Your personality is more than just the way you act. It affects the way you do your job and how you interact with other people. Understanding your personality will help you do your job better, and understanding the personalities of your coworkers and managers will help, too.
So, what type of personality do you have? How about your boss and colleagues?
Introversion and extroversion are the two main types of personalities, and you can tell which you are right away: Introverts get their energy from internal sources—reflection, lots of time alone. Introverts don’t want external stimulus. Extroverts are the opposite; they get their energy from the outside world. The more time extroverts spend with people the more energy they get.
So, an extrovert in a small, quiet office may feel out of place and not be their best self. Extroverts are going to do best when they are in energetic, open settings. They like working in teams, they like dialogue and interaction. Introverts are the opposite. They are not going to like open offices, and they prefer to work alone. Teleworking is great for introverts.
Of course, these are not absolutes. For example, there are lots of extroverts who do not like to work on teams and there are lots of introverts who do. Just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean they are antisocial.
Most people are a combination of the two, but it is important to understand and appreciate people’s personality preferences. If coworkers don’t understand your personality preferences (and vice versa) your work life may not be as pleasant as possible. For example, extroverts may be bubbly and happy to interact with people while an introvert may prefer to keep to himself. So don’t take it personally if an introverted coworker doesn’t pop over to your desk and ask about your weekend.
If you know James in an introvert the fact that he doesn’t say hello every morning is probably more a function of him being in his own head rather than him not liking you. Similarly, just because an extrovert talks a lot doesn’t necessarily mean she wants attention; she most likely just wants to connect. Remember, people come at their personality traits as honestly as you do, so don’t be judgy. Separate the intent from the impact. Respect the differences.
Now, America loves extroverts. Seventy-one percent of America’s leaders type as extroverts, even if they are not, because they have learned and adapted some of the extrovert’s skill sets, so I always tell introverts to up their game. In the American workplace, extroversion is highly valued, and if you are a leader it is expected.
In order to connect with people you need to be extroverted. You can’t stay in your head and lead or manage. I also counsel extroverts to leave some space for the introvert. Count to five after you finish a sentence; give them a chance to respond. Introverts think first and then speak, while extroverts tend to speak and think at the same time. If you are an extrovert and you are speaking, an introvert may assume you’ve already made up your mind because an introvert probably won’t speak until she had made up her mind.
If you are an extrovert, you may need to cool it a little. Give other people a chance to speak. When you are talking, ask yourself, why am I talking? Learn to be OK with silence.
If you are an introvert learn to jump in sooner. If you wait for your thoughts to be perfect your moment may have passed by. Don’t wait.
If you are a leader it is especially important to understand the personalities on your team. You need to be an ambivert, someone who can display and understand both introversion and extroversion. For example, if you are in a meeting, your job is to ensure that the extroverts don’t take over and that the introverts are encouraged to participate.
Your personality is your operating system. Understand your personality preference so you can tell if it’s working against you or for you. At the end of the day, it’s your operating system not your program, so you can change it. And know your colleagues so you can work better together.