10/03/2017 Molly Moseley

Inspiring ambiverts in the workplace

Are you an extrovert or introvert? For some people the answer is clear, but for many, it’s not so black and white.

You’ve probably heard of the Myers-Briggs test. Since the ’40s this assessment has helped us peer into different personality types. This and many other personality tests tend to polarize introversion and extroversion, making them seem mutually exclusive. If you never felt like you fit squarely into one category, you’re not alone.

Many experts now believe that there is a spectrum between extroversion and introversion, and most people are somewhere in the middle. Ultimately where you land is about where you get your energy: from a group of people or from solitude, or, sometimes both. Enter ambiversion, the in-between category that fits most people best.

For example, you might enjoy pitching clients and are looking forward to an upcoming presentation. However, it’s also exhausting to be around large groups of people, so afterward you head home to recharge rather than go out for happy hour with the team. This scenario demonstrates traits of both an extrovert and introvert.

With everyone falling into their own unique place on the continuum, managers may struggle to find the best ways to inspire their teams. How can you possibly manage everyone to bring out their very best at work, when everyone is so different? It might seem impossible, but a few smart strategies can help.

The first step is understanding your employees’ personality types and assessing strengths and weaknesses. Talk with your team. Give them a personality test if you must. Be honest and create a meaningful assessment that will help both individuals and the group as a whole to thrive.

When a team knows its strengths and weaknesses, it can be very empowering. Managers can now adapt their style to fit the group they’re leading. For example, if someone tends to be more quiet during meetings, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have ideas they want to share. A good manager will encourage engagement but also offer additional ways for people to speak up and contribute thoughts, such as at a one-on-one meeting or via email.

Another aspect smart managers consider is the workplace environment. Many modern workplaces have moved to open-office designs with the goal to encourage collaboration. This appears to be custom-made for the extrovert who craves interaction with others. The problem is those who fall on the spectrum more toward introversion can be overwhelmed and distracted by this environment.

The solution? Small design changes can create private spaces for when people need them. You might create a quiet corner with plants or partitions for privacy. Some offices will go so far as to incorporate quiet work spaces that can be accessed throughout the day. These are the places people can go when they need to focus and don’t want to be interrupted.

Finally, rethinking the flow of the workday can encourage all personality types to put forward their very best. Perhaps you leave the morning open for productivity and right after lunch schedule meetings. This leaves room in the day for introverts to breathe and extroverts to socialize, and a little bit of both for everyone in between.

Getting continuous feedback is key. Ask people how they work best. Inquire into possible improvements to boost productivity, employee engagement and job satisfaction. When you keep the conversation open, you’ll be able to create a positive workplace for all personalities.