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How to engage the introverts and extroverts at your workplace

Introverts need a different approach at work to bring out their best.

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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.

Registration for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards have closed. Companies can pre-register for 2019 at www.employeerecommended.com.

Bill Howatt will be speaking about mental health at The Globe's Solving Workplace Challenges summit on March 20 in Toronto. Click here to find out more or to register for the event.

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Are you an extrovert or introvert, and how does this impact you in the workplace?

Extroverts thrive on stimuli, as this is how they stay charged, where introverts gain energy through solitude and quiet.

It really doesn't matter what you are as much as that you're aware of your preferred trait and how it influences your behaviour in the workplace.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, reports that introverts make up one-third of the work force. She explains that introverts like Gandhi have made significant contributions to society, but a barrier for introverts today is that the work world has been designed for extroverts. As a result, many introverts don't reach their full potential. That's a loss for both the individuals and their organizations.

The workplace has created a bias for extroverts to thrive because of the high emphasis put on constant collaboration, team meetings, planning meetings and constant communications. One study found that 96 per cent of managers are extroverts, and 65 per cent of senior leaders believe that being an introvert is a liability. Adam Grant and his colleagues challenged this thinking by reporting that an introvert leader with vocal teams does well because of their tendency to listen better and appear more open to suggestions, compared to an extrovert leader who may feel threatened and challenged.

This micro skill raises your awareness of introverts versus extroverts in the workplace that can benefit you and the people you work with. Introverts and extroverts can flourish in the workplace when there's awareness and respect for their differences.

Awareness

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Most of us tend to have a clear dominance when it comes to being either an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts after a long day of work can't wait to have time alone or a thoughtful, quiet conversation with a trusted friend. At end of the same day an extrovert looks to engage with a group of friends for a social activity. Extroverts tend to crave stimulation while introverts become tired and crave time to be alone, so they can recharge their energy from the inside out. To assist in evaluating what percentage you're an extrovert versus an introvert, take a few minutes to complete this Introvert versus Extrovert Quick Survey.

Accountability

Our actions impact both ourselves and others. Accepting the fact that not everyone wants the same thing positions us to have more empathy and compassion for our differences. Without knowing that you're an extrovert can be frustrating when an introvert doesn't want to be with you every moment, or excited to talk with you.

Instead of personalizing the world through what you want, it can be helpful to understand what mentally charges extroverts and introverts. Openly talking about your dominant trait and what helps charge your battery to do your best work is helpful for both your manager and peers. Each of us has one brain and, depending on the blend of extrovert versus introvert defines the approaches we take to charge our brain and position ourselves to perform to our optimal potential.

Action

Knowing your dominance can help you make decisions that best promote your brain health and ability to keep your batteries charged to keep up with the demands of work and home.

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Tips for supporting introverts and extroverts

By engaging in conversations with introverts and extroverts you can make good choices, suspend judgement, and create opportunities for yourself and your peers to play to your strengths and reach your full potential.

Supporting introverts – Allow them time to work alone; encourage them to speak first in meetings to get their ideas out; provide them some one-on-one meetings versus group meetings to give them new information or even to teach (they often benefit more from one-on-one coaching versus classroom instruction); give them time to observe and learn before dumping them into new situations; give them time and choices on how they can respond to you (such as in writing or in person after they have collected their thoughts) versus demanding them to answer on the spot; give them notice before asking them to change; and honour their privacy.

Supporting extroverts – Provide feedback in real time; put them into collaborative work situations so their thinking can evolve; put them in situations where there's opportunity for conversation and, when possible, to meet new people; recognize and acknowledge their energy and enthusiasm; let them move fast once they have a defined action plan; provide them with lots of engagement and teamwork to keep things exciting for them so they don't get bored or under-stimulated; and provide them with lots of feedback on how they're doing.

Introverts and extroverts can provide different perspectives and insights that are beneficial for employers. The more each employee is aware of their dominance and what they need to be successful, the more likely they will be able to reach their full potential.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

You can find all the stories in this series at:tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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