Extroverts, after all, tend to engage in more social interaction at work, and often prefer or even need to talk through ideas and processes in order to be their most productive. Introverts, on the other hand, often prefer to work in relative quiet without interruptions and can have trouble focusing when there’s constant conversation around them. Extroverts can easily annoy introverts by too much noise and talking, and introverts can come across to extroverts as chilly or aloof.
These differences can affect both job satisfaction and productivity. If you’ve got a team full of extroverts and one or two introverts, those introverts can end up with nowhere quiet to focus and feeling drained by interruptions or noise around them. Alternately, if introverts dominate on your team, the extroverts who find themselves in the minority might feel isolated and have their own troubles being productive if they get more done when they’re able to talk things out and bounce ideas off of other people.
So when you’re managing a team with mixed work styles, how do you resolve conflicts between introverts’ need for quiet and focus and extroverts’ need for talking and collaboration? Here are five compromises that will let everyone, regardless of where they fall on the introvert/extrovert scale, be reasonably comfortable and productive.
1. Cultivate an office-wide awareness of different working styles. Openly acknowledging differing preferences along the introversion/extroversion scale is an essential step to figuring out solutions that will work. If introverts come to understand that extroverts are often more productive through conversation, and extroverts come to understand that introverts aren’t freezing them out when they put on headphones and keep their heads down, you’re more likely to find compromises people are happy with.
2. Zone your office space for different work styles. Designate some space for conversations and groups working together where people can make noise without guilt, and designate other spaces “quiet space.” If you can, let people choose where they work, and let people move from one to the other as their work needs dictate. You don’t need to revamp your entire physical space, but simply having some quiet conference rooms (and encouraging people to use them when they need quiet space to focus) can go a long way.
3. If your space is limited, encourage people to go off-site when they need quiet or interaction. If you don’t have spare conference rooms to zone for these uses, encourage people to go off-site when they need to. If their roles allow it, your introverts might be thrilled to work from home or a coffee shop when they particularly need to focus. And your extroverts might love the idea of holding a group brainstorm at the pizza shop next door.
4. Consider having set “quiet hours” each day, where any noisy activities take place in rooms with closed doors. Otherwise, introverts may end up feeling like they’re always having to flee shared space if they need to concentrate in a quiet area. This is something you can do team-wide if people like the idea, or it might just be a solution for an otherwise mismatched pair who share an office to implement on their own.
You can balance that with “noisy hours” too if there’s a need for it!
5. Make “let’s take this to a meeting room” a standard phrase in your culture. Create a norm on your team where after a certain amount of time, a conversation is deemed a “meeting” and moves to a more appropriate location (like a conference room). This will allow extroverts to keep having the discussions they may need to work effectively, but without creating ongoing distractions for those who need a quieter space to work.
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