Introverts Can Hinder Extroverted Co-Workers’ Careers

A new study shows that introverted employees are more likely to give poor job performance evaluations to extroverted co-workers.

This gives introverts a powerful role in workplaces that rely on peer-to-peer evaluation tools for awarding raises, bonuses, or promotions, according to researchers at Oregon State University (OSU), the University of Florida, and University of Notre Dame.

In two studies, the researchers found that introverts consistently rated extroverted co-workers as worse performers, were less likely to give them credit for work performed, or endorse them for advancement opportunities.

“The magnitude with which introverts underrated performance of extroverts was surprising,” said Dr. Keith Leavitt, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Business and a co-author of the studies. “The results were very consistent across both studies.”

“The research offers new insight into the role personality traits play in the workplace, especially where employees can have significant influence on their colleagues’ careers,” said Leavitt, an expert in organizational behavior.

For example, he said that at Google, colleagues can award bonuses to peers. And on the networking site LinkedIn, employees have the opportunity to recommend or endorse their peers.

“That gives employees a tremendous amount of power to influence their peers’ career opportunities,” he said. “It’s something individuals and employers should be aware of.

“While there is already considerable research that shows how personality traits affect job performance, there is little research exploring how one employee’s personality traits affect another employee in the workplace,” Leavitt said.

That spurred him and his colleagues to conduct two studies to test how co-workers’ personalities interact to influence their evaluations of one another.

One study involved 178 MBA students at a large southeastern university. Each student was assigned to a four- or five-person project team for the semester. Midway through the term, the students completed questionnaires about their team members, team processes, and their own personalities.

The results showed that introverted team members rated the performance of other introverts higher than that of extroverts. In contrast, ratings made by extroverts were not significantly influenced by the personalities of the team members they were rating, the researchers reported.

In the second study, 143 students in a management program participated in an online game, lasting about 10 minutes, with three teammates. Unbeknownst to the students, the teammates were all electronic confederates, and one 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, the researchers explained.

The students then evaluated their team members and made recommendations about promotions or awarding bonuses. The study’s findings showed that introverts gave lower evaluations and smaller bonuses to the extroverted version of the electronic team member, even though all the versions of the confederate team member performed the same.

Extraverted participants were largely unaffected by the interpersonal traits of their team members and awarded evaluations and bonuses based on merit, the researchers discovered.

“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.”

Leavitt suggested that extraverted employees might need to use a “dimmer switch” when interacting with introverted peers. He added that employers or supervisors may need to consider that the personality traits of evaluators could bring a degree of bias into evaluations, bonus awards, or other personnel decisions that rely on peer-to-peer feedback. Managers also may want to reconsider forcing interaction among employees or teams, he said.

“In future studies, researchers hope to further explore how personality traits impact team effectiveness, including a closer examination of where personality issues affect team functionality,” Leavitt said.

The study was published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Source: Oregon State University