Is one better than the other? Introvert/extrovert

Do we value diversity in the workplace? Of course we do I hear you say! So let me put it another way, do we value diversity of personality types equally in the workplace? Consider this, if two people go for promotion and they have equal skills, but one is an extrovert and the other is an introvert, who is most likely to get the job?

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain suggests western culture values boldness, verbal skill and individuality, which are typically attributes of extraverts. Could this lead to extroverts having an advantage in getting the best jobs, the promotion, the big breaks?

Bendersky suggests that because extroverts ‘express confidence, dominance and enthusiasm’ they are initially valued more highly than other team members. In other words we may give the extravert the job as we interpret their confident and enthusiastic zest for the role as evidence of their ability to deliver (they are our superhero archetype). But note the word ‘initially’…yes there is a downside…

Expectation of a personality type

This leads to higher expectations being set of the extrovert’s ability to perform, which leads to disappointment if they fail to rise to the lofty heights expected of them. Also these higher expectations mean their actual performance tends to be evaluated more critically. In other words we may over estimate what extraverts can realistically achieve and then be more critical of their failure to deliver on our expectations.

But what of introverts? Conversely, Bendersky found that lower expectations of introverts (and neurotics) at the start of a task meant that their actual performance was seen as actually exceeding what was required. Is anyone else sensing a tortoise and hare like analogy here?

What is interesting here is not just that unconscious bias around personality types creeps into our assessment of others when allocating work, but that we then assert an over critical eye when others fail to live up to the false expectations we set for them.

Whilst it is not possible to eliminate all our unconscious bias in relation to personality types, by at least being aware that it exists perhaps we can focus on making decisions based on facts rather than impressions.

Bendersky, C. and Shah P. N. (2013) The downfall of the extroverts and rise of neurotics: The dynamic process of status allocation in task Academy of Management Journal.  2, P387-406

Cain, S. (2012), Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. London: Penguin Books Ltd

About the Author: Una McGarvie is the founder of MindSightUK providing management & leadership coaching and development to public and private sector organisations. She is also a contributing author to ‘The effective Change Manager’s Handbook’


‘We are the Positive Psychology People’

Share This