Recently the news media has carried articles highlighting a trend in workspace management toward “collaborative” workspaces, i.e. public workspaces, without walls, partitions, or privacy. While the obvious impetus for this trend is expense reduction, the benefits that are specifically noted and touted include increased communication among associates and teammates, inspiration and innovation. But will this office of the future be effective in producing results? Time will tell and lessons will no doubt be learned. However, this type of work environment does not foster workforce diversity. It is well suited to the extroverted personality type and is abhorred by introverts. Extroverts will thrive and introverts will leave. Is that the intent of the leaders? To create an imbalanced workforce comprised largely of extroverts? Let’s look briefly at the dichotomy of extroversion/introversion at work in the office environment.
Stereotypes of extroverts portray this personality type as fast-paced, outgoing, talkers and initiators. In contrast, stereotypes of introverts are portrayed as quiet, shy and withdrawn. In fact, it may surprise many that introverts can and do often exhibit so-called extroverted behavior in many situations and may even be considered by others as extroverts. And extroverts can, in fact, be shy. The defining characteristic of this dichotomy is an individual’s source of energy. An extrovert’s source of energy is the outside world while the introvert’s source of energy comes from within. Extroverts direct their energy and attention outward and receive energy from interacting with people. Introverts direct their energy and attention inward and receive energy from reflecting on their own thoughts. It is called a preference because it is a “default” setting. Introverts and extroverts can and do exhibit the opposite stereotypical behavior (i.e. talkative or quiet) when the situation requires, but revert to their innate preference to recharge and energize.
It may also surprise many that the general population is fairly evenly divided between extroverts and introverts. Understanding this helps us to appreciate that there is no “right or wrong” personality type and we can then shift from seeing each other as obstructive or annoying to understanding and appreciating differences.
To expand on the inherent differences between extroverts and introverts, here are some short recognizable descriptions. Extroverts talk to think (they are verbal). Extroverts go wide (they are expansive). Extroverts energize with others (they are social). In contrast, Introverts think to talk (they are reflective). Introverts go deep (they are focused). Introverts energize alone (they are self-reliant). From this description, it seems obvious that greater results will be realized from teams that have diversity with the E/I dichotomy.
Leaders are judged by the results achieved by their teams or organizations. Studies have shown that teams with diverse communication styles are more effective and produce better outcomes than teams with similar communication styles. Thus, effective leaders seek diversity in team composition.
Circling back to the concept of “collaborative” workspaces, this environment creates stress and is thus unhealthy to introverts who produce their best results in an environment that facilitates quiet reflection. The thinking-out-loud process preferred by extroverts can interfere with an introvert’s thinking-inside process. Over time, this environment will suffer from the lack of diversity in their workforce. It seems to be an example of planning that achieves short-term results (i.e. cost effectiveness) rather than long-term results (workforce stability and diversity).
If you are a leader who wants to achieve greater team results, consider incorporating the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment into your professional development plan. SSC Coaching is certified to administer the MBTI® assessment and conduct workshops to interpret the results and facilitate the development of strategies to enhance team performance. Call me for a free consultation.
Source materials for this article: 1) MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument by Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi L. Quenk, Allen L. Hammer; 2) Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, The Overwhelmed, and The Underconnected by Devora Zack.