The Difference Between Extroverts and Introverts in the Workplace

Understanding how personality type affects everyday communication can provide huge benefits, especially when applied in the workplace. Insight into things like how we prefer to give and receive directions and feedback or the way we want to structure a meeting can go a long way towards avoiding unnecessary frustration and stress. Examining the difference between extroverts and introverts gives us a lens to this experience!

Most people are familiar with extroversion and introversion, one of the four preference pairs in the Myers-Briggs system, but many people are not aware of it's application beyond knowing that it generally makes some of us louder and some of us quieter. By definition, our preference for extroversion or introversion is how we tend to focus our energy and attention, outward or inwards.  However, our preferences can create many differences in our go-to methods of communicating, that when acknowledged, leave employees happier and more productive. Here are some of the most common ways it can be addressed in the workplace.

Meetings & Brainstorming

Extroverts will generally prefer to have meetings be a lively place for discussion, where new ideas are being generated and vetted, with lots of verbal banter. In a meeting dominated by extroverts, usually the loudest prevail and only a limited number of people will have an opportunity to talk.

Introverts will usually rather have a quieter and more structured discussion with fewer people, if there is even a meeting at all. There is usually a preference for written notes rather than a group discussion. A raucous and fast-paced meeting will often leave the introverts without a chance to contribute, which creates a perception by others that they are not paying attention and/or don't have anything to contribute.

What to do: For the best outcome, structure meetings to include free-flowing brainstorming as well as designated time for everyone to talk. Provide a written agenda in advance that includes questions and issues that will be addressed during the meeting. Remember that everyone has something valuable to contribute, including those who do more listening than talking.

Personal Work Space & Small Talk

Extroverts will tend to want an open-office/open-door setting that allows for more socializing and small talk. Up to a certain amount, extroverts will get energized from social interaction, so having a workspace that facilitates connections with others can be very helpful. Extroverts will welcome distractions and enrich their ideas during pop-in meetings and water cooler discussions.

Introverts will usually prefer the exact opposite; more isolated work settings with less drop-ins and distractions. Interruptions to their concentrated work time can really get things off track. Brainstorming for an introvert usually means working and thinking alone.

What to do: Organizations can allow employees to design and structure their own workspace to match their preferences, such as getting to select low vs high walled cubicles. Although most workplaces need to facilitate some collaboration between employees, everyone can be given designated "quiet times" where they are not to be interrupted, or conversely "office hours" can be assigned where it is appropriate to pop in.

Feedback & Directions

Extroverts will usually prefer to be given feedback and or instructions verbally because they are better at working through ideas externally with others. For example, a performance review of an extrovert will go better if the majority of the feedback happens during a discussion, even through evaluating on a form is almost always a part of the process.

Introverts will tend to prefer that the majority of feedback and direction occur in a written format. They would rather have the time to read and process on their own, rather than have to relay their ideas on the spot to someone else or a group.

What to do: Organizations can proactively engage with employees to learn their preferences and then tailor communication to match. Both verbal and written communication will be a part of any workplace, but discussions, performance reviews, job/task assignment, and more can all have an emphasis on the style that works best for each employee.

Whenever applying type preferences in the workplace it's always important to not use the labels to put people in a box. Employees are much more than just extroverts and introverts, so it's not okay to use any designation as a definitive measure for someone's work style. However, understanding the real and applicable differences in personality type does give employees, managers, and teams a set of words and language they can use for discussions that lead to engaging and productive workplaces!

Levi Baer

Chicago, IL