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  • Introverts in an Extraverted World: How introverts respond to workplace tasks

    that require extraverted behaviors

    by

    Nancy Dale Fanning

    Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of

    Master of Arts

    in

    Organizational Psychology

    at

    John F. Kennedy University

    September 14, 2000

    Approved: _____________________________________ ______________ Project Coordinator Date _____________________________________ ______________ Research Director of MA Programs Date

  • 2

    ABSTRACT

    In Western civilization, extraversion is the norm, while only one-fourth to one-third of the

    general population is introverted. The trend toward participatory management and self-directed

    teams in the workplace today increases the demand on introverts to behave in extraverted

    ways.

    This study explored how two introverts experienced situations in their work lives that

    required them to exhibit extraverted behavior. A phenomenological approach revealed a

    predictable four-phase, recurring cycle of Preparation, Experience, Recovery and Reflection.

    Results indicate that, from the point of view of these introverts, introversion and

    extraversion each have a unique set of embedded values. The introvert finds the introverted

    value system more comfortable and authentic, yet recognizes that the extraverted values are

    more useful and appropriate when they are playing an extraverted role in the workplace.

    The participants quite literally play the role of an extravert – they see it as acting out a

    part in order to meet the expectations of others and accomplish tasks that require active

    participation with others. While introversion is often equated with shyness, it was found that

    these introverted participants were quite capable of being outgoing and friendly, but see

    extraverted behavior as part of their authentic selves.

    During the extraverted experience, participants attempted to suspend their need for

    lengthy internal processing of incoming information, yet they were often able to draw upon other

    introverted attributes, when it was to their advantage to do so.

    This study reveals that the phenomenon of introversion is much more complex than

    suggested by the literature. Introverts often have valuable insights that are never shared in

    their organizations, which makes them a resource that goes largely untapped.

  • 3

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    Chapter 1: Introduction……………………………………………………..………………..….5

    1.1 Theoretical foundations………………….……………………………...…..6

    1.2 Cultural bias in favor of extraversion……………………………….…...…7

    1.3 In favor of introversion……………………………………………………….9

    1.4 Personality tests in the workplace…………………………………. ….…11

    1.5 Introverts in extraverted roles…………………………….………..…..….12

    1.6 The purpose of this study………………………………………………..…12

    Chapter 2: Method……………………………………………………………………..….…....13

    2.1 Approach………………………………………………………………….….13

    2.2 Participants…………………………………………………………………..13

    2.3 Analysis procedure……………………………………………………….....14

    Chapter 3: Results……………………………………………………………………..…..…..15

    3.1 The four-phase cycle………………………………………………….……15

    3.2 Constituents of the cycle…………………………………………..…..…..16

    3.2.1 Preparing for the extraverted experience…………………....….17

    3.2.2 Behaving as an extravert: the experience……………………...18

    3.2.3 Recovery from the extraverted experience…………………… ..22

    3.2.4 Post-Recovery reflection………………………………………..…22

    3.3 Embedded values………………………………………………..…………24

    3.4 Embracing the role…………………….…………………………..…….....26

    Chapter 4: Discussion………………………………………………………………….…….. 29

    4.1 Implications of the results………………………………………………….29

    4.2 Implications with respect to existing theory………………………………29

    4.3 Implications for the workplace……………………………………………..32

    4.4 Limitations of the study…………………..…………………………………36

    4.5 Implications for further study………………………………………….……37

    4.6 Conclusion………………………...…………………………………………37

    Chapter 5: References………………………………………………………………………...39

    Appendices

    A. Comparing introverts to extraverts…………………………………….…. 41

    B. Overview of the eight personality preferences…………………………...42

    C. The sixteen personality profiles at work……………………………….….43

    D. MBTI Subscales……………………………………………………………..44

    E. Social Introversion: MMPI descriptors and subscales……………….…45

  • 4

    Tables and Figures

    Figure 1: The four-phase cycle………………………………………………………16

    Table 1: Constituents of the four-phase cycle…………………………………….17

    Figure 2: Embedded values………………………………………………………….25

    Figure 3: Introversion-Extraversion continuum…………………………………….30

    Figure 4: The introverted thought process……..…………………………………..34

  • 5

    CHAPTER 1

    INTRODUCTION

    In the realm of psychological types, a distinction is made between extraverts, who are

    outer-directed and sociable, and the more inner-directed introverts (see Appendix A). Introverts

    are interested in their own thought processes, and need more time to process information

    before responding to a question or situation. In contrast, extraverts tend to “think out loud” or

    act quickly, without thinking. Introverts tend to be more comfortable alone or with a few close

    friends, while extraverts make new friends easily and like to have people around. In the United

    States there is a cultural bias in favor of extraversion, which may have implications in the

    workplace, especially for introverts who find themselves in work situations that require them to

    exhibit extraverted behaviors. In her book, Gifts Differing (Myers & Myers, 1980), Isabel Briggs

    Myers points out likely causes for this bias:

    The advantages of starting with the outer situation are obvious and much esteemed in the present Western civilization, which is dominated by the extravert viewpoint. There are plenty of reasons for this domination: Extraverts are more vocal than introverts; they are more numerous, apparently in the ratio of three to one; and they are accessible and understandable, whereas the introverts are not readily understandable, even to each other, and are likely to be thoroughly incomprehensible to the extraverts (p. 54).

    Myers cites studies in which the ratio of extraverts to introverts was approximately three

    to one. Other authors (Card, 1993; Peters, 1995) claim that the gap may be wider, perhaps as

    great as four to one, in favor of extraversion. In light of the cultural bias discussed above, and

    since extraverted answers are easily identified on personality tests, one wonders if some

    introverts might be prone to skew their results, either consciously or unconsciously, in order to

    present themselves as extraverted.

    Over the last decade, literature regarding introversion in the workplace has focused on

    blocks to communication between introverts and extraverts and the implications for leaders and

    managers (Barr & Barr, 1989; Beatty, McCroskey & Heisel, 1998; Bridges, 1992; Church &

  • 6

    Waclawski, 1996; Judge, 1999; Kelly & Karau, 1999; Kroeger & Thuesen, 1988; Kummerow,

    Barger & Kirby, 1997; Layman, & Guyden, 1997; Mani, 1996; Silver, Strong & Perini, 1997).

    1.1 Theoretical foundations

    Many of these works are devoted to the personality preferences first described by Carl

    Jung (1971) and later by Myers in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Myers et. al., 1980)

    which is used to identify an individual’s preferences among four pairs of personality types (see

    Appendix B). Three of these pairs (Introversion vs. Extraversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, and

    Thinking v