It’s perhaps a common misconception that extroverts are sociable and outgoing, whereas introverts are anti-social and insular. It’s a misconception that lends itself to the notion that extroverts are better suited to team-based work than their more introverted peers.
It’s a topic that a recent study led by the University of Surrey set out to examine in more depth.
The researchers examined the notion that extroverts are better suited to team-based work and set out to explore both whether such an advantage exists and how this manifests itself.
They found that after a goal has been set for the team, extroverts can often deploy greater energy towards their teammates, which creates the impression that they’re heavily engaged in the task and contributing strongly to the task.
This energy can backfire, however, when the team is conflicted, with the energy seeming to do more harm than good. In this scenario, the extroverts develop fewer relationships with their peers and subsequently are viewed as not contributing well to the team. Instead, they are often viewed as domineering and aggressive.
27 teams were tracked by the researchers from their formation to disbanding. Each team was tasked with delivering a presentation on a challenge relevant to their workplace as the culmination of a three and a half month project.
All interactions amongst the team were tracked, including the type of communication undertaken, its frequency, and the general relationships between team members at various stages of the project.
“With shifts in organizational structures leading to more collaborative, team-based work, it’s often assumed that extroverts have an advantage when it comes to achieving success in the workplace, especially in team-based work,” the researchers say.
“Our research shows that extroverts’ ability to energize their teammates has a lot to do with how much agreement there is within the team. In situations where there is a high level of conflict, extroverts can be seen as 'shouting the loudest,' showing a less desirable and productive side of being extroverted.”
Of course, there has been significant exploration of extroversion and introversion in recent years, and it would be foolish to fall into the trap of thinking that introverts make poor team players, regardless of the context.
The study is undoubtedly an interesting line of thinking, however, and one that I feel would be good to explore in more detail.