Introverts Are Kind of Judgmental at Work

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Businessman sitting on filing cabinet, looking out window
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Introverted workers tend to find their extroverted peers’ work performances lacking, suggests a new study in an upcoming issue of Academy of Management Journal  that reveals some surprising ways personality traits come into play at the office. A team led by Keith Leavitt, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, assigned 178 MBA students to project teams of four or five for the semester; halfway through the course, the individuals filled out personality questionnaires and surveys evaluating their team members’ performance so far.

The introverted students gave lower ratings to their extroverted peers as compared to their introverted ones, while the ratings given by extroverted students didn’t vary based on the personality of the person they were rating. A second experiment in Leavitt and colleagues’ paper went further, suggesting that introverts judge extroverts more harshly, even when there is no actual difference in performance: 

In the second study, 143 students in a management program participated in a brief online game, lasting about 10 minutes, with three teammates. Unbeknownst to the participants, the teammates were all electronic confederates, and one target team member’s profiles and comments during the game were manipulated at random to highlight high introversion or extraversion, while their actual performance of the task was held constant.

The participants then evaluated their team members and made recommendations about promoting or awarding bonuses to their teammates. The results showed that introverts gave lower evaluations and smaller peer bonuses to the extroverted version of the targeted team member, even though all the versions of the confederate team member performed the same. Extraverted participants were largely unaffected by the interpersonal traits of their team members and awarded evaluations and bonuses based on merit.

Extroverts have always exhausted introverts, just as introverts have always bewildered extroverts. But this paper suggests some interesting potential real-world consequences for these personality differences. “We found that introverted employees are especially sensitive to their co-workers’ interpersonal traits, in particular extraversion and disagreeableness,” said Leavitt, who suggested that extroverts turn it down a notch at work, in the study’s press release. Introverts, on the other hand, might consider trying to be a little more understanding toward their extroverted peers, if we are ever to achieve extrovert-introvert cohesion in the workplace.