Introverts vs. Extraverts

Office politics is an umbrella term that encompasses many things. On one hand, it can refer to behavior whereby coworkers step on their colleagues in the interest of getting ahead at all costs. On the other hand, office politics at its best can describe a dynamic of cooperation, not competition. When colleagues vary in their personality types, understanding and empathy are the keys to cooperation, which enhances office productivity. Introverts and extraverts differ starkly in how they communicate and resolve disputes. Learning about personality typology can be a solid step toward promoting a greater sense of team spirit in an office environment.

Potential for Misunderstandings

Introversion is popularly associated with shyness, but in personality typing, introversion refers to how a person relates to the world and energizes himself. Introverts are energized by their interior worlds: thoughts, feelings and ideas. Extraverts, by contrast, are energized by the exterior world of people, activity and events. Introverts find excessive focus on the outside world to be exhausting, whereas extraverts are likely to feel drained of energy when spending quiet time alone.

These differences are rife with potential for misunderstandings between introverts and extraverts. The introvert may assume that the extravert is “superficial,” while the extravert may assume that the introvert is “depressed.” When these misunderstandings arise in the office, people's assumptions and judgments cloud what could otherwise be clear-minded realization of how differences could actually be complementary, and office politics becomes not about cooperation but conflict.

Differences in Communication Style

At work, extraverts tend to prefer verbal communication, and many are great extemporaneous speakers. Introverts, however, generally prefer written communication, which allows them time to gather their thoughts before presenting them to an audience. When introverts need time to think about what they want to say, extraverts might assume they're sluggish or slow. When extraverts say whatever is on their minds at any given time, introverts might assume they're flighty or careless.

To encourage a more positive type of office politics and facilitate conflict resolution, introverts and extraverts must recognize that neither of them is wrong in how they communicate and that differences in communication style are only that: differences. Each type has something good to bring to the table. Introverts bring their capacity for in-depth consideration; extraverts bring their skill in interacting with other people. An office needs both styles of communication to function well.

Understanding and Appreciation

Misunderstandings between introverts and extraverts can sour cooperation between them and bring out tendencies toward conflict, which causes a negative ripple effect throughout the entire office. Let's say that an introvert and an extravert are working together on a project. The introvert is quietly thinking about what needs to be done to make the project a success. The extravert is on the phone, talking to other people in order to get their input on how to proceed.

In this scenario, the introvert might assume the extravert is incapable of coming up with an original idea on her own, whereas the extravert might assume the introvert is sitting like a lump, contributing nothing while she, the extravert, does all the work. How can these perceptions be corrected? It helps if both introverts and extraverts try to put themselves in the other's place. This requires a leap of imagination aided by understanding of one another's differing styles. When this is done, it helps dissipate resentment and replaces negative perceptions with appreciation of what each person can contribute.

Like other personality preferences, introversion and extraversion aren't absolutes; they're dominant modes of behavior exhibited by individuals. If an introvert can access her inner extravert, then she can better understand what motivates extraverts. It works the same way for the extravert, if he can access his inner introvert. Empathy between introverts and extraverts contributes to mutual respect, which is what shifts the balance of office politics from conflict and competition to cooperation and productivity.

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