Every American office features a colorful cast of characters. Yours might feature the ‘social butterfly’, the ‘energizer bunny’, the ‘coffee guzzler’, or the ‘office wallflower’. Each works differently, and is motivated by slightly different factors.
Years ago, psychologist Carl Jung theorized that these employees fall somewhere along an introversion-extroversion spectrum. Extroverts are those employees who welcome high amounts of stimulation, and Introverts are those who prefer quieter, low key environments. Susan Cain (thought leader on introversion) says Introverts are those who “feel at their most alive in quieter, low key environments”. Despite a cultural bias toward extroversion, about half of Americans are actually introverts according to several random samples.
In the pre-industrial world typically employees worked for people they knew. As people migrated to big, bustling cities, more often than not employees began jockeying for position with people they’ve never met. For employees who don’t function as well under high amounts of stimulation, this dynamic creates a stiffer challenge.
According to psychologist Marti Laney, American employers, have increasingly favored applicants who are charismatic, assertive, and quick speakers. In a fast moving, technology driven society, we absolutely need social, outspoken employees to meet the exploding demand of our consumers. But what about the other half of the workforce? Our society is not quite as interested in those thoughtful, contemplative, pensive employees, and this can limit their opportunities.
Our office wallflowers, those who fall on the introverted side of Jung’s spectrum might not be on most managers’ shortlist for leadership opportunities, but studies show they really should. Our leaders managers, and supervisors are mostly extroverts, because it’s easier to notice them. I’m here to tell you that despite many extroverts being outstanding leaders, it’s actually introverts who possess superior leadership qualities that could really improve your team’s engagement.
Adam Grant (the Wharton School) found that introverts actually produce better outcomes when they are put in charge. While introverts tend to let their employees run with their ideas, He found that extroverted leaders tend to allow their excitement and well meaning ambition to dominate the discussion. Psychologist Nancy Ancowitz also points out introverts possess excellent listening skills, and are more skilled at creating one-on-one relationships.
So, I advise you sometime in the next few months to take a journey to the ill-lit, back corner of the office where your quieter employees sit. Take heed of their ideas, and get to know them, because they might be running your company someday.
About the AuthorMore Content by Chris Spann