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Extraversion and personality in the workplace – how big of a role does it play?

When thinking about personality, one of the most common distinctions that people make is the one between introverts and extraverts. As you can read in this blog, the boundary between the two isn’t that clear-cut. Nonetheless, there are some key differences between introverts and extraverts that can play out in the workplace. Extraverts might be more likely to enjoy fast-paced events of meeting new people, while introverts might thrive in smaller meetings. And while it is true that these differences can affect which work environments people respond best to, it may not be wise to place too much weight on these individual differences. It’s easy to assume that personal differences explain issues that arise in the workplace. In reality, most situations aren’t actually influenced by the individual, but rather the group and situation as a whole. 

The tendency to attribute work-related issues to specific individuals or incompatibility makes sense. If you can blame the issues on a specific person or individual differences, there’s less to address, making your job easier. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up, it’s reassuring to say, “oh, they’re just an introvert” and move on. However, this kind of individual-focused mindset is not necessarily useful. Wouldn’t you rather have an environment that works for everyone, regardless of their personality? Making this a reality may seem unrealistic, because individual differences can play a role, but focusing on your group and organizational culture as a whole pays off. 

If you put positive group norms and structures in place, this should account for most issues stemming from individual differences. Conflict is inevitable, but if there are structures in place to help resolve that conflict when it arises, it becomes less detrimental. 

So, yes, you should of course pay attention to each individual employee. Pay attention to their needs, requests, and unique traits. Acknowledge that introverts and extraverts might act differently in some work situations. But also realize that more often than not, the social situation is what predicts behavior. If you establish a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and working together, issues stemming from individual differences will be minimized. Start by identifying any recurring issues that you have blamed on differences in personality. Are there any systems you can put in place that will address these issues and make everyone more comfortable regardless of their characteristics?  

This can be overwhelming to think about, but it goes a long way. If you need help identifying and addressing any of these issues within your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Balevo and we would be happy to help you.