Do you see an extrovert bias in the business world, a bias against introverts? Many people (mainly introverts) see it, what do you think? More importantly what will knowledge of an extrovert bias to the point lead you to do differently to improve your firm? Whether or not you believe in an extrovert bias, you have other biases that this article will help you explore.
Introvert or extrovert?
Carl Jung introduced the terms in 1921 and although there are many introvert myths around, the two terms are generally understood a hundred years later.
Extraversion and introversion tend to be viewed as a continuum, from high in introversion to being high in extroversion (low introversion). Jung initially proposed something slightly different, that everyone has both an extraverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. Whichever is most “accurate”, some people are less sociable and outgoing than others. This can also vary in one person at times/ situations.
Most personality models include something similar, whether “the Big Five model”, Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or DISC.
As an aside I’m often asked why I focus on just introvert/extrovert rather than one of the other models. It’s because I’m simple, believing a simpler model is more easily understood and useful if it generates positive change (which it can).
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
You probably can already answer the question “are you an introvert or extrovert”. Simplistically:
- Extroverts tend to be outgoing, often considered the life and soul of the party. They tend to be energised by being with people.
- Introverts tend to like spending some time alone and feel de-energised spending time with lots of people.
You many like to read more of the differences between introvert and extrovert.
What about bias?
Before diving into the extrovert bias, which leaves some people believing introverts can be boring, lacking motivation or are disinterested at work – let’s review some common biases as bias seems to be often in the news.
What is “unconscious bias”?
An unconscious bias is a bias we’re not consciously aware of, it’s completely natural,. like an instinct. It’s an instinctive feeling which influences our thinking / judgement.
In effect it’s an “automatic” inclination for or against a person or a group of people. Since the advent of social media and more polarised mainstream media, there seem to more and more groups (or is it me?). In a way the social media feed shows our bias if we select news and people we like and thus reinforce our beliefs.
In the workplace there are several biases which drive judgement. Gender maybe the first you think of. One that many people don’t think about is the extrovert bias.
How does bias affect your business?
Without attention bias affects the way you think, react, who you pay attention to and the judgements you make, for example:
- Who you recruit (building a business just by recruiting people like you normally leads to problems)
- Who you promote (managers in your own image may not be the best choice).
- Who speaks up in team meetings
- The subjects that get airtime in meetings
- The people who have influence in your business.
In any decision making process, decisions tend to be better (unless they need to be made very quickly) if they have a wider range of inputs. One large benefit of a team is that it creates more resilient decisions, by considering a wider range of inputs. A well-functioning team has more diversity of thought than a team who were all recruited in the image of the team leader. But even in a diverse team it’s not uncommon for only some views to be debated and considered, which can often be because louder (extrovert?) views are listened to more than those of quieter team members.
Confirmation bias is one that leaders and recruiters should be wary of. We see evidence for things we believe, rather than the opposite. In making judgements about others, it’s easy to subconsciously seek evidence of our own opinions of that person.
In recruitment, confirmation bias could lead to us choosing the wrong person, as we look for “people like us”, missing other great candidates.
Leaders subject to confirmation bias could effectively hear what they want to in meetings or discussions, rather than spotting problems. This could lead to bad decision making, wrongly promoted people or people being demotivated as they assume their evidence isn’t relevant.
The Halo bias
Maybe this isn’t technically a bias, but it’s similar. It happens when some great things about a person affect our opinion of everything else about them as if there’s a halo cast around them.
Sometimes certain employees seem to do nothing wrong, after they made one great impact. It’s thus easy to see the good in them, rather than others.
Recency bias favours recent events over older ones. During lockdown extroverted homebased staff more often contacted “their boss” to talk, where the more introverted employees didn’t. Recency bias could easily lead you to believe one group are working harder than the other, as they’ve more recently been in contact.
We attribute results to certain things, often without realising, But, these attributions may not accurately reflect reality.
If somebody does something well, people typically think it’s down to them – their skills, actions, or personality. If the same person does something badly it’s common to blame external issues “it’s somebody else’s fault”, “xyz stopped me from doing my best”.
For example if extroverted, we may attribute our success to our socialising skills, leading to a belief that all an introvert needs to do is socialise like we do.
Many of us like to conform with our peers. If an individual feels most of a group are leaning towards/away from a certain choice, they tend to go along with the group, rather than voice their own opinions.
Many introverts don’t speak up under such circumstances, unless they feel very strongly about the subject, as they see not point in doing so.
The extrovert bias
Here’s four example of extrovert bias. Extrovert bias can lead to less resilient discussions in team meetings, lower employee engagement, lower productivity and mean that poor recruitment and/ or promotion decisions are made.
- Success: Most successful leaders (although by no means all) are more extroverted than introverted. So, the model is extrovert.
- Slower paced: Some people believe that introverts are slower paced and thus less suitable than faster reacting extroverts (it’s our old friend internal processing). Introverts tend to structure their thoughts more before speaking, many extroverts structure their thoughts by speaking (in reality that can be more confusing).
- Discussions: The voices most heard in most team meetings are extroverts, which is often taken as “the” way to act. This leads to a belief among some that it’s better to say something in a meeting, even if you’re not adding anything to the discussion.
- Leadership potential: In team events and assessment panels extroverts often get marked as leadership potential, as they tend to dominate group discussion. The extrovert bias shows they’re “hungry for success”.
Does bias have a negative intent?
Most forms of bias, or labels, don’t come from negative thinking, but from things we’ve been exposed to over the years, how we’ve been brought up, the business model we’ve been exposed to and the definitions of success we’ve been shown.
In the case of an extrovert bias, we hear more about successful extroverts than successful introverts (one group shouts louder). You could argue that’s a positive intent!
Click here to read part 2 of this article, what should we do about bias? (published on 23/3/21)
- Spotting an introvert, hiding in plain sight
- Understanding introverts for better business
- Does it take longer to manage introverts?
Gina Gardiner is well known for her leadership expertise and illuminates the way for enlightened leaders to create a more profitable & meaningful mission. Here's our discussion on leadership and managing introverts.