Sam Radford

March 25, 2021

Cultivating a workplace that brings out the best in all personality types

There was a good article in The Economist last week exploring the link between personality and success. It focussed on introverts and extroverts. And this advice for managers on the running of meetings resonated with me:

...managers need to think about the different personality types when conducting meetings. It is easy for meetings to be dominated by extroverts, who have a tendency to speak the loudest and most often. Introverts may never contribute to the discussion. In his book, “Running Meetings That Make Things Happen”, Jon Baker says that one answer is to circulate materials well in advance. Introverts, he writes, “don’t debate something as effectively if they’re still learning about it. If you want the views of the more detail-conscious members in your team, give them time to absorb the information.”

Reading that reminded me of Susan Cain’s book Quiet. I read it back in 2017, and wrote this about it at the time:

Cain’s main point is that we need introverts. Our world will be a better place if introverts are allowed to be themselves and recognised for what they uniquely bring to the mix, instead of pressurised by society to behave in ways suited to an extrovert world.

So much of the work place environment seems optimised for extroverts. Getting the best out of both introverts and extroverts needs a change of approach. 

And it doesn’t take a lot. That one tip alone about meetings can level the playing field for everyone.

It’s about being aware. If you lead or manage others – or are part of a team – do you know whether the people you work with are introverts or extroverts? From there, it’s not a big ask to make subtle shifts to ensure you’re bringing out the best from those around you.

To round this up on a lighter note, I couldn’t help but chuckle reading this paragraph from an article in The Atlantic. It’s written by an introvert (in case you can’t tell!):

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts’ Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.” 

On that note, I’m going to go and put my head in a book. Alone. So quiet please! 

What have your workplace experiences been with dealing with different personality types? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you feel like the organisations (work or otherwise) you’ve been involved with have helped or hindered your opportunities to thrive? I’d love to hear from you!

–Sam