COMING BACK TO THE OFFICE: BEWARE OF THE ‘EXTROVERTS ONLY TRAP’
by Gay Gaddis | Published by Forbes
[ARTICLE] As 2021 unfolds, for many, there will be plans to bring people and teams back to the office. Months of working remotely will leave many yearning for some real face time. While we have all become pretty efficient and gotten a lot done, there is nothing that can replace face-to-face meetings, conversations around the coffee machine and in-person brainstorming sessions.
There will no doubt be volunteers who will brave the office environment, masks and all. But who do you imagine will make up these first waves of workers? My bet is a majority of them will be extroverts. These individuals are in actual need of human interaction to survive, and many are poised and ready to lead their companies out of physical isolation because of their intrinsic need to have in-person connections.
Yes, there will be a few duty-bound introverts who will show up, but even after in-person work is deemed safe for all, many will prefer to stay at their home offices and continue on as they have for the past year. After all, introverts can solve many problems on their own and need time to be by themselves to think things through. Isolation is something they thrive on.
To produce high-performing teams, an atmosphere of innovation and diversity of thought, we need both introverts and extroverts. Most teams have a good mix in this regard, but dynamics are likely to shift when people start coming back to the office.
That’s why we all need to watch out for the “extroverts only trap.”
If introverts stay at home, we’re going to see rooms full of extroverts feeding off of each other, each one with absolute confidence their idea is best. Meanwhile, introverts will be on the conference line (if invited to the meeting at all), struggling to get a word in edgewise. This is problematic, since introverts play a valuable role in grounding teams and forcing them to look at ideas from many different points of view. They provide a critical balance of thought by finding the weaknesses in ideas that excited extroverts may overlook. But when introverts aren’t physically in the room, team dynamics could take a quick turn.
So how do you bring people back to the office in a way that enables everyone to feel comfortable and safe, while also preserving the culture that has always supported success?
In many cases, you will need to proactively recruit introverts to come back to the office. To do so, you should reassure them that their point of view is vital, if not critical, to healthy, balanced teams who can do groundbreaking work. Virtual meetings will not go away, but they will gradually diminish in importance as the back-channel one-on-one communication conversations spin up. The sooner introverts can get back to the office, the easier it will be for them to reintegrate with the rest of the team and make sure they are
As your offices, cubicles and meeting rooms come back to life, don’t overlook the importance of having team members get to know each other again. A lot has happened in the past year, and people need to reconnect on an emotional level to rebuild comradery and trust. A touch of human kindness goes a long way, especially now. Encourage your team members to ask one another about their interests, families, pets and hobbies. This is another time when you should not let the extroverts do all of the talking. Give introverts their time and space to share their stories.
As you work on 2021 strategies and assignments, I challenge you to truly think about the range of personalities on your team. If your company has not embraced the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or other such personality assessments, this is the year to do it. However, you shouldn’t leave the task of personality assessments at the door of Human Resources alone. By sharing ownership of this work, you will learn more and drive better outcomes.
For me, this was the secret to success. Learning more about personality types enabled me to see the value in each angle of a personality—beyond just introversion and extroversion. It also helped me better understand my own strengths and weaknesses and surround myself with people who are better at certain things than I am. When colleagues can lean on one another for support in various areas, well it just blows the barn doors off of innovation and true appreciation for one another.
As you build this beautiful diversity at your organization and your team members are thinking and approaching things differently, you must ensure each person’s voice can be heard in an atmosphere of trust. There are no good ideas and no bad ideas in the brainstorming mode. Collect ideas without judgment, then bring the team members back to prioritize the best ones. You have a responsibility to make sure that collaboration is a positive experience for everyone.
So, as we gradually return to the office, make sure you head off the “extroverts only trap.” It is fraught with peril. Manage toward a balance on both ends of the spectrum of personalities and you’ll find teams that deliver innovative solutions.