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On the Job: Introverts on the job win in the end, study shows

Published April 27, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Extroverts aren't the most successful in the long run at work; instead, the quiet, neurotic, introverted employees who often fret about what others think of them come out on top, according to a new study.

While extroverts may make great first impressions with their outgoing manner and lively personalities, that "value and reputation at work diminish over time," says Corinne Bendersky, an associate professor of management at the University of California-Los Angeles who researched the subject with Neha Parikh Shah of Rutgers University.

"Extroverts disappoint us over time when they're part of a team," she says. "On a team you're expected to work hard and contribute a lot. But they're often poor listeners, and they don't collaborate," key in team efforts.

On the other hand, neurotics or introverts work hard on a team because they care what others think of them. They don't want to be seen as not pulling their weight or contributing 100 percent, she says.

So while companies may be attracted to hiring the extroverts because they wow managers in job interviews, bosses also may want to consider whether the extrovert they are considering will be a valuable team player, Bendersky says.

"Introverts are motivated by pleasing their peers and having chances to impress the team," she says. "If you give them chances to contribute, they'll be very good."

Agreeing with that assessment are the authors of a new book, Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence.

Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins say managers should recognize the strengths of introverted or anxious employees, such as their ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes.

"These team members often have an approachable demeanor, which can make them exceptional mentors to more junior staff or particularly good sounding boards when you interact with them in one-on-one situations," Su says. "The real development opportunity for these folks [is] helping them get more comfortable in larger group settings and vocalizing their thoughts versus keeping things internal."

Managers must strive to help introverts find their voice, Wilkins says. One technique: Ask them to share their ideas before a meeting so they have an easier time speaking up in front of others.

"Help them to see that speaking up is not about self-promotion or being in conflict but rather about offering the team key insights, making better decisions or increasing the efficiency for all," she says.

But what about those extroverts who never seem to be at a loss for words? Should managers cut them off?

Managers definitely should weigh in on how an extrovert is affecting others. Wilkins suggests saying something in private: "At our last meeting, you spoke for 80 percent of the meeting. As a result, you were not able to get buy-in from the group, and this will impact your ability meet the deadline next week."

Finding the right communication style for a work situation can be difficult, but not making adjustments can hurt their careers, she says.

"Those who get out of auto-pilot recognize that their natural style is a strength and that adding a few more communication strategies in their repertoire won't change who they are," Wilkins says. "It will simply broaden their impact and get to the results they desire."

Anita Bruzzese can be reached c/o Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va. 22107.




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