people can learn to adopt characteristics of the other type but under pressure or given a choice they revert to their natural preferences. With this in mind people will always work best when there is a fit between their natural preference and their daily tasks. Fundamentally there always will be a fluid mix of natural preferences in your team. Build self awareness with your team and be uncompromising in fostering a tolerant culture. When recruiting have this in mind in the selection process.
If you have any thoughts or experiences please share them with me. I can then post these (maintaining confidentiality) on a future blog to start a conversation about the topic. This may start a valuable conversation amongst like minded people to help all of us do things better. firstname.lastname@example.org