Society seems to favour extraverts. We put kids in big classrooms at school. And increasingly, work environments are geared around how extraverts like to work - with co-working spaces, hot-desking and a focus on innovations borne out of creative conversations in the office becoming the norm.
The introvert versus extravert paradigm is a well-trodden path. Personality theorists, psychologists and organisations alike have discussed the pros and cons, the ins and outs and what this all means for how people interact with each other.
But the reality is that there is no ‘this’ or ‘that’. There’s a lot more to our personalities than being an ‘introvert’ or an ‘extravert’.
Rather, extraversion is a scale along which people can score either high or low. Or somewhere in the middle. And this is important for us to understand in a workplace context.
Here, extraversion is measured as the extent to which a person needs to interact with other people.
But we don’t call it extraversion.
We call it Energy.
People who score high on Energy are energetic, animated and enthusiastic. They are gregarious, competitive, fun-loving and sociable. They are more comfortable with new people, places and experiences.
People who score low on Energy are quieter, more reserved and private. They take some time to get to know, but then make firm long-term friends.
People with a midrange score can be spontaneous, outgoing and lively when they choose to be, or when the situation requires it. But they are equally content with their own company and are comfortable when certain projects dictate working on their own.
An individual’s Energy score is made up of three sub-facets: Vitality, Sociability and Adaptability.
People with high Energy scores will have a mid to high score on all three, but the scores for each are likely to differ. For instance, they might score very high on Sociability, but lower on Vitality and Adaptability. Another person might be high on Vitality and Sociability but have a mid-range score for Adaptability.
The sub-factors in Facet5 help organisations to understand the individual differences in people with similar personality traits. It helps us to see people based on their character traits, rather than as a ‘type’ of personality.
So how do each of the sub-facets manifest in behaviour?
This refers to an individual’s levels of obvious enthusiasm and energy.
You can usually spot high Vitality people quite easily in the workplace from their physical energy, attentiveness and excitement. When it comes to their work, they like change and variety and will seek out situations that offer these.
People with low scores are quieter, unhurried and consider their actions more carefully. To some people, their style may indicate a lack of motivation or enthusiasm. But this isn’t necessarily the case. They just don’t display their excitement in the same way and don’t like to be the centre of attention.
This refers to an interest in being with people.
People with high scores are the social butterflies of your company, the ones who are generally known across all departments. They like to be involved in what’s happening around them. They reach out and make contact with people quickly - which makes them invaluable for bringing newly formed teams together. They can be competitive in a team sense but need others to keep the spirit going, and will become bored quickly if others don’t join in.
Those with low scores are more private and reserved. They are slower to get involved in new teams and may feel uncomfortable in social situations. It can take longer for others to get to know them, and they may have fewer close relationships than those with high scores - but the relationships they have are strong and tend to be long-lasting. They may also prefer to keep their work and private lives separate, and opt out of company social events.
This relates to how an individual involves others in their thinking.
People with high scores are curious and exploratory. When faced with a problem they like to seek input from others and find it inspiring to bounce ideas around as a group.
At the other extreme, people with low scores prefer to work alone on a problem and to present their findings after careful thought and consideration.
Opposites attract, right? Or wrong?
In this context, there’s a bit of both going on. To someone with high Energy, a colleague with a low score may appear unmotivated, unsociable and distant. And they may find the enthusiasm of a high Energy colleague disruptive and too much to handle. A bit of an exhibitionist perhaps.
But a low Energy person who is uncomfortable in a new team or group setting may appreciate the inclusive nature of the high Energy colleague who reaches out to them. Just like that same high Energy colleague may benefit from having someone act as a break for their impetuosity, to slow them down before they get carried away on a new idea.
The key is understanding each other. If each member of a team is aware of their own natural preferences and understands why they behave in the way they do and how others are different, they will be able to work together more effectively. They will be better prepared for someone else’s approach to a task or how they might react in certain situations. For example, if Jack recognises Kirsty’s over-enthusiasm as her personality playing out, he will be less likely to become perturbed by her ‘interfering’ nature.
Why it pays to move away from 'extraverts' and 'introverts'
One of the biggest challenges of workplace personality profiling is managing the risk of labelling people or categorising them into 'boxes'. By removing the introvert and extravert terminology, and talking about energy, vitality, sociability and adaptability instead, we begin to eliminate this risk.
Personality assessments like Facet5, that are based on the Big 5 theory of personality, allow us a deeper insight into the granular aspects of our personalities. This allows colleagues to understand each other on a deeper level, and ultimately, work together more effectively.