Susan Cain's book, Quiet, brought worldwide recognition to the less overt assets introverts bring to the workplace. While extroversion has historically been regarded as "ideal," Cain's book points out how office settings often play to the strengths of extroverts. Armed with new insight into the way introverts work best, many business leaders have made adjustments that provide quieter employees an opportunity to shine.
Rather than force everyone to participate in large brainstorming sessions, some leaders have started encouraging introverted employees to share their ideas via private email. Similarly, some office managers have created increased opportunities for solitude to allow introverts more privacy. Since most introverts feel exhausted by constant social interaction, these accommodations can help them perform at their peak.
One personality type isn't necessarily more favorable in the office setting. Introverts and extroverts can both be excellent workers -- they just work differently. But, surprising new research suggests working alongside introverts may be detrimental to the careers of extroverts.
What the Research Reveals
A new study published in the Academy of Management Journal reports that introverts are less likely to give their extroverted co-workers credit for their work. Researchers discovered that introverted participants not only underrated their extroverted co-workers' performance, but they were also less likely to endorse them for advancement.
One of the studies involved 178 MBA students at a large university. Each student was assigned to a four or five person team mid-way through the term. Each team had to work together to complete a semester project. The participants completed questionnaires about their team members, the team process, and their own personalities.
Ultimately, introverted participants rated the performance of other introverts higher than the performance of extroverts. Extroverts, however, were not influenced by other employee's personality traits on their evaluations.
In a second study, 143 students participated in a brief online game with 3 teammates. Researchers manipulated one team member's profile and comments during the game to highlight either high introversion or high extroversion, while their performance remained constant.
The participants were then asked to evaluate their team members and make recommendations about who should be promoted or receive bonuses. Introverts gave lower evaluation scores and smaller bonuses to teammates who appeared to be extroverted, regardless of their performance. Extroverted participants were unaffected by the interpersonal traits of their team members and their recommendations appeared to be based on merit alone.
What Can We Learn From This?
In today's world, peer recommendations can be more important than ever. Whether it's an endorsement on LinkedIn,or a comment on a peer evaluation, being held in high regard by your co-workers can certainly have big advantages. Unfortunately, our perception about how our co-workers see us isn't always accurate.
While an extrovert may think her counterparts see her as friendly, engaging and enthusiastic, in reality her introverted peers may find her to be loud, attention-seeking, and annoying. As a result, her introverted co-workers may be less motivated to help her advance her career. It's clear that extroverts may benefit from toning things down a little when interacting with introverts.
Apparently, it really is the quiet ones you have to watch out for. At least, that's true for extroverts looking for positive peer recommendations from their quieter colleagues.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, speaker, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.
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