Introverts v. Extroverts: Who is best poised to win the employee engagement battle?
I once worked at an office where we tossed around the idea of labeling each person’s office with their Meyers Briggs personality type.
Aside from the argument that the test itself is outdated and flawed, this idea was also met with debate. On one side, folks argued that it would be helpful to know who they were meeting with on a deeper level, presumably to cater their communication style. On the other, it was concerning to think our humanness would be reduced to four letters on a Post-it Note.
Both sides of the argument had valid points but the concept of labeling when it comes to employee engagement is problematic, at best.
I’m sure you’ve been part of a team-building exercise where you were labeled by demographic, personality type or educational background. Maybe you even got a flashy name tag to ensure you were greeted appropriately based on this one trait. (I am easily pegged as a millennial extrovert, for example.)
Here is the problem: you are not AN introvert or AN extrovert. You’re not even an introverted extrovert, whatever that means. Rather, you may be more introverted or more extroverted but your affinity to either lies somewhere along a continuum, not within a checkbox.
I’m sure most internal communication professionals can acknowledge our frustration with being labeled as a “type” and yet we operate under the same assumptions when strategizing about how to communicate with our peers. It breeds contempt and even, in some cases, competition.
I fear we’ve stereotyped the people we communicate with into categories only to justify our laziness in really getting to know employees as individuals.
Introverts don’t always fear lunchroom socialization. Extroverts don’t always obnoxiously commandeer meetings. It comes down to how you charge your batteries: Extroverts seek energy from others (the power of the group) while introverts seek it from within (the power of one).
So which one of these fine traits makes for a better IC pro? In my opinion, whoever is the most self-aware. If there is one thing I could instill in all communication professionals (heck, all professionals), it would be self-awareness. Know yourself and in turn you’ll know your audience. Explore the ways you are unique and the ways you are exactly like those you serve.
Acknowledge and be aware that the way you prefer to communicate may or may not be the same for others. Offering multiple channels to receive information and share feedback is a great way to capture your employees as a large audience. You can’t please everyone all the time but you can offer choices.
The battle for personality trait supremacy may rage on long after this post is published but we’ll accomplish more if we put down the boxing gloves and communicate from a place of self-awareness and respect.