Introversion is generally not a favoured personality in the work place, but are extroverts taking over?
The English-Oxford dictionary defines an extrovert as an outgoing and confident person, while an introvert is someone perceived to be shy and reticent. Author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain doesn’t think introverts are shy though, saying “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation.While introversion is a preference for environments that aren’t overly stimulating.”
Given that, it’s no wonder that introverts struggle in the workplace. According to workplace strategy advisors, Karl Stark and Bill Stewart, more than 70 per cent of today’s workplaces are open plan. While Extroverts thrive on activity and people, introverts usually prefer to work in a quiet atmosphere, with few people around. Currently in the workplace people don’t have a choice where they would like to be seated, it’s already designated. Susan Cain says, “Do I want to be private right now, or do I want to be social? Introverts are going to more often choose private. But, for any individual your tolerance or craving for solitude fluctuates throughout the day.” Introverts have no choice but to be surrounded in an environment which could make them feel uncomfortable, essentially, it’s easier for an extrovert to fit into these situations more than an introvert.
You’re unlikely to find an introvert having a chat at the water cooler or making small talk in the office kitchen either. Introverts who sit alone with a “bitchy resting face” doing their work, can appear as disinterested or not a “team player”. But they’re not being unfriendly, according to psychologist Rob Davies, “Introverts are not so energised by the outside world… [they] can happily go through life without very much feedback at all.” Nor are they antisocial. “Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people,” says psychologist Laurie Helgoe.
Introverts may also feel exhausted after a days work because they have to maintain an act of “extrovertness” to get through the day. There is a constant fear within introverts of being asked “What’s wrong” when, nothing is actually the matter. To counter that, introverts may put on a bubbly or louder personality. Susan Cain suggests “Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.”
According to Wendy Gelberg, author of “The Successful Introvert” the problems for introverts in the workplace start before they’ve even got the job – in the interview process. “[When asked interview questions] Introverts typically prefer to have time to gather their thoughts before jumping into a conversation. This can pose a problem in interviews, where being able to respond quickly is important,” explains Gelberg. So does this cost them the job? Not always.
Success in the workplace doesn’t always lay with extroverted personalities, leaders and influential people on this planet have been introverts, such as Bill Gates, Christina Aguilera, Ghandi, and Michael Jordan. Audrey Hepburn was also quoted saying “I’m an introvert … I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.”
In order to create a good energy flow around the work environment, is to employ “a healthy mix of both” says Luke Dyer, manager of Desmond & Molly Hair Dressing Salon. Both introverts and extroverts have a lot to offer in their own way but, from experience Dyer has noticed “Extroverts don’t listen well and introverts don’t respond enough.”
“Introverts living under the Extroversion ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform,” says Cain. The potential of an introvert shouldn’t be undervalued and if you’re wanting to figure out if they like you, they are probably looking at your shoes instead of their own. – Melissa Hanes
Top Image from www.lifehacker.com.au