Updated: Sep 20, 2021
How each personality type can thrive in distributed work settings
Diversity within teams appears in many ways. From ethnicity to age, to cognitive diversity and personality type, there is something remarkable about how groups of people with different backgrounds and characters come together to create value for an organization. Many of us have witnessed different personality types at work and the connection or clash that happens when they engage with one another. In a virtual world, these interactions and moments of ideation, agreement or conflict look very different than in the office or a co-located setting. In this article, we’ll explore the introvert-extrovert spectrum and the differences between personality type when it comes to remote or distributed work.
Context & Definitions
Over a century ago, the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were introduced to the world by Carl Jung. According to Jung, an extrovert feeds from active interactions, releasing dopamine, and as a result craves more interactions. In contrast, an introvert turns to inward feelings and thoughts because their energy levels become quickly depleted when interacting with other people. Simply put, introverts have an increased reaction to external stimuli.
It is perceived that at work the outgoing and boisterous extroverts make sure the work environment is always vibrant and buzzing, whereas introverts often steer away from the emotional stimuli created by the surrounding bustle. This type casting has contributed to a misconception that introverts are shy. While both introversion and shyness are characterized by limited social interaction, the resemblance ends there. Many introverts do in fact socialize easily, it’s just that it tires them faster than extroverted individuals, and research demonstrates that introverts need solo time to recharge.
If you don’t know which one you are, you can take the big five personality test here.
Understanding Introverts & Extroverts at Work
According to Francesca Gino, a Behavioral Scientist at Harvard Business School, it is vital to understand the different approaches to work that extroverts and introverts have. Based on Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, extroverts are more biased to action and have a higher risk tolerance. On the other side of the spectrum, introverts prefer to explore every option before making any decision. Extroverts enjoy brainstorming exercises where ideas are shared, but introverts are not big fans of business meetings and parties, favoring solitude and a quieter environment. A study conducted by Adam Grant showed that introverts are less inclined to share their ideas at work, and more open to accept others’, and the opposite is equally true for extroverts.
Challenges of Hybrid Work for Introverts & Extroverts
Many of these observations were studied within the context of co-located work, but as organizations around the world quickly transitioned to remote or hybrid work models as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, both introverts and extroverts experienced a new set of challenges as they adapted to new ways of working. We’ll explore a few of these challenges and outline how to overcome them.
1. Creating connections
Extroverts rely on face-to-face interactions in the workplace to enhance team collaboration and cohesion, but remote work makes these opportunities challenging (Wang & Haggerty). Starting conversations online tends to be less spontaneous and exciting than running into colleagues in the hallway or by the watercooler. But there are ways to recreate the serendipitous moments to get to know your teammates better. Whether it’s a Donut integration on Slack that pairs up colleagues for a random coffee, or using AION to see how everyone in your team is feeling that day, it is possible to have meaningful check-ins and start conversations with your co-workers regardless of where you are working from.
2. Ensuring everyone is heard
In the workplace, Extroverted qualities tend to be more favored than introverted ones, and as a result, leading introverts to feel alienated. To ensure everyone on your distributed team feels heard, establish rituals structured around sharing. These rituals can be retrospectives, or team time but must be communicated in advance, giving introverts a moment to prepare their contributions ahead of the session.
Having quick stand-up meetings on Zoom every morning where everyone shares what their tasks are is another way to get those who wouldn’t take the initiative to speak up to share in a structured way. One tip for introverts in meetings is to remember that “it’s okay if you’re not the first one to speak” - listening carefully, processing the information, and collecting your thoughts before making a valuable contribution instead.
Extroverts tend to prefer brainstorming activities, and remote work might make them miss the excitement of sharing ideas face to face with their colleagues. A great platform for brainstorming in teams while working remotely is Miro: you can use it for fun, interactive workshops, where everyone can write down their ideas and thoughts on sticky notes and stick them on a virtual board.
4. Zoom Fatigue
Zoom fatigue affects both introverts and extroverts, but for different reasons: introverts might feel tense from having too many people who seem like they are all staring at them, whereas extroverts miss the physical elements of talking together as a group. A good way to decrease zoom fatigue is by setting boundaries for your time, and designating explicit space in your home to work in. We’ve shared this tip in our remote work tips article, which you can check out for more information on how to get remote work right.
5. Loneliness at Work
Research shows that remote work can increase loneliness. When the global pandemic began, there was a common misconception that introverts had it easier than extroverts during government-mandated lockdowns. However, this was debunked by Maryann Wei. Her study concluded that introverts actually experienced more severe loneliness, anxiety, and depression as a result of the lockdown measures, and that introverts were less likely to ask for help when they needed emotional support because they tend to internalize their emotions.
One way to ensure your distributed team doesn’t feel lonely is by keeping your virtual or hybrid teams emotionally connected. By sharing how you feel at work, and reaching out to others to check-in, the team can feel less remote and closer together. There are several tools for this including KONA and AION , which each allow you to input your daily mood, sharing how you really feel with team members.
Mindsets: Empathy & Experimentation
The adoption of new work models can impact all character types. But adapting and finding creative ways to stay connected and combat the challenges begins with empathy and lots of experimentation.
It’s important to remember that every individual processes experiences differently. Being empathic, mindful, and intentional about these differences can create a happier virtual workplace environment for everyone, regardless of their personality type. Having explicit conversation about how people are feeling, collectively discussing potential solutions and committing to trying new tools and ways of working all contribute to a team’s sense of psychological safety and happiness.