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Introverted Employee

Are Introverted Employees Inferior?

As an introvert, you may sometimes feel that your quieter nature is unfairly judged in the workplace. However, take heart – you are far from alone. According to a recent 2023 study, an estimated 40-50% of the workforce is identified as introverted. Introverts are, in fact, a significant presence in the modern workplace, not a minority.

Moreover, introverts bring a unique set of valuable strengths to organizations. In this article, we’ll explore the world of introversion and dispel the widespread but mistaken assumption that extroversion is the ideal trait for professional success.

Introverted Employee

What is Introversion?

The Big Five Personality traits, a prominent psychological framework, classify individuals along five key dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism. Within this model, introversion and extraversion exist as two opposing ends of the spectrum.

Introverts are those who tend to prefer solitude, feeling fatigued by excessive social interaction and generally appearing more reserved. It may be helpful to visualise a “social battery” – introverts are those who find this battery depleted after social events, while extroverts are those who feel energised and recharged. As a result, introverts often seek solitude to restore their reserves after engaging in social activities, not because they dislike such events, but because they can find them draining.

Determining whether you fall into the introvert or extrovert category is not guesswork. There are well-validated self-report questionnaires available online that can measure your placement along the introversion-extraversion spectrum, as well as assess the other Big Five personality traits. If you are uncertain about your tendencies, investing 10 minutes to complete one of these assessments can provide valuable insight into your own personality profile.

Introverts at Work

At work, introverted individuals often prefer to operate in a solitary manner, as this is where they feel most productive. Given that introverts tend to feel drained after prolonged social interactions, working alone allows them to conserve their energy and prevent burnout. During meetings, introverted employees are more likely to remain quiet due to their reflective nature, speaking up only when they have a truly insightful contribution to make, rather than feeling compelled to be the first to voice their thoughts.

This combination of tendencies can unfortunately contribute to the facade that introverts are less capable than their extroverted counterparts. In many business settings, traits such as active social engagement, initiative-taking, and assertiveness are highly valued and rewarded. When compared to extroverts, introverts may be perceived as socially awkward and passive. The consequences of this negative evaluation are reflected in empirical research, which has found that extroverts tend to experience greater success in job applications and career advancement.

Debunking Myths of Introversion: Faulty Psychological Theory

The ideal worker is often portrayed as an extrovert, while their introverted counterparts are seen as inferior. However, is this perception truly accurate? The apparent disadvantage of embodying introverted traits stems from a faulty theoretical understanding. Recent research has supported the notion that all personality traits can shine given the right situation. Additionally, the rewards assigned to extraversion could be a culturally specific phenomenon, exhibiting extraversion might not provide an edge in East Asian environments.

The bias towards extroversion has its theoretical roots from Sigmund Freud. Freud, the most famous psychologist to have ever lived, was the first to theorise on extraversion versus introversion. He concluded that introversion is a sign of developmental immaturity and neurosis, a view that was generally agreed upon in research until the 1970s. However, contemporary works have proved many of Freud’s assertions wrong, as there is no evidence that connects introversion, developmental maturity, and neuroticism.

In the work context, extraversion only predicts high job performance for occupations that require extensive social interaction, such as managerial and sales representative roles. On the other hand, introverts have found successful careers in fields like software engineering and data analytics. Interestingly, the personality trait that has consistently predicted job performance across industries is conscientiousness – the disposition of self-control and being well-organised.

Surprisingly, there is also evidence to suggest that individuals who are high in neuroticism, and therefore have low emotional stability, are better at completing tasks. This indicates that each personality trait has its own unique strengths and that it is inaccurate to think there is a “better” personality type over another.


The key takeaway is that there is no one-size-fits-all ideal worker. Rather, the right fit between an individual’s personality traits and the demands of a particular role or occupation is what allows employees to unlock their full potential and be most productive. A strength-based approach to evaluating and assigning tasks is important, as it enables team leaders to capitalize on the diverse strengths of their employees.


The notion of the extrovert ideal worker has deep cultural roots. Psychological science has been historically Eurocentric, producing knowledge that carries inherent cultural limitations. The relationship between personality and reward is, in part, mediated by cultural influences.

Debunking Myths of Introversion: Cultural Differences

In Western individualist cultures, individuals are primarily motivated by their own personal preferences, needs, and rights. To thrive in such a society, an individual must validate and express their unique, internal attributes and goals. Attributes associated with extraversion, such as assertiveness and sociability, allow individuals to fulfil aspirational societal expectations in these individualist cultures, which are then manifested through rewards in the workplace.

In contrast, cross-cultural research has shown that Asians, on average, tend to be less extroverted than their European counterparts. A possible explanation for this difference could be that Asian cultures do not reward extroverted behaviours to the same degree as Western individualist cultures. As a result, less extroverted behaviours emerge, leading to lower overall ratings of extraversion.

This cultural difference can be attributed to the contrasting values and norms between Asian and Western societies. Rather than asserting one’s individual goals, Asian cultures tend to emphasise the importance of maintaining harmonious relationships within the social group. Traits associated with introversion, such as shyness, are often evaluated positively in Asian societies, as they are seen to indicate maturity and self-restraint.

Conversely, the same introverted traits may be viewed as immaturity and discouraged in Western individualist cultures, where the ideal is often the confident, assertive individual who actively pursues their personal aspirations. This highlights how the desirability of certain personality characteristics is heavily influenced by the cultural context.

Understanding these cross-cultural differences in the valuation of personality traits is crucial when evaluating employee performance and potential in an increasingly globalised workforce. Adopting a more culturally-sensitive and inclusive approach, rather than relying on Eurocentric norms, can help organisations unlock the diverse strengths of a diverse employee base.

Conclusion

As this article has highlighted, the introvert experience in the workplace is complex and often misunderstood. While the extrovert ideal persists in many Western business cultures, the reality is that introverts comprise a significant portion of the modern workforce. By fostering an inclusive environment that values diverse personality types, businesses can unlock the full potential of their entire workforce, introverts and extroverts alike.

Ultimately, the path to organisational success lies in embracing the natural diversity of human personality, not prescribing to a one-size-fits-all notion of the ideal employee.

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