Study Says Introverts Can Be Pretty Judgmental At Work

mbg Contributor By Emi Boscamp
mbg Contributor
Emi Boscamp is the former News Editor at mindbodygreen. She received a BA in English and minors in Spanish and Art History from Cornell University.

Everyone knows that person at work who sits at his or her desk, headphones in, and hardly utters a word to anyone the entire day. You've never given much thought to that silent co-worker, other than Maybe he's just focused or Maybe social settings aren't her thing.

Well, you should probably pay closer attention to that colleague, because according to an upcoming paper, introverted employees are more likely to give low evaluations of job performance to extraverted co-workers. This, in turn, gives introverts a powerful role in workplaces that rely on peer-to-peer evaluations for awarding raises, bonuses, or promotions. The findings are based on according to two studies from researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Florida and University of Notre Dame.

I've just officially renamed that person at the office the "Silent-But-Deadly Co-Worker" (or SBDCW).

A group of researchers led by Keith Leavitt, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, assigned 178 MBA students to project teams of four or five for the semester. Halfway through the course, the individuals filled out questionnaires about their team members, team processes, and their own personalities.

The introverted team members rated the performance of other introverts higher than that of extroverts. You might think this is because people tend to favor those similar to them, but on the contrary, the ratings given by extroverts were not significantly impacted by the personality of the team member they were evaluating.

A second experiment, mentioned in this paper, took it even further by suggesting that introverts judge extroverts more harshly than fellow introverts, even when there's no difference in performance.

An OSU press release describes how it was conducted:

In the second study, 143 students in a management program participated in a brief online game, lasting about 10 minutes, with three teammates. Unbeknownst to the participants, the teammates were all electronic confederates, and one target team member's profiles and comments during the game were manipulated at random to highlight high introversion or extraversion, while their actual performance of the task was held constant.

Then, the participants had to evaluate their team members and make suggestions about giving them promotions or bonuses. Again, introverts gave lower evaluations and awarded less to extraverted version of the team member, while extroverts based their evaluations and bonus-awarding on merit instead of personality.

"We found that introverted employees are especially sensitive to their co-workers' interpersonal traits, in particular extraversion and disagreeableness," Leavitt said. "They make judgments and evaluate performance of others with those traits in mind."

In close quarters like an office, we all become very aware of our differences, and this paper proposes some compelling — but also a little nerve-wracking — real world consequences for these differences. Leavitt suggests that extroverts tone down their behavior around their more introverted colleagues. Managers can make a difference, too, by encouraging more interaction between employees and acknowledging the bias that may exist in these peer-to-peer evaluations.

Maybe by putting this advice into practice, the SBDCW will show me and my fellow extroverts some mercy.

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