Rethinking Introverts

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Could companies be unintentionally undermining some of their most potentially valuable employees? According to this recent article in The Economist, it seems likely. The problem, it argues, is that corporate culture disproportionately favors extroverts by focusing on group work and rewarding outgoing employees with promotion. The article cautions that this is a simplistic one-sided approach that undervalues the many benefits introverted employees bring to a company.

“The recent fashion for hyper-connectedness also reinforces an ancient prejudice against introverts when it comes to promotion. Many companies unconsciously identify leadership skills with extroversion—that is, a willingness to project the ego, press the flesh and prattle on in public. This suggests that Donald Trump is the beau idéal of a great manager. Yet in his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, a management guru, suggests that the chief executives who stay longest at the top of their industries tend to be quiet and self-effacing types. They are people who put their companies above their egos and frequently blend into the background.

Many of the most successful founders and chief executives in the technology industry, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, are introverts who might have floundered in the extroverted culture of IBM, with its company songs and strong emphasis on team-bonding. In penalising other people like them, firms are passing over or sidelining potential leaders. At all levels of company hierarchies, that means failing to take full advantage of employees’ abilities.”

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