March 31, 2022

The Great Divide Navigating the needs of introverts and extroverts as you transition back into the office

Leadership Expert Vanessa Judelman explains why some of us can’t wait to get back to the office while others are reluctant to rush back in.

Sought-after author, coach and facilitator Vanessa Judelman has helped thousands of people to navigate their leadership journey over the past two decades. 

As organizations are working hard to integrate their back-to-the-office policy, Vanessa has engaged in an informal poll with clients.

Her question is:

“How are you feeling about going back into the office?”

Responses have been greatly divided.

After pondering this divide, she’s concluded that an enthusiastic return is predominantly related to whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert.

An introvert is someone who draws energy from themselves and their own independent research ­–– so a classic response is, “I am very happy and productive working from home and have no desire to go back to the office.”

An extrovert is someone who thrives on energy from others, so a typical response is, “I can’t wait to be around people again. It helps me to work more productively and is more engaging for me.”

For anyone in a leadership role, transitioning your team back into the office will have its challenges.  Navigating a hybrid work model is challenging enough, however managing reactions from a wide sliding scale of introverts to extroverts will make for a delicate balancing act.

Here are some tips and things to remember as you adjust your style to meet the needs of all workstyles on your team.

Let’s start with extroverts, since they can typically be your biggest ally on initial return.

Here are some of their strengths that you can leverage:

Extroverts are:

  • Comfortable with verbal communication and initiating a debate, discussion, or brainstorming session
  • Sociable and welcoming to everyone on the team
  • Energized and highly productive when working with others
  • Comfortable working in environments that can be noisy or busy

In contrast, some of the introverts on your team may resent going back into the office. It’s important not to judge their reaction but to support their needs and understandable anxiety during this time.

Here are some things to remember about how introverts prefer to work:

Introverts are:

  • Independent and self-sufficient and do not need teamwork to feel motivated
  • Reflective and prefer to process information before responding to a question
  • Thoughtful and typically prefer to share insights one-on-one rather than in a large group setting
  • Analytical and prefer a working environment that is quiet, allowing them to concentrate and problem solve

To manage people on your team who are introverted, here are some ideas:

  • Provide them with time to respond. Introverts appreciate emails that give them time to formulate a well-thought-out answer. You won’t get their best work if you bombard them with a plethora of questions in a meeting and expect thorough answers in real time.
  • Be empathetic. Coming back to the office may be more difficult than you think. They are letting go of a comfortable, quiet routine at home and heading into a busy social setting.
  • Provide time for quiet work. Just because everyone is back in the office, doesn’t mean that you need to be working collaboratively all the time. Introverts achieve their peak performance when they have space and time to themselves.

Whether your direct reports are more introverted or extroverted, keep in mind that a great team leader values everyone’s unique skillset and approach to problem solving.

  • The goal of every leader is to have a team that is diverse.
  • You need both ranges of workstyles to be balanced and effective.
  • Neither style is good or bad…they are just different.
  • Remembering these differences will help you to balance the needs and strengths of the people on your team as you navigate the challenges of a hybrid workplace model.

Vanessa Judelman is a noted leadership expert in her industry and has published a book called Mastering Leadership: What it Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast Paced World. She has also been quoted in The Globe and Mail and the National Post and is a regular contributor to CKNW Radio. Vanessa is also a guest lecturer in the MBA program at Ted Rogers School of Management and at the Urban Land Institute.

Whether facilitating, training, or coaching, Vanessa has achieved successful change outcomes with many recognizable organizations

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