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This is the weekly Careers newsletter.

Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.

Before she became a best-selling author, Susan Cain, a bona fide introvert, was a Wall Street lawyer who often had to talk herself into going to crowded bars to mingle with co-workers and clients. In reality, she would have preferred to curl up with a book or have a quiet dinner with friends.

“I made these self-negating choices so reflexively that I wasn’t even aware that I was making them,” Ms. Cain says in a viral TED Talk. “And this is what many introverts do. It’s our loss for sure, but it’s also our colleagues’ loss, community’s loss … because when it comes to creativity and leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best.”

In her book, “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking,” Ms. Cain discusses the existence of a deep-rooted bias against introversion in our society.

There’s a current groupthink that assumes all creativity and productivity comes from “a gregarious place,” Ms. Cain says. She adds that workplaces with open-plan floor spaces with chatty workers do not work for introverts who prefer quiet spaces. To make matters worse, because of the inherent bias, introverts are routinely passed over for promotions because of the prevailing notion that a dominant and outgoing personality are a must for good leaders.


Job seekers must ideally, deliberate what careers would be a good fit for them based on their individual disposition and personality traits, says David Zweig, a professor of organizational behaviour and human resources management at the University of Toronto.

“Some introverts may be able to turn on extraversion when they feel they have to do what needs to be done, but it often comes at a high cost,” Prof. Zweig says. “There’s a lot of emotional labour involved when introverts have to be extroverted for over a long period of time. It’s draining. That’s why you want to get a job for your personality.”

Take the recruitment process, for instance. Interviewers will typically lean on their own biases and personal judgments. The only way to know about someone’s personality is through credible and scientifically validated personality tests such as HEXACO.

The HEXACO model is a six-dimensional model of human personality created by Canadian psychology scholars Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton. The test measures facets of personality such as: Honesty – humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness (versus anger), conscientiousness and openness to experience.

Having an in-depth understanding of an applicant’s personality can help employers choose the right person for their team. These tests will also foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment, Prof. Zweig says.

Careers options where introverts will likely thrive include accounting, archivist, behavioural therapist, content manager, executive chef, graphic designer, IT manager and mechanic, according to job portal

Science of quiet leadership

In their paper, “Reversing the extraverted leadership advantage: The role of employee proactivity,” organizational psychologist and Wharton management professor Adam Grant, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School found introverted leaders are more effective than extraverts in certain circumstances.

The researchers’ findings came after they pored over the data from a national pizza delivery company to whom they sent out questionnaires. Leaders were asked to rate their extraversion while employees graded their pro-active behaviour, which included among other things, ideas for improving procedures, course-correcting faulty practices, speaking up with ideas and expressing opinions about work issues.

Results showed pairing a bold, assertive and attention-craving extrovert leader with resourceful and outspoken employees will lead to conflict. When the same group of employees reported to an introverted leader, the outcome was a success.

“These pro-active behaviours are especially important in a dynamic and uncertain economy, but because extraverted leaders like to be the centre of attention, they tend to be threatened by employee proactivity,” Prof. Grant notes in a podcast. “Introverted leaders, on the other hand, are more likely to listen carefully to suggestions and support employees’ efforts to be pro-active.”

Introverts and remote work

At the start of the pandemic, there was an assumption that lockdowns and remote working must be a lot easier for introverted individuals, however, results of a study by University of Alberta prove otherwise.

At the start of the pandemic, Anahita Shokrkon, a lecturer at University of Alberta studied how the personality trait of extroversion (versus introversion) affected people’s mental health and how they coped with the pandemic. Results of the study – based on an online survey with nearly 1,100 responses – showed extroverts were happier, experienced higher levels of well-being and were functioning better in their lives.

A year later, Ms. Shokrkon repeated the study with similar results – extroverts generally have better mental health in times of crisis.

“It’s important to note our personalities are not exclusively defined by introversion or extroversion,” says Ms. Shokrkon, who defended her dissertation recently. “Rather, introversion/extroversion trait along with other personality traits, such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism, create our unique and multi-faceted identity.”

How to help introverts thrive

In his company’s blog, Pete Hinojosa, the director of thought leadership with Houston-based human resources firm Insperity, says leaders must create a work environment to inspire introverted employees to give their best. This includes:

  • Becoming savvy at understanding introversion through behaviour. For instance, the introverted employee will listen more and talk less. But when they do speak, they’ll ask questions to get better clarity on the task and will work methodically and in a structured manner.
  • Leverage your people’s natural tendencies by allowing them to do what works for them. For example, give introverts time to research before asking them to discuss a topic during meetings.
  • Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable. Introverts will prefer to be quiet during meetings, but as a leader, you must make sure you encourage them to voice their opinion. Tell them it’s okay to take time to think or share topics of discussion in advance.
  • Tailor communication: allow introverts to have the space to recharge without interrupting, do not disturb them in the middle of a task, be tactful when correcting them and demonstrate acceptance and tolerance.

“While managing introverts, your responsibility is to help develop their natural skills and boost their comfort and confidence level in the workplace – so that they can achieve the credit, respect and career advancement they’ve earned,” writes Mr. Hinojosa.

What I’m reading around the web

  • A blog post on The Ken Blanchard Companies website discusses strategies to reframe performance management into performance relationship.
  • In this article on MSNBC, Arianna Huffington, chief executive officer of Thrive Global, talks about daily habits to reduce stress, including not looking at your phone to start your day.
  • According to this article on Vox, companies which let workers work remotely are now mulling on the pros and cons by focusing on productivity, a metric that’s hard to measure, experts say.

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