Introverts have many wonderful qualities that help them shine in the workplace. They have a capacity for deep thought and meaningful (if fewer) relationships, they are able to intensely focus on important tasks and they have heightened emotional sensitivity, to name a few. But when it comes to supporting the success of their extroverted colleagues, introverts may fall short.
Introverts are more likely to give low evaluations of job performance to extroverted coworkers, according to two new studies. They're also less likely to give them credit for their achievements or endorse them for raises or promotions, the researchers, led by Dr. Amir Erez of the University of Florida, found.
“The magnitude with which introverts underrated performance of extroverts was surprising,” one of the study's co-authors, business professor Keith Leavitt of Oregon State University, said in a statement. “The results were very consistent across both studies.”
In the first study, 178 MBA students at a large university in the southeast were assigned to four or five-person project teams for the semester. Halfway through the term, the students were asked to complete questionnaires about their fellow team members, team processes, and their own personalities.
The researchers found that introverts rated the performance of other introverts on the team more highly than they rated the extroverts' performance. The extroverts' ratings of other team members, however, were not influenced by the team members' level of introversion or extroversion.
In the second study, 143 students in a management program participated in a 10-minute online game with three teammates. The participates were not aware that the "teammates" were actually fake and controlled by the researchers. One of the fake team members' profiles and comments were manipulated during the game to make them seem more introverted or extroverted, but their actual performance on the task didn't change. The other two were given neutral personalities.
The participants then evaluated their team members and made suggestions about promoting or awarding them bonuses. The introverted participants gave lower evaluations and smaller bonuses to the "extroverted" team member, even though their performance was the same as that of the "introverted" team member. Extroverted participants, on the other hand, gave evaluations and bonuses based on merit rather than personality.
So why do introverts seem to have a bias against their more gregarious colleagues? Introverts may just be more sensitive to others' personality traits, and may have an aversion to high levels of extroversion or assertiveness, the researchers note.
"Any time we evaluate others, there is a potential for bias, in that we can only remember and process a limited amount of information about that person," Leavitt said in an email to The Huffington Post. "So, we filter information based upon what is most “useful” to us. Because introverts themselves tend to be lower in assertiveness and thus prioritize harmony, there is value for them in quickly recognizing traits that signal the potential for conflict."
The research is the first to show how having an introverted personality affects others in the workplace. Previous studies, however, have shown introversion affects an individual's own job performance. Introverts may have more trouble concentrating in noisy open-concept offices than extroverts, and therefore may do better in smaller workplaces, or working for themselves.
"At the heart of it, introverts and extroverts respond really differently to stimulation," Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, told The Huffington Post last year. "Introverts feel most alive and energized when they're in environments that are less stimulating -- not less intellectually stimulating, but less stuff going on."
This sensitivity may in fact be another reason that introverts judge their extroverted teammates less-than-favorably.
"Extraverts tend to be 'high stimulus' people -- by talking loudly, passionately, and frequently, they quickly overwhelm their introverted teammates," said Leavitt. "Accordingly, we found evidence that introverts experience more negative arousal/strong negative emotions after interacting with extroverts, and generally rate them as being less likeable."