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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

How to Manage an Extrovert

Just lately I’ve seen so many articles talking about introverts. How to manage an introvert. How to praise an introvert. What kind of office space works for introverts (answer: quiet ones).

And that’s OK; I guess introverts have been traditionally overlooked—presumably due to the sheer wall of sound coming from the office extroverts—but it’s a mistake, I feel, to assume that people get it right all the time with extroverts. Just because extroverts may, on first meeting, seem more open and easy-going, it doesn’t mean that they’re simpler to manage.

In fact, I think managers often make mistakes with us, too. On that note, here are my top five rules for managing extroverts. And while these are personal to me and straight from the heart, I think there are themes in here for everyone to take hold of.

1. Just Because I Make Jokes, Don’t Treat Me as One

When you first meet extroverts, it’s likely that they’ll be chatty and open, peppering their conversations with jokes, quips, and hilarious (if I do say so myself) asides. We like to feel comfortable with people, and we think that making little jokes puts you at ease, too. But it doesn’t mean that I’m a lightweight in the workplace, that I don’t take my work seriously, or that I don’t have the gravitas that other (less bubbly) people have. So take me seriously—but also leave time for me to bring the fun.

2. Don’t Assume I Have No Aptitude for Details

We extroverts are not all hare-brained ideas people. I’m personally deeply happy when faced with a piece of work that requires planning, structure, and maybe even the odd spreadsheet. And that’s nothing to do with introversion or extroversion, that’s due to my sensing preference, which likes to make sense of things by creating order out of chaos. Please don’t dismiss extroverts by saying “Oh, you’ve got no eye for detail; we’d better give this to someone else.” We sort of hate that.

3. Let Me Talk

I know what you’re thinking: How could I stop you talking? But I’ve never felt my extroversion more than when I worked in a very introverted team; whenever I started a conversation, I could sense their panic at being drawn into a conversation they didn’t want to be a part of. But talking, for me and for lots of other extroverts, has purpose—it’s not just creating noise to fill the silence.

On a personal level, I talk to get to know people, to connect, to feel part of a group, and because I enjoy being part of a team. But on a work level, sometimes I need to speak to think. I can stew on something for an hour—or I can talk it out with a colleague for five minutes and come to a decision much more quickly. That’s much more effective for both of us.

4. Let Me Mix it Up

Monotony is, for extroverts, the killer of creativity and productivity. I like to mix up my day; I move between listening to music to using meeting rooms when I need to concentrate to working at my desk to having walking meetings or catch-ups in a nearby coffee shop. I also mix up my week; and the days where I work from home, in glorious, blissful silence, are some of my most productive.

So if I say I want to work from home, or in a meeting room or café, don’t presume it’s because I want to nip off home early or can’t be bothered working; it’s because sometimes the change of scenery is all I need to get my creative juices flowing.

5. Let Me Be Introverted

I know, seems counterintuitive. But just as an introvert doesn’t want or need to sit alone in a darkened room all day, I don’t always want to be “on.” Sometimes I like to focus, block out the noise from the world around me, and get down to business. I don’t always want to share—I may be open, but I can also be deeply private. So please respect my reticence, just as you would with introverts.

On that note, perhaps this is the biggest piece of advice of all: Take your cues from those around you, and don’t pigeonhole people as extroverts, introverts, or anything else. Let people show you who they really are, and take it from there.

Photo of people meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.