If I had a penny for every job advert that I’ve come across, over the years, that read akin to dating site advert; stipulating that ‘outgoing’ applicants need apply, I’d have a fairly full jar. Some organisations go much further to ramp up their job description jargon – fancy recruiting a ‘rock star’, anyone? If that isn’t an overt preference for extroverted types, then I am not sure what is.
All these adverts exist in a world where, according to some sources, researchers estimate that extroverts make up 50 – 74 percent of the population. This means approximately 26 to 50 percent of the population are introverted by nature. If we make an assumption that the job market is representative of the general population, this means that these very adverts could be discriminating against up to half of the population. Now is that really a fair recruitment policy? Hmm.
And this begs a further question – one around the rationale for unfairly recruiting with a bias towards extroverted types. Is being extroverted perceived as being synonymous with superior efficiency at getting the job done? Or perhaps it’s nothing more than a general misunderstanding of introverted types?
The key difference between introverts and extroverts is essentially in how we recharge our energy supplies, with introverts having a preference for recharging alone and extroverts recharging their energy by being around others. So, in a nutshell, being surrounded by noisy humans in any kind of situation, but especially a busy office space, has the potential to severely deplete introverted types. And as you can see, this also puts many office-based introverted types at an immediate discomfort compared to their extroverted peers; especially in an open plan environment.
It’s hard to believe that, in 2021, introversion is still widely perceived as a disadvantage in the workplace. It seems a misunderstanding of introversion has led to discrimination; an issue that organisations need to work to address. Here are my top five reasons for organisations to embrace introverts…
Thinking first, then acting
Introverts prefer time alone to think things through before jumping right in two-footed, and this is because we’re spending time processing and drawing on our learnings, balancing things up and working out the best strategy to approach the task at hand. This gives projects the best chance of succeeding in the long-term and minimizes risks. I’ve witnessed extroverted colleagues rush to make hasty decisions when making important choices. Decisions which ultimately backfired for the company. Ideas weren’t properly considered, and to me, this was about ego overruling objectivity.
If you have introverts in your team and they remain quiet through a meeting, invite their thoughts, on a one-to-one basis, after the meeting. Or ask them to drop you an email with their musings. And listen. It’s likely they have insightful things your sensory, extroverted team members had never thought of.
Empathy and understanding
Whilst extroverted types often exhibit an unflappable spirit and may often be keen to push forward regardless of the situation, as introverts, we easily pick up on non-verbal signals as natural observers of people, especially of the written and unwritten word. This is especially true of introverted Myers Briggs intuitive feeling types (NFs), as they tend ‘feel’ situations and know when colleagues are feeling uncomfortable and uneasy, enabling them to know instinctively when things need to be rectified and preventing conflict before it arises.
When introverts do voice their concerns or perceived risks, it often takes a lot of energy to muster up courage to voice these opinions, for fear of how they’ll be received. So be sure to respect and acknowledge this. An innate understanding of the unspoken word can be the glue that keeps teams together.
They build genuine, lasting bonds
Where extroverted people are more likely to be well known by lots of people, introverted people are likely to be known by few but are more likely to invest quality time and put much effort into developing deeper relationships with the select group they admire and trust. A handful of strong relationships based on mutual respect often lead to successful long-term endeavours and excellent results.
If you line manage introverts, consider switching larger Zoom or Teams networking events to smaller gatherings which allow for more natural one-to-one conversations to develop, allowing introverts to excel. Essentially, organised large networking events and calls can set up your introverted team members for anxiety and failure, like inviting vegetarians to a meat feast BBQ.
They can make careful planners
Note that I didn’t say cautious here- because introverts are very capable of making quick decisions when they are confident that all things have been considered. Introvert thoughts may take longer to process and even longer to be vocalised but will be considered and well balanced, often taking in, and respecting multiple points of view. This can make some introverted types excellent planners.
They prefer walking over talking
Introvert voices are far from the loudest in the room and this means you certainly won’t hear the unnecessary blurting of buzzwords to mask a lack of knowledge of subjects in which we have no expertise. The introvert preference is to be consulted for their deep knowledge, opinion and experience of doing (walking the talk). They hope to be trusted to work (ideally behind the scenes), delivering excellent results, fuelled by strong self-motivation and a sense of purpose. Introverts are inspired by managers who have put in the hard work, gained the knowledge and respect to attain to the position they are in; in other words, they’ve walked the talk.
When your introverted team members feel at home, they’ll start to open up to other team members, a sign that trust has been gained. Never judge or harshly challenge an introvert on voicing their opinions unless you want to shatter their respect and trust.
Every strong team needs a good balance of personality types to achieve its goals. It’s important to take the time to truly understand what qualities your introverted personality team members can bring to the team and organization, drawing on their strengths and valuing their insights. Yes, it’s time to start a quiet revolution of your team.