Personality clash: Extroverts versus introverts at work
A workplace usually has a wide range of personalities. The office
can offer endless fodder for the social anthropologist researching human
interaction. On the other hand, it can also be a constant battleground
for some. Working together and getting along day-in, day-out can be a
delicate balancing act.
Most people find a niche by navigating their colleagues’ quirks and
characteristics. But what happens when extremes collide? There are no
greater opposites than the introvert and extrovert. When placed in a
room and forced to spend time together, these opposite personalities can
clash, but they can also come out as the best of friends.
The extreme introvert certainly seems to get the worst rap: the quiet
and shy recluse, always wrapped up in his or her own thoughts. It
seems as though introverts are always pushed to be more extroverted.
There’s a notion that being on the shyer side doesn’t breed success.
Taken at face value, the stereotype is deflating, and often untrue.
There are a number of purportedly introverted celebrities that turn this
perception on its heels: Jerry Seinfeld; David Letterman; Meryl Streep.
While they may enjoy some alone time, they can certainly can display
personality and wit for the camera.
The extreme extrovert can just as easily be pigeonholed: overly
gregarious; loud; obnoxious, even dumb. This person doesn’t know when
to leave people alone. Extroverts can garner an equally bad rap for
seeming to take over a situation: intimidating and overshadowing the
quiet talents of the introvert; an equally disparaging, and like all
What is true is that these personality types can rub each other the
wrong way. So how can these extremes combine rather than collide?
Here are some tips that might help the introvert and extrovert work together and overcome their stereotypical behaviours.
Are you busy?
Ask before barging in to an introvert’s office. Although being
sequestered to a quiet corner to focus on work may feel like a jail
sentence for an extrovert, someone who tends to be more introverted
cherishes space and quiet. Allow an introvert their space and ask before
Taking the Stage
Talking to a crowd and feeding off the energy of a group is precisely
where an extrovert feels at home. For the introvert, presentations or
crowds may be the bane of their employment. Split projects into
sections that cater to each other’s strengths, but also realize that
it’s sometimes good to push your comfort zone. Although presentations
may provoke some anxiety for the introvert, take a page from your
extroverted colleague and try your best to have fun with it.
Everyone has an opinion
Although it’s easy for an extrovert to enter into and hold a
discussion, it may not come as naturally for their more introverted
colleague. Asking for an introvert’s opinion will encourage them to
join in the conversation. If you do tend to be introverted it’s just as
important to remember that your opinion still has equal value.
The key to success when opposites collide is to recognize and support
each others’ differences. It is equally important to recognize your
own natural inclinations.
As important as these tips may be in a workplace, understanding and
drawing on your natural abilities in an interview will also help provide
strong answers and solutions to the age old question dreaded by both
extroverts and introverts: What are your strengths and weaknesses?