The Introvert at Work

Posted by jlubans on July 14, 2018

Caption: Perfect weather for Introverts. Illustration by Anete Konste and Reinis Pētersons, 2018.

A cartoon promotion about “I” (an Introverted Author from Latvia) at the London Book Fair got the attention of the BBC.
Christine Ro’s story builds on the “I” cartoons and posits that Latvia, while a serene kind of place, is a land of introverts with “a personality type that gets overstimulated easily and prefers solitude, quiet and reflection.”
Since I was born there and have lived and taught there for many months each year since 2010 I know a little about the people.
She’s right more than wrong, and I could go on about why but read her article for some interesting ideas on how Latvians got the way they are.
Do bear in mind all the Scandinavian and Baltic countries have similar taciturn tendencies, certainly far more than the Mediterranean countries.
But, I digress; what I found tantalizing was the notion that somehow Latvians are introverts because they are more creative than other peoples.
In other words, Ms. Ro implies introversion may “cause” creativity.
Indeed, it is but a skip and a jump to declare there’s a “link between creativity and a preference for solitude.”
Or is it the other way around?
You can see this is becoming circular so I will desist.
But before I do, here’s an interesting quote from the BBC article: “Latvian psychologists have suggested that creativity is important to Latvian self-identity.”
If that means what I think it means, then a search for solitude goes hand in hand with innovation.
I’d venture to say that introverts or extroverts are neither fully one nor the other. We are always a combination of the two; some of us with a bias toward introversion and others toward extroversion. Some of us may even slide along the continuum, situationally.
It is no easier for an introvert to be with people than it is for an extrovert to be left alone.
Getting back to the world of work, if creativity is something we desire in our workers, perhaps we should be looking for people with strong indications of introversion.
No, I am not suggesting the use of Myers-Briggs testing. The results, like signs of the zodiac, may make for perky party chatter (boring or not, depending on your MB score) but are not based on quantitative science. Tarot cards may get better results.
Anyway, I see myself in the “I” cartoons.
Extroversion just might be overrated. It all reminds me of what PG Wodehouse observed when invited to sit in with the scintillating and gregarious founding members of New York’s daily Algonquin Round Table.
“When do they work?”
Another writer, Anita Loos, echoed the same while demurring.
That’s the implied downside of extroversion.
One produces less because four hours of back and forth with one’s chums is not the equivalent of four hours solo at a typewriter.
Presumably, extroverts eschew solitude. One study, cited by Ro, had participants who chose electric shocks over being left alone in a room for 15 minutes!
If introverts are more creative than extroverts perhaps we need more of them in decision making.
So, as a gregarious leader, remember why some of the best answers toward a solution will come from your quietest staff. Introverts take time to reflect; extroverts may do less of it and, when asked to do so, find it bothersome saying, “Let’s move on!”
Don’t deny introverts the solitude to get their job done. Don’t force them onto committees for group work.
Accept what might be regarded – in a gregarious society – as anti-social behavior. It isn’t; it is the introvert’s way of working and coming up with solutions.
Don’t expect an introvert to lead or want any part of the latest office Karaoke outing.
Interestingly, outdoor team building sessions that include solo time and reflection may fly with the introverted set, but please no group hugs.
Of course, the extrovert may bring his or her smart phone along for any “down time” so find a venue off the grid.
In any case, as the leader, encourage and protect the quiet few. You won’t regret it.
PS. On my "To Read" list: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking”
It's by Susan Cain and came out in 2013.
PPS. Christine Ro offers more insights on the introversion—creativity link in her February 2018 article: “Why being a loner may be good for your


Or, buy it at AMAZON.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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