Introverts: How finding an unlikely partner can transform your work life

Opposites don't always attract, but sometimes they need each other.


We know that introverts prefer to work alone or in small groups. These quiet, inwardly-focused types usually do their best work with concentrated focus, away from ruckus of brainstorming sessions and team mash-ups where extroverts thrive.

But research shows the average workplace favors extroverts over introverts, leaving many of the latter at a disadvantage. It's not just open floor plans designed to push social interaction or large team work processes that rub. It's also that extroverts are more regularly rewarded and promoted for their efforts because they are simply more visible. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Introverts don't have to be losers in this game, though. One of the best ways you can advance yourselves at work is to join forces with extrovert partners to tackle projects. An extrovert-introvert "dream team" can be a formidable constellation that delivers wins for each side as well as for the organization.

See also: 6 Clever Ways Introverts Can Thrive at Work (Podcast)

Here are 4 tips for making an ally out of an unlikely partner and transforming your work life:

Tip #1: Get over the bias

If you're a true introvert, extroverts will drive you crazy--the unstoppable talking, the inability to focus, the attention-seeking behavior. It's tempting to believe your contributions at work trump theirs. After all, you spend a lot more time at your desk cranking out thoughtful responses, air-tight analyses and doing the "real work" your team is assigned to do.

But it's time to throw your prejudice out the window. A top-performing extrovert is just as valuable to a company as an all-star introvert albeit by different measures. Extroverts make wonderful networkers, they're good at taking risks, and some studies even show they are happier than introverts. These are qualities companies need in addition to what you and other introverts offer.

Examine honestly what attributes the extroverts in your group bring to the table. For example, you might be annoyed that they spend so much time chatting with colleagues in other offices. Yet these contacts build bridges between units and help spark ideas for new projects.

Because they are out and about more, extroverts often have a broader perspective of an organization's purpose, and that's a valuable perspective you don't provide. Accept that extroverts do equally important work.


Tip #2: Plan a strategy

Analyzing, planning--this is what you're good at, so use those skills to craft a strategy to share tasks with an extrovert. You're looking for ways that your strengths complement the other's weaknesses and vice-versa.

Do you hate giving presentations but love creating talking points and slides? Convince an extrovert to team up with you by selling them your skills. Extroverts are born speech makers who'll likely jump at the chance to present as long as the material is prepared. That's your job.

Maybe your team has been tasked with solving a problem. Here again, a dream team can work wonders. Let the extrovert partner brainstorm solutions--they excel at this--while you list the ideas, prioritize them, and develop a plan to test each one.

The best organizational leaders are pros at knowing their type and wedding themselves with the opposite. Karl Moore, a professor at McGill University who studies the way the introverts and extroverts interact at work, notes that the most successful CEOs deliberately choose C-suite executives with opposite personality types because it provides a balance of energy and thoughtfulness.

Tip #3: Be clear about what you offer

Teaming up with an extrovert sounds great until you consider that this person might not fully appreciate your input. Extroverts may also have a bias against you the introvert, especially given that Western society favors them, say experts.

When you and an extrovert co-worker decide to share tasks, make it clear you'll carry half of the load and what that implies. Lest your partner think you'll just be "throwing together" some notes and a few slides for a client pitch, for instance, explain that the effort involves research, number crunching and getting the okay from the team leader.


Tip #4: Make sure your name's on it

Extroverts do attract greater attention, so they're more likely to get a pat on the back for their work than you are. But don't let somebody else get all the glory if you've done half the work to make it happen.

First, make sure your name is on all the material you and your extrovert partner produce. She might be delivering the proposal to senior management, but both of you should be mentioned.

Second, when talking about your work with your boss or anyone else at the office, take credit for what you've done. Resist using "we" and describe the roles you and your partner played separately. Third, aim to cultivate relationships with extroverts you work with so that they appreciate you and become an advocate for your career. (Naturally, you should do the same for them.)

Experts stress that one of the best ways introverts can move upward is by having other people promote them and their ideas. Strategy and persistence will do the trick here. Building partnerships with extroverts may not seem natural, and it might not be easy to find people you click with at first.

Hold your nose and dive in anyway. Once you experience success working together with an extrovert, you'll see other opportunities to make the dynamic duo approach work.

This article was written by Kate Rodriguez and Laura Adams, hosts of the Richer Life Lab Podcast, offering tips on managing money, career and life. Laura is a personal finance expert, award-winning author and host of the top-rated Money Girl Podcast. Kate is a freelance writer who covers careers, professional development and productivity. Follow her on Twitter at @KateCareer