Do Extroverts Get a Bad Rap at Work?


Once considered nerdy, introverts have become cool. Fueled by Susan Cain's bestseller "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" and her TedTalk, which has pulled in more than 18 million views, "introvert" is no longer a dirty word or a personality type to try to conceal behind a facade of office chatter. Instead, introverts worldwide are coming proudly out of the shadows, making clear their preference for, as Cain personally puts it, "listening to talking, reading to socializing, and cozy chats to group settings."


Listening, reading and one-on-one chats are an important part of success in the workplace – but so are the skills of taking the lead in talking, getting out and networking and presenting to groups. Which leads one to wonder, in all of the growing excitement about introverts, is there a corresponding backlash against extroverts? If it's finally considered "in" to be an introvert, are extroverts now out?


The answer is that no matter how you feel about introverts and extroverts in the workplace and which inclination you identify with or prefer, both working styles are critical for a team's maximum productivity, impact, innovative potential and collective cohesion – which can ultimately make or break how people feel about their jobs. Let's look at some attributes that often give extroverts a bad rap – and why perhaps they shouldn't be viewed as entirely negative.


Drowning out quieter voices. Because extroverts have an external thinking process – meaning they process information by talking about things – they can end up stealing the limelight from their more introverted colleagues who process information internally (by thinking things through carefully before speaking). While extroverts do need to be aware of whether they are monopolizing too much air time, their talent for thinking on the fly isn't a bad thing, particularly not in a business setting. If extroverts can take care to share the stage and encourage those more reticent to speak up to express their views as well, then the extrovert's ability to take the lead in discussions need not discourage others from joining in.


Speaking the loudest but not saying the most. Because extroverts are formulating their opinions as they speak them, it may take them a while to get to their point. The result can sound like rambling to those not used to the extrovert's style. There may also be a lot of small talk to wade through to find the gem in the conversation. Yet because they're comfortable having the floor and in fact depend on verbal exchange and expressing their views to get energy (compared with introverts who can often feel drained even after conversations that they enjoy), extroverts can be valuable communicators on a team. The key is for extroverts to pair up their conversational charisma with the focus of introverts, who also have great ideas but may need coaxing to reveal them.


Appearing phony. Since introverts generally value conversational substance over having a loud or dominant communication style, they may interpret an extroverted colleague's chitchat with anyone standing nearby as fake or disingenuous. When this happens, introverts may be valuing the content of the message more than the interaction itself. But the fact is that networking is an important career skill, and water cooler talk or making conversation in the elevator can lead to new contacts and eventual opportunities in a way that staying silent can't. It might be worth it to talk a little more or even schmooze on random topics if it helps to get to know people at work and have them get to know you. A lot of what leads to business success is not just about doing tasks, but about connecting with others, and many extroverts are naturally good at this.


Needing attention for self-esteem. Extroverts can get a bad rap from, well, being extroverts. Many crave conversation and seek validation from others by talking to them and eliciting attention – and hopefully positive feedback. There's nothing inherently wrong with this all too human tendency, and when viewed in a more positive light, it can be a smart career move to garner the interest and ears of others. Nonetheless, extroverts should be aware of whether their desire to discuss things with the crowd (more often than their introverted co-workers want to) stems from insecurity or from a genuine interest to hear feedback and improve.


In a world where introverts are finally getting their due in a growing number of industries and workplaces, it's easy to assume that extroverts are no longer seen as important. A more realistic approach is to recognize and embrace the benefits of both personality types, and seek ways to blend their competencies.