Learning more about your personality can be a huge advantage at work, both for your own benefit and for your colleagues. At some point, most of us have been asked to complete the hugely popular Myers-Briggs indicator tests, but implementing changes afterwards isn’t always easy.
A key part of the testing process is knowing where you are placed on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Understanding this aspect of your personality can help you to make simple changes to your working day, and ensure that you are getting the most out of your environment.
Celebrated psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Carl Jung, introduced the terms introversion and extroversion to the scientific community in the early 20th century, but their meaning has been simplified over time. Those classified as extroverts are thought to be more outgoing, talkative and energetic, whereas those who are introverted are more solitary and reserved in nature.
A main difference between the two groups is that they are re-energised and motivated in different ways. Current research indicates that the reason for this could be linked to the way individuals process rewards. Those who are more extroverted respond more strongly when a risk pays off, which means they are driven to engage in adventurous behaviour, such as making themselves the center of discussion in a large group.
In the general population, extroverts are estimated to make up 50-74% of people, and dominate social situations. This puts the responsibility with leaders to ensure introverts are also given the opportunity to thrive. From working environment to meeting set up, carefully considering personality types is crucial to getting the most out of yourself or your team.
Supporting different personality types in the workplace
In her book, Quiet, author and proud introvert, Susan Cain, discusses the fact that so much potential for collaboration is being lost in the modern workplace, which is organised in favour of those who are more extroverted. She argues that this imbalance extends back to the school classroom, which is open-plan and involves a significant amount of group work and class discussion. Introverts generally prefer to be alone more often and spend a lot of time thinking. So, what can employees and managers do to make working environments more suitable for a wider range of people and harness new ideas?
- Use of space: Think about how your workspace is set up. Do you work mostly from home, or are you in a busy, open-plan office? If you are more introverted, think about ways you can find time for quiet during your working day. Perhaps there are meeting rooms you can book, which will allow you two hours of uninterrupted time to focus. Of course, depending on the kind of work you do, this isn’t always possible, but look for opportunities throughout the day. If you are more extroverted, you could organise more collaborative work sessions to boost energy and creativity.
- Communicate your needs: Once you have an idea of where you lie on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, it is important to communicate what you need to those you work with. If you are in an open-plan office, it might be the norm for others around you to interrupt for a quick chat. If you need to focus on the task you are doing, it is important to set boundaries and organise an alternative time to talk about a project. If you set boundaries, your colleagues should respect this, and will most likely appreciate some quiet time to themselves when they need it!
- Respect your colleagues’ time and space: It is important to remember that this works both ways. If you need to ask a colleague or manager a question, be mindful and ask them when they have time to talk. Try to be specific and action-oriented when you are asking for a colleague’s time; they will appreciate your efficiency.
- Thinking time: Introverts often work best when given time to think and respond to a question. Engaging an introvert in quick decision making can be anxiety inducing, and won’t result in the best outcome. This doesn’t mean that introverts are unable to manage thinking in this way (just as extraverts are able to sit quietly and think through responses). It means they will function best and more naturally when given the time to process their answers. If you are more introverted, you can use this knowledge to your advantage, and where possible ask for more time to respond if you need it.
- Meeting set up: Meetings are an important time for your team to come together and work through issues that need to be tackled. However, they are notoriously unproductive, with as many 92% of people multitasking whilst attending a regular team catch-up. This is particularly true for introverts, who are less likely to speak up in front of a large group of people. As a leader, being aware of this is particularly important when communicating in groups. Is every person present at the meeting given the opportunity to speak or put forward their ideas? How is this organised? Is it absolutely necessary to have a meeting? These questions will help you to guide the different members of your team and bring them together.
- Option to work remotely: The option to work remotely can also be a great way to keep the more introverted members on your team happier. If it is possible in your workplace, think about offering it, while ensuring that your employees remain engaged and productive. You will soon know if a team member isn’t pulling their weight if their assigned tasks don’t get done!
- Respect your employees’ time and space: Although sometimes as a leader it is necessary to interrupt your employees to ensure everything is running smoothly, if you can respect their time where possible this will go a long way, particularly for those on the more introverted end of spectrum. Catching people off guard to discuss an issue, particularly if it is sensitive, is unlikely to produce the best outcome. Set up meeting times with your employees where possible and they will thank you for it.