Managing introverts at work: 5 little-known facts

Decades worth of data from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment reveals a glimpse into what makes introverts tick.

There’s something about introverts. From the strong, silent type to the office thinkers, introverts are often misunderstood in the corporate world for being shy, and risk being overlooked when it comes to promotions and pay rises. According to the experts behind the the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) assessment, the age-old career personality test, decades worth of data reveals a glimpse into what makes these people tick, and how business leaders can unlock the potential of the introverts on their teams.

“Although roughly half of us prefer introversion, Western society is in many ways just getting to know what this dimension of personality actually means, partly because it’s more difficult to observe,” said Rich Thompson, PhD, director of research at CPP, Inc. “While the most developed parts of the extraverted personality type are outwardly observable, with Introverted personality type those aspects are often not externally exhibited.”

While many aspects of introversion align with common perceptions, others are surprising. But the biggest takeaway is that Introversion is actually pretty complicated, and is manifest in all kinds of different ways. Here are a few things you may not have known.

“Introversion” is made up of several distinct facets of personality

You may think of it as a single dimension, but there are actually many sub-dimensions that describe the complex nature of introversion. Here are five:

  • Initiating or receiving
  • Expressive or contained
  • Gregarious or intimate
  • Active or reflective
  • Enthusiastic or quiet

Introversion in the workplace: slower to hit “send”, tougher to please

You may have observed that people who prefer Introversion will take more time to respond in meetings, but did you know that this extends to written communication too? Folks with this preference are likely to take more time composing an email than those preferring Extraversion.

Tip: If you prefer introversion and someone is expecting an email from you, experts recommend sending a ‘holding email’ to manage expectations while you gather your thoughts.

Furthermore, those with a preference for Introversion are 12 per cent less likely to be satisfied in their job and 20 per cent less likely to be happy at work than those preferring Extraversion. While we don’t know exactly why this is, one reason may be that they’re less likely to have their voices heard and it can be challenging to find quiet, alone time in the workplace.

Tip to include those who prefer Introversion in your group discussion: Slowly count to eight after you ask a question before moving on to the next subject.

Some kinds of introversion are common, some are rare

Men preferring Introversion make up 54 per cent of the (male) population, but that’s only part of the story. ISTJ preferences are the most common introverted type for men, making up 16.4 per cent, while INFJ preferences are only 1.3 per cent, making them the least common. What’s the difference? Among other things, people with ISTJ preferences tend to be practical, sensible, realistic and systematic, and others often see them as calm, reserved and serious. Those with INTJ preferences, on the other hand, tend to be creative, visionary and idealistic, and are often seen by others as mysterious, intense and individualistic.

Making up 47 per cent of the female population, introverted personality types are slightly less common than with men, but every bit as varied. INTJ preferences, the least common Introverted MBTI type among women at 0.8 per cent, are typically rational, detached, critical thinkers with a penchant for conceptual, long-range thinking, and are often seen by others as private, reserved and aloof. On the other hand women with ISFJ preferences, the most common Introverted MBTI type in the female population at 19.4 per cent, are typically practical, realistic, cooperative and thoughtful, and often seen by others as quiet, serious, considerate and conscientious.

Views on spirituality vary by introverted type

Those preferring Introversion also show significant variance when it comes to spirituality, depending on their type. When asked if they believe in a higher spiritual power, of all those who prefer Introversion those with INTJ preferences are most likely to answer ‘no’ (23 per cent) while those who prefer ISFJ are the least likely to answer ‘no’ (11 per cent). To put it in perspective, a 2016 US Gallup poll shows between 11 and 21 per cent of Americans not having a belief in God or a universal spirit. In the UK, this number is a lot higher at 53 per cent.

Many incorrectly estimate their own personality type

Curious about what Introverted type is most likely to estimate their type correctly, and what type is most likely to guess wrong? Of the eight types of personalities with preferences for Introversion, those preferring ISTJ are mostly likely to estimate their type correctly compared to their official MBTI results (and do so 55 per cent of the time). Conversely, when taking the official MBTI assessment,  those with preferences for ISFP are least likely to be able to estimate their actual MBTI type (estimating correctly only 25 per cent of the time). So what do those who prefer ISFP often think their type is? They often mistake their type for ISTP (7.5 per cent of the time) and INFP (7.1 per cent of the time).

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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