The stereotypical business leader might be brash and outgoing, but recently a groundswell of introvert pride (unleashed, largely, by the publication of Susan Cain’s hit book Quiet) has been pushing back, highlighting all the ways quiet types make great leaders, employees, and speakers.
All this introvert-boosting is probably a healthy corrective to a world that often favors the outgoing, but don’t take it too far. Introverts—no matter how awesome—aren’t without their flaws. A recent psychological study unearthed a fascinating one that both introvert bosses and their employees should be aware of.
Extraverts Working for Introverts, Beware
The research out of University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration, examined 178 students of different personality types who worked together for a semester and then rated one another’s performance; this was used as a model for company performance reviews. The research team also did an experiment in which subjects were asked to interact with and rate a computer-generated “colleague” who was either extremely introverted or extraverted.
Introverts, it turns out, may not be as vocal as some in touting their accomplishments, but when it comes to evening the scales with more loudmouthed colleagues, they’re often happy to use reviews to redress any perceived imbalance, giving lower reviews to more outgoing colleagues. “Introverts tend to give especially low performance ratings to their team-mates who are extravert and over-bearing, even though these people’s actual performance for the team might be the same as other team-mates with different personality types,” reports the British Psychological Society Research Digest blog, summing up the findings.
What’s behind this apparent bias of introverts against extraverts? “The researchers think introverts use peer appraisals strategically,” BPS explains. “Extraverts often throw their weight around and get undue credit, and so, given the chance, introverts exert a corrective influence by giving extraverts relatively negative ratings.” Extraverts’ ratings did not vary depending on personality.
While this is only one small study (for more on its limitations check out the complete BPS post), it’s probably healthy for fair-minded introvert leaders to be aware of this possible skewing of reviews so that they can be on the lookout for any possible bias.
On the other hand, if you’re on the other side of the equation, the practical implications are even more apparent. Those who are very vocal about their contributions and have a boss who is far more reticent should keep in mind that all that self-promotion could come around and hurt them when their annual review rolls around.
Have you seen this dynamic play out in the real world?
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