Do introverts thrive in your workplace?

06.12.2017

I started at Draw about three months ago - from day one, I could see there was something special about the people at Draw, both as individuals and as a group. There was never any pressure on me to fit in - in fact, I think you’d be less likely to ‘fit in’ at Draw if you were trying to not be yourself. The real variety of people I’ve met at Draw has got me thinking about the different types of people it takes to make a successful - and happy - team. I’ve become fascinated by the idea of different personality types and the benefits of creative diversity in the workplace. There are introverts and extroverts in every workplace; according to some researchers, there’s an even 50-50 split, and the differences in the ways they work are significant. How, then, should we build our work environments and activities in order to cater to both groups?

 

Introversion and extroversion

The concept of introversion and extroversion - coined by Carl Jung and popularised by personality theorists Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers - is a fundamental element of personality theory. The theory is that everyone lies somewhere on the continuum between extroversion and introversion - if you’re wondering where on the scale you sit, a good place to start is by thinking about where you get your energy from. If you get your energy from spending time alone, you’re probably on the introverted side of the spectrum; if you get your energy from being around other people, you’re likely to be considered an extrovert.

Extroverts are known for thinking out-loud, making fast decisions, and feeling comfortable when multi-tasking and taking risks. Introverts are known for listening more than talking, approaching tasks carefully and one at a time, and are good at concentrating (depending on the environment).

To illustrate this, I’m an extrovert and thrive around other people - without even thinking about why, I’ve chosen to go to a busy cafe to write this article because I feel most motivated in a vibrant environment around the energy of people. In contrast, when I showed this article to my colleague who is considered more of an introvert, he was horrified by the thought of working in a busy cafe and told me that he can only work in the quiet away from others.

A well-known test in this area, published in 1962, is the Myers Briggs personality test. It goes further than introvert/extrovert, and there are 16 different personality types on the Myers-Briggs model. Although there is much scepticism about the reliability and validity of the test, I think it gives a pretty good (albeit vague) description of several different types of personalities (you can take the test for free here).

After sharing a simplified version of the Myers-Briggs test with some of my colleagues, I discovered that the majority of people I work with are introverted. This isn’t too much of a surprise as they are developers, designers, and writers; parallels have been drawn between introversion and creative thinkers - it is said that introverted people enjoy dealing with ideas and pictures. In saying this, I believe everyone is creative in some respect, whether they are artistically creative, or creative problem solvers.

 

Workplace

Even though 30-50% of people are considered introverts, work environments are very much tailored towards catering for those who are extroverted. Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking’ emphasises the importance of catering for and encouraging those who are considered introverted (watch her Ted talk here). Cain makes the point that, culturally, is it important to ensure that our working environment has a balance to benefit both creativity and productivity - we should respect the differences in the levels of stimulation people need to function on.

Like many creative companies today, Draw’s workspace is open plan, with music playing and many opportunities to work collaboratively. Outside of work, Draw offers social activities such as a breakfast club, “bootcamp” (a weekly fitness session), and Friday drinks. That might sound like an environment that caters only to extroverts, but we also make a conscious effort to cater to more introverted people, with 20 minute mindfulness sessions, yoga classes, and, believe it or not, a couple of make-shift quiet spaces crafted out of two gondolas from the Austrian alps.

 

Draw Gallery

In the new year we’ll be opening the Draw Gallery, a small exhibition of artwork by members of the Draw team. The Gallery is a great opportunity for introverts and extroverts alike. Everyone in the company, whatever their skills, has been encouraged to contribute in whichever way they wish - whether it be through artwork, musical performance, or writing this very article.

I think that more businesses should be aware, and better cater for, the different types of personalities - not only in terms of introversion and extroversion, but also from the many other aspects that affect the way we think, behave, and operate in the workplace.


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