Embracing Difference: How to Manage Introverts and Extroverts

 In the US, where the population is almost evenly divided into extroverts and introverts, it’s to be expected that in any given workplace you’ll deal with both types of people. To be an effective leader, you need to be able to connect and communicate with both introverts and extroverts to maximize the potential of your team and operate at full capacity. Here’s a brief overview of what makes an introvert and an extrovert, and some tips for how to work with them.

Understand the difference. Extroverts draw energy from external stimuli, such as personal interaction, social gatherings, and shared ideas. Introverts, on the other hand, need alone time to reenergize and are better able to process information and think creatively in a private setting.

What it means in the workplace. Extroverts enjoy tasks involving teamwork, collaboration, or public speaking. Introverts prefer working by themselves and are more reserved in meetings and other social situations. While extroverts are often seen as go-getters, introverts may give the impression of being disinterested or shy.

Why difference is good. Both personality types have valuable skills and useful insights to offer in the workplace. For a leader, it’s important to recognize the strengths of each employee and learn to make the best use of these assets.

So how do you effectively manage both types of people? 

  • “Prime the pump” whenever possible. While extroverts thrive in quick-paced, spontaneous environments, introverts need time to process and mull over ideas and changes. Try to give your team advanced notice on whatever changes and news might affect them. When scheduling an impromptu meeting, prep your introverts by sending around an agenda prior to the meeting.
  • Ask for written ideas and feedback. Extroverts are comfortable brainstorming aloud and thinking on the spot, but introverts prefer to listen and get back to you later. Provide your team with the option of contacting you with additional ideas or feedback, or schedule a follow-up meeting at a later date.
  • Assign people to the right projects. Extroverts shine when they are challenged by multiple projects, while introverts do their best work when able to focus on one thing at a time. Assign introverts to a specific area of a bigger project that requires more sustained concentration. This way, they can do their best work comfortably.
  • Foster a flexible workspace. While there’s not a whole lot you can do about the physical layout of your office, there are ways to ensure that introverts and extroverts are working in equally stimulating environments. One way is to allow headphone use at the desk so people can work privately in the midst of surrounding conversations. Also, you might consider more introverted employees for any remote working opportunities that may come up.

In the workplace, difference is good. It means you have the ability to tackle an idea or problem from multiple angles. Learning to capitalize on this difference, however, takes some practice. Part of the challenge lies in figuring out simple ways to engage every person on your team. How do you facilitate difference in your workplace?