“Looking for vibrant, flexible candidates with excellent communication skills”

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“Looking for vibrant, flexible candidates with excellent communication skills”

How extraversion expectations at work are experienced by employees

Master Thesis

Master’s program Communication Science Graduate School of Communication

University of Amsterdam Name: Lieke Kampman Student number: 13941704 Supervisor: Dr. Deniz Maden Tomaselli

Word count: 81881 Date: 01-07-2022




Corporate culture and climate lean strongly towards extraversion while disapproving of introversion. A lack of understanding of introversion exists, overlooking the strengths of introverts and generally not accommodating for introvert personalities within the workplace.

Similarly, research has predominantly focused on the benefits of extraversion and the experiences of employees working in an extraverted-oriented environment have been overlooked. Therefore, this study aims to provide a deeper understanding of how employees with diverse personality styles experience and feel about extraversion-related expectations at work. Using phenomenology, ten in-depth interviews were conducted with office workers in the Netherlands. Through an iterative process, four key themes emerged: (1) the diversity paradox, (2) adaptive personality, (3) collaboration as key, and (4) Covid-19 and workplace customization. Participants, both introverts and extraverts, demonstrate a high demand and desire for collaboration, pointing towards a high level of interdependence at work.

Furthermore, the study reveals a corporate culture in which participants value diversity in personality styles. At the same time, participants indicate a preference for working with similar colleagues, which can result in homogeneity. There are project and position-specific expectations to which participants feel pressure to adapt. Participants sometimes describe their personality as an obstacle to overcome, depending on what type of behaviour the situation demands. High demand for collaboration, pressure to adapt and lack of diversity all point toward a corporate culture in which extraversion is beneficial. However, while the study points toward an extraversion-biased work environment, this is not necessarily experienced negatively. This could be due to the new opportunities for autonomy and restoration brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling participants to increasingly customize their work environment to their personality and limiting the negative consequences of routinely

suppressing natural behaviour. The results of the study can help right the imbalance between



how intro- and extraversion are viewed in academic literature and can aid leaders and decision-makers in shaping a work environment that benefits everyone equally.

Keywords: introversion, extraversion, personality style, corporate communication, phenomenology



Table of contents

Introduction ... 5

Literature Review ... 8

Defining intro- and extraversion ... 8

The extravert ideal ... 10

Personality as context-dependent ... 11

Workplace diversity ... 12

Methodology ... 13

Research design ... 13

Data collection ... 16

Procedure ... 18

Data Analysis ... 18

Credibility, transferability and trustworthiness ... 19

Results ... 21

The diversity paradox ... 21

Adaptive personality ... 23

Collaboration is key ... 25

Conclusion and discussion ... 28

Theoretical implications ... 30

Practical implications ... 30

Limitations and suggestions for future research... 31

References ... 33

Appendix A ... 41

Appendix B ... 46




“Our ideal candidate has an outgoing character, is hands-on, decisive and dares to step forward”. This quote, which was taken from a job listing in the Netherlands, is not unusual to come across when browsing job search websites. Extraversion and introversion are not

viewed as equally desirable in the workforce, as evidenced by the job posting, which suggests an environment where extraverts can thrive. Most people are familiar with the concepts of introversion and extraversion. This might be through a viral TEDtalk (Cain, 2012; Corbett, 2016) or other media formats that have popularized the subject. Intro- and extraversion are used far and wide and are the most common way to describe personality style (Hvidsten, 2016). Nevertheless, the concepts are often coupled with rigid and incorrect stereotypes (Grant, 2013). Contrary to common assumption, introverts are not always quiet wallflowers and extraverts are not always social butterflies. Instead, the labels of extraversion and introversion are based on a person’s response to external stimuli. While extraverted

individuals gain energy from external stimuli, introverted individuals do not (Taylor, 2020).

Shortly summarized, extraversion is typically characterized as being more outgoing and energetic, while introversion is characterised as being reflective and reserved (Taylor, 2020).

Extraverts only comprise a part of the population (Grant, 2013). No official data exists on how extraverted and introverted personality styles are divided among people exactly.

However, there have been estimates that up to fifty percent of people do not identify as fully extraverted (Blevins et al., 2021). The current Western corporate environment does not reflect this diversity in personality styles, rather accommodating mostly for extraversion (Blevins et al., 2021; Taylor, 2020).

In today’s corporate environment, there is an increasing demand for dynamism and agility (Balsari-Palsule, & Little, 2020). Employees are likely to experience demands to act extraverted (Balsari-Palsule, & Little, 2020), to be flexible and quick to adapt (Huang et al.,



2014). Wilmut et al. (2019) show how extraverted behaviour in the workplace leads to extensive advantages, including motivational, emotional, interpersonal and performance advantages. Moreover, McCord and Joseph (2020) recently proposed a framework to explain the largely negative responses to introversion at work. A lack of understanding of introversion seems to exist, overlooking the strengths of introverts and generally not accommodating for introvert personalities within the workplace. This is further demonstrated by the widespread transition from private office spaces to open-plan shared workspaces (Kim, & de Dear, 2013).

An open-plan workplace is not only cost-effective, but also aims to stimulate and facilitate employee collaboration and communication (Kim, & de Dear, 2013), creating an environment that favours extraverts (Farrell, 2017). While this certainly has its advantages, the current corporate environment is not optimal for all employees.

Academic literature has up till now primarily concentrated on the advantages of extraversion (Blevins et al., 2021). There is an extensive list of academic articles that have studied how extraversion relates to certain qualities, including who makes a better leader (Bono, & Judge, 2004; Spark et al., 2018), who works better in teams (Van Vianen, & De Dreu, 2001), and even who is happier (DeNeve, & Cooper, 1998). Prior research on introversion in the workplace has focused on, for example, introversion as a barrier to tacit knowledge sharing (Hvidsten, 2016), whether negative responses to introversion at work are mistreatment or a legitimate response (McCord, & Joseph, 2020), and the correlation between introversion and preference for working in secluded spaces (Oishi, & Choi, 2020). Although the strengths of introverts are also given attention (Kuofie et al., 2015), this is insignificant in comparison to the attention given to extraversion. All main theories and descriptive models of personality traits focus on extraversion (Wilmot et al., 2019). Blevins et al. (2021) emphasize how research up till now has overlooked the experience of introverted individuals in an extraversion-oriented environment. Hence, Belvins et al. (2021) recommend that future



research focus on righting the imbalance between how introversion and extraversion are viewed. Both introverted and extraverted individuals have characteristics that are important to come to the best results. To truly understand this, more research is needed on the “unseen (and unheard) contributions owed to introverted individuals” (Belvins et al., 2021, p. 94). The current study aims to do that by focusing on how employees experience and feel about the bias toward extraversion in the workplace. Intro- and extraversion should be seen as part of a spectrum, in which most people fall somewhere in the middle (Taylor, 2020), therefore both the introvert and extravert perspectives are considered in this study. This also enables comparison of their experiences and feelings.

The results of the study can be beneficial in advancing our understanding of how personality style differences are experienced in the workplace and can aid decision-makers in shaping a work environment that benefits everyone equally. When personality style and surroundings are compatible, there is less of a need for adaptation, which benefits the employee (Roberts, & Robins, 2004). To get the best results and achieve organizational success, both introverted and extraverted personality styles have to be considered, utilizing the strengths of all employees (Taylor, 2020). The study will add to the body of knowledge on introversion and extraversion by offering a more pluralistic viewpoint that can promote workplace diversity. To do so, the current research will look into the experiences of employees working in an extraverted-oriented workplace. This will be done using the following research question:

Research Question: How do employees with diverse personality styles experience and feel about extraversion-related expectations within the workplace?



Literature Review

Defining intro- and extraversion

Carl Jung, a physician and psychologist, first described introversion and extraversion in his book Personality Types in the 1920s. He set out to find the key similarities and differences in behaviour between people, creating his basic theory of personality types (Peters, 1993). In his writings, Jung identified two sets of psychological functions: thinking and feeling and

sensation and intuition (Jung, 1976). Each of these functions can be expressed in either introverted or extraverted form. People with an extraverted (outward-turning) attitude draw energy from the outer world while people with an introverted (inward-turning) attitude draw energy from their internal world (Jung, 1976). Since their introduction, the labels intro- and extraversion have been extensively used to describe personality. Various personality

assessments are rooted in Jung’s ideas, including the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (Opt &

Loffredo, 2000; Peters, 1993).

Jung’s theories have not only been studied widely in psychology and psychiatry but the concepts of introversion and extraversion are understood to be biological in nature as well (Opt, & Loffredo, 2000). While it is possible to display, develop, and strengthen skills not commonly associated with your personality type (Farrell, 2017), part of personality is assumed to be determined at birth. Children are born with an inclination toward introversion or extraversion, related to their response to external stimuli. In a classic longitudinal study which began in 1989, psychologist Jerome Kagan followed 500 four-month-old babies up to adolescence. Kegan was able to predict whether the babies would grow up to be more introverted or extraverted as teenagers based on how they reacted to external stimuli. Babies who reacted very strongly to external stimuli, including voices and popping balloons, were considered highly reactive. These highly reactive children had a more introverted personality later in life, being very sensitive to external stimuli and therefore seeking less of them (Kagan



et al., 1998). The results of Kagan’s study align with Jung’s theories, in which attitude toward the outer and inner world is indicative of personality type.

However, over the years, intro- and extraversion have been defined in various ways, depending on the school of thought. The field of personality psychology has long used the Big Five model of personality as a taxonomy of personality traits to provide one structure for personality research (John, & Srivastava, 1999). The Big Five consists of the labels extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Initially,

extraversion in this taxonomy was labelled as talkative, assertive and energetic. Throughout the years, extraversion has been referred to by different researchers as confident self-

expression, surgency, assertive, dominant, sociable and expressive, among others (John, &

Srivastava, 1999). John and Srivastrava (1999) give a brief description of extraversion which implies “an energetic approach toward the social and material world and includes traits such as sociability, activity, assertiveness, and positive emotionality” (p. 30). For decades, the Big Five has been the dominant model of personality (Feher, & Vernon, 2021). It has been used to predict various organizational outcomes, including job performance (Barrick, & Mount, 1991;

John, & Srivastrava, 1999), organizational commitment (Erdheim et al., 2006), burnout (Bakker et al., 2006), entrepreneurial intentions (Şahin et al., 2019), and leadership (Shahzad et al., 2020).

The Big Five taxonomy defines personality in terms of whether extraverted traits are present. Defining the concept in such a way undermines traits commonly associated with introversion. Descriptions such as the ones used in the Big Five taxonomy oversimplify the concepts, dividing the world into intro- and extraverts. Furthermore, the meaning attached to the concepts of intro- and extraversion has become closely intertwined with stereotypes (Grant, 2013). For example, introversion is commonly associated with shyness, which is a distinct social anxiety different from introversion (Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020). An



introverted person is not incapable of displaying traits commonly associated with

extraversion, and vice versa (Farrell, 2017). When a person exhibits characteristics from both personality types, it is commonly referred to as having an ambivert personality (Taylor, 2020). The current study takes Jung’s original theory as a starting point, aiming to omit the stereotyping of intro- and extraversion as much as possible and instead looking at personality as a flexible spectrum in which response towards external stimuli is leading.

The extravert ideal

In her book ‘Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking’, Cain (2012) highlights the bias toward extraversion in Western society. She has dubbed this the “extravert ideal”, which refers to "the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight" (Cain, 2012). Indeed, in Western society, extraversion is

considered a socially desirable trait that carries powerful normative value (Balsari-Palsule, &

Little, 2020). Though an introverted personality style is common, society forces introverts to live in an extraverted world (Farrell, 2017; Kuofie et al., 2015). Extraverted behaviour is strongly tied to societal expectations and benefits. For example, people displaying positive facial expressions (e.g. cheerfulness) are judged to be more extraverted (Borkenau et al., 2009), extraverted people are considered more attractive as romantic partners (Figueredo et al., 2006), and extraverted people are generally deemed more likeable (Wortman, & Wood, 2011). Furthermore, Blevins et al. (2021), found a bias towards extraversion in academic literature, associating extraversion with positive characteristics such as outgoingness and socialness. Introversion, on the other hand, was often associated with negative attributes such as awkwardness and was even described as low extraversion.

The extravert ideal is also present in the workplace (Kuofie et al., 2015). Extraverted employees can expect significant and consistent benefits, including career success and

duration (Wilmot et al., 2019). At work, introversion is often treated as a limitation that needs



to be treated (Dossey, 2016; Wilmot et al., 2019). Characteristics commonly associated with extraversion, such as charisma and charm (Kuofie et al., 2015), are valued in the current corporate environment while the strengths of introverts, including analytical skills, problem- solving and creativity (Kuofie et al., 2015), are overlooked. Furthermore, extraverted

personality traits are frequently associated with effective leadership (Farrell, 2015; Kuofie et al., 2015). As a result, extraverted individuals are favoured in the recruiting and promotional process (Dossey, 2016). Corporate culture and climate lean strongly towards and encourage extraversion while disapproving of introversion (Blevins et al., 2021; Taylor, 2020).

Personality as context-dependent

Several studies have pointed out the correlation between acting extraverted and positive affect (Jacques-Hamilton et al., 2018; Smillie, 2013; Zelenski, 2012). In other words, behaving extraverted feels good. Extraversion is easily recognizable in others, sometimes by relying on stereotypes (McCord, & Joseph, 2020). Furthermore, of the Big Five personality traits, extraversion is the easiest to ‘fake’ (Leikas et al., 2013). While everyone has a preferred personality style, this preference can be overcome when the situation demands it (Farrell, 2017). Combine this with the heap of advantages extraverted individuals can expect to enjoy and the daily demands in the workplace to adapt and it does not come as a surprise that people will enact extraversion at work, even when this does not come naturally to them (Balsari- Palsule & Little, 2020). Similarly, Little (2008) describes the adoption of free traits, behaviour that has intentionally been created to advance core goals, regardless of natural behaviour. For example, a naturally more introverted person acts extraverted at work to obtain a leadership position. While personality is used to predict behavioural outcomes, behaviour can also fluctuate depending on the context. In personality psychology, this is referred to as the person-situation debate (Fleeson, 2004). On the one hand, personality describes behaviour well over longer periods and stability in behaviour is expected (Fleeson, 2004). On the other



hand, people can act differently depending on the situation they find themselves in, resulting in within-person variation (Fleeson, 2004). One of the potential explanations for behaving out of character is the desire to behave following social norms, in this case, the extravert ideal.

When social norms are being met, this can result in positive feelings (Smillie, 2013).

However, routinely acting out of character and suppressing one’s natural emotions can be damaging (Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020). Jacques-Hamilton et al. (2018) show how introverts instructed to act extraverted report higher rates of positive affect. Interestingly, extraverts instructed to act introverted do not experience the same positive consequences, rather reporting a high rate of emotional exhaustion (Zelenski et al., 2012). Similarly, introverts at the end of the intro-extraversion spectrum acting extraverted report feelings of negative effect, exhaustion and inauthenticity (Jacques-Hamilton et al., 2018). Feelings of inauthenticity are known to stimulate the development of reputational confusion and imposter syndrome, potentially affecting career outcomes (Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020). These negative feelings can be restored by removing overstimulation and allowing for introversion (Little, 2008; Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020). This has practical implications for the physical office space and company culture, which has to provide enough physical and mental

possibilities for restoration by providing closed-off office spaces, autonomy and supportive organizational culture (Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020). Furthermore, the person-environment fit framework indicates that individuals benefit most from a fit between their personality traits and their environment, placing fewer demands on them to adapt (Roberts, & Robins, 2004).

The ‘extravert ideal’ described above suggests that this is currently not the case for introverted individuals.

Workplace diversity

While society pushes for diversity, individuals seek similarity and familiarity. Hackett and Hogg (2014) have coined this the diversity paradox. On the one hand, Western societies



increasingly value diversity at work, be it diversity in race, age, social values, socioeconomic status, or attitude (Hackett, & Hogg, 2014). Diversity is considered important not only to increase acceptance, but also to accomplish that which cannot be accomplished alone (Hackett, & Hogg, 2014). Diversity in personality styles, including both introverted and extraverted individuals, is needed to utilize the strengths and balance out the weaknesses of the other (Farrel, 2017). On the other hand, the bias towards extraversion suggests a

homogeneous workplace in which everyone is or acts extraverted. While diversity is valued, similarity between colleagues is likely. Uncertainty-identity theory suggests that people strive for similarity to reduce self-uncertainty (Hogg, 2000). Group identification ensures a sense of belonging and makes behavior predictable, prescribing how people ought to behave and interact with one another (Hackett & Hogg, 2014). This quest for similarity can also be seen in the hiring process, which is not only a process of skill matching but also a process of cultural matching in which candidates are picked that are culturally similar to the employer (Rivera, 2012). Personality assessments are increasingly used in selection and promotion processes, generally favouring more extraverted employees, thereby overlooking equally qualified introverted individuals (McCord, & Joseph, 2020).


Research design

A qualitative research design was selected to study the research question: ‘How do employees with diverse personality styles experience and feel about extraversion-related expectations within the workplace?’ Its focus is on gathering in-depth knowledge about people’s feelings and experiences, data that is difficult to quantify. Qualitative research is suitable when researching topics that go beyond quantification, creating a fuller understanding of the phenomenon while recognizing the nuances that can be lost when using quantitative methods



(Babbie, 2016). Furthermore, qualitative research allows for an ongoing iterative process in which induction and deduction alternate (Babbie, 2016). The flexible nature of qualitative research permits the revisiting of insights throughout the research process, which creates a more sophisticated understanding of the research topic (Srivastava, & Hopwood, 2009).

Phenomenology is the most suitable qualitative approach for this study.

Phenomenology is a research design in which the researcher seeks to understand the

experiences of participants about a certain phenomenon (Gill, 2014). In the case of the current research, the aim is to understand the lived experiences of employees in a predominantly extraverted-oriented workplace. Existing research primarily focuses on extraversion and extraverted personality traits are idealized and expected. Phenomenology is suitable to study the feelings and perceptions of employees working in this environment as phenomenology aims to get to the universal essence of experiences, without necessarily developing a theory (Creswell et al., 2007). According to Antoniadou and Crowder (2019), phenomenology can be used to better understand the complexities of organizational life. Phenomenology has been successfully used in similar public relations research, enabling the researchers to understand how organizational activities are experienced by employees (Daymon, & Holloway, 2010;

Lemon, & Palenchar, 2018).


Both purposive and snowball sampling were used to gather the participants needed for the study. Purposive sampling enabled the selection of participants that fit the criteria and that brought the most insights to the study (Merriam, 2009). This ensured maximum variation, taking into account various angles and ensuring that a wide scope of perspectives related to the phenomenon was considered (Merriam, 2009). To reach enough participants, snowball sampling was used also. In snowball sampling, participants suggest other candidates who fit


15 the selection criteria (Babbie, 2016).

The participants are all individuals employed by an organization based in the Netherlands, including for-profit and government organizations. Cross-cultural differences regarding intro- and extraversion at work appear to be converging, however, further research is necessary to determine whether the extravert ideal is globally generalizable (McCord, &

Joseph, 2020). Therefore, the country of the researcher was chosen to prevent cultural bias.

Furthermore, considering the phenomenological nature of the study, the most important criterion during the sampling process was the participant’s experience with the phenomenon (Moser, & Korstjens, 2018).Participants were selected based on their experience working within an extraversion-oriented office environment in the Netherlands. To best study how extraversion bias is experienced in the workplace, organizations that favor collaboration and work within an open, flexible office space were preferred. Furthermore, an office job is favored over other types of work such as manual jobs due to the previously shown preference for extraversion in the corporate environment (Blevins et al., 2021; Taylor, 2020). The

starting point of the sampling was the personal network of the researcher. Short discussions with the participants before the interviews and the use of snowball sampling ensured that all participants had experience with the phenomenon.

Data saturation was reached after interviewing 10 participants. Saturation is reached when additional interviews provide no new insights (Bowen, 2008; Guest et al., 2006), the existing information is enough to replicate the study (O’Reilly & Parker, 2012; Walker, 2012), and additional coding is not feasible (Guest et al., 2006). When using purposive sampling methods, generalizability and representativeness of the sample are not the end goal.

Therefore, the sample size is less important than the richness of the data (Bowen, 2008). After 9 interviews it became apparent that similar comments were being made and no new concepts were being brought up, indicating that the data was sufficient in richness. One additional



interview confirmed that data saturation had indeed been reached.

There were 6 male and 4 female participants ranging from 24 to 59 in age. All

participants had the Dutch nationality and had completed higher education. As the purpose of the study is to understand individual experiences, participants varied in their characteristics including their personality style and position within the company. The sample consisted of three self-proclaimed introverts, four extraverts and three ambiverts (not completely intro- or extravert). Participants represented a variety of job titles and industries, including

government, healthcare, construction, entertainment, and marketing and communications. The pseudonyms indicated in Table 1 are used throughout the following chapters to ensure

confidentiality and anonymity as much as possible (Wiles et al., 2008).

Table 1: Participants

# Pseudonym Gender Age Personality (self- described)

Position Years with company

1. Rachel Female 57 Ambivert Team leader 33 years

2. Anne Female 24 Extravert Communications employee 1.5 years

3. Lucas Male 31 Introvert Project manager 10 months

4. Oliver Male 28 Ambivert Project manager 1.5 years

5. Daan Male 31 Ambivert Project leader 4 years

6. Bart Male 36 Extravert Project leader 3 years

7. Willem Male 24 Introvert Content creator 2 years

8. John Male 59 Extravert Team leader 16 years

9. Julia Female 25 Introvert Trainee 8 months

10. Natalie Female 57 Extravert Communications employee 40 years

Data collection

In phenomenology, data is primarily gathered through in-depth interviews (Creswell et al., 2007). Interviews are suitable to obtain perceptions, thoughts, and feelings and are widely used to elicit stories of personal experience (Moser, & Korstjens, 2018; Prior, 2018). A semi- structured interview guide (Appendix A) containing mostly open-ended questions was used.

When necessary, follow-up questions and probes were used to gather more elaborate responses. When talking about personal experiences, the interviewer is expected to show understanding by displaying empathy and showing connection with the interviewee to build rapport (Prior, 2018). To do so, all interviews started with some casual conversation before


17 moving on to the substantive questions.

The interview guide consists of three topics, excluding the introduction and

demographics. Firstly, the topic of job description and physical surroundings was discussed to obtain a sense of the collaborative nature of the company. This topic included questions regarding the company and position of the participant, but also the nature of their day-to-day activities at work. Furthermore, this topic included questions about the physical office and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. These questions were descriptive in nature and served to confirm whether the workplace was extraversion oriented. Next, the interview moved on to the topic of personality style. The aim of this topic was to determine whether the participant identified as more introverted or extraverted. Personality style in the current study was based on self-evaluation. First, participants were asked to describe their personalities using their own words. To avoid stereotyping, participants were then given a brief theory-based description of introversion and extraversion and were asked to indicate which personality style they identified with more, and why. This was supplemented by questions inspired by common personality measurement scales such as the Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck, & Eysenck, 1993) and the Big Five Inventory (John, & Srivastrava, 1999).

Questions were adapted to fit a work context and qualitative research design. Lastly, the topic of experiences and expectations combined the previous two, connecting personality with the workplace and the company. In this section, participants were asked about the personality style of their colleagues and the overall fit between their personality and work culture and environment. Elsbach (2003) conducted interviews in a similar manner to look into how well an individual's identity fits with their office environment.

The synthesis of the literature served as the foundation for the interview questions.

Considering the iterative nature of this study, going back and forth between the interview guide, theory and data was possible (Babbie, 2016; Srivastava, & Hopwood, 2009). After



multiple interviews, it became clear that certain questions did not yield suitable responses (e.g. Would you rather express yourself to colleagues in writing or verbally?). Therefore, the interview guide was adapted, omitting questions where necessary as the interviews

progressed. The interview guide in Appendix A is the final version.


The interviews were conducted in May 2022. The interviews lasted between 28 and 58

minutes, with the interviews lasting approximately 40 minutes. All interviews were conducted using the online video calling software Zoom. The interviews were all recorded with the consent of the interviewees using both Zoom and a separate recording device to aid

transcription and prevent data loss. Before the interview, all interviewees signed an informed consent form (Appendix B), ensuring that they were aware of and agreed with participating in the interview. The informed consent form also emphasized the participants’ anonymity and their right to withdraw their participation at any time. All interviews were conducted in Dutch. This is the native language of the participants, resulting in the richest responses.

Data Analysis

The interviews were transcribed manually by the researcher. No transcribing software was used due to the limited availability of affordable Dutch transcribing services. The transcripts, totaling 109 pages, were read while simultaneously listening to the recordings to ensure the accuracy of the transcripts. Afterwards, formal coding started using the data analysis software Atlas.ti. Codes assign meaning to the data in the study and enable analysis and organization of the data (Miles et al., 2014). No coding scheme was used in the coding process, rather the analysis emerged from the words used by the participants. Transcripts were assigned codes through an open coding process in which no attempt was made at narrowing down (Gioia et al., 2012), resulting in 414 codes. After this, the coding process moved on to axial coding



categorizing the open codes into eight categories. A constant comparative method was used, in which transcripts were compared to uncover parallels and differences (Chen, & Haley, 2014; Williams, & Moser, 2019). Lastly, selective coding enabled the selection and integration of code categories that emerged from axial coding into meaningful themes

(Williams, & Moser, 2019). During this process, code categories were grouped and four main themes emerged from the data. Finally, a data structure was created, visualizing how the data was processed (Gioia et al., 2012) and capturing the participants’ experiences and meanings in one overview (Figure 1).

Credibility, transferability and trustworthiness

The evaluative criteria for qualitative research include credibility, transferability, and trustworthiness (Golafshani, 2003). The researcher engaged in communicative validation to reduce potential researcher bias and to increase credibility (Birt et al., 2016). Transcripts and results were discussed with the interviewees where possible, ensuring an accurate

representation of a participant’s experience (Chen, & Haley, 2014). Additionally, the

researcher engaged in the writing of memos throughout the interviewing process. Memos can assist in bridging the gap between the raw data and the topic of study (Kodish, & Gittelsohn, 2011). Memo writing improves trustworthiness and credibility, while at the same time helping to provide context and thick description, further improving credibility and transferability, making the results easier to apply to other contexts (Guba, 1981). Furthermore, credibility was increased by engaging in peer debriefing to evaluate the interview guide, final results and draft versions of the study. Due to accessibility, peers consisted of fellow master’s students doing qualitative research and the thesis supervisor. The rigorous and transparent methods chapter further increases trustworthiness, credibility and transferability. Lastly, the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software to analyze results has improved trustworthiness and therefore confidence in the research findings (Golafshani, 2003).


20 Figure 1: Data Structure




From the data, four key dimensions emerge that capture the experiences and narrative descriptions of the participants. The emergent aggregate theoretical dimensions include the following: (1) the diversity paradox, (2) adaptive personality, (3) collaboration as key, and (4) Covid-19 and workplace customization. While the participants varied in their self-defined personality styles and each had unique experiences, these four common dimensions were repeatedly verbalized by the majority of the participants. Below each dimension is discussed and supported by participant quotes. The data structure can be found in Figure 1.

The diversity paradox

The majority of participants shared a narrative that shows a disparity between the need for diversity in personality styles at work and the preference for working in homogenous teams.

Participants identified the importance of diversity in personalities at work. Simultaneously, participants expressed their preference for working with similar people. Hackett and Hogg (2014) have identified this phenomenon as the diversity paradox, in that those who value diversity strive to be surrounded by like-minded others.

Identification of benefits of personality diversity. Participants in the study displayed a high awareness of the importance and benefits of personality diversity within the workplace. Most importantly, the participants recognized that the variety of projects and positions within their company required both introverted and extraverted individuals. This is illustrated by Oliver:

“Because there are also many different types of projects, it is also important that there are many different people”. Furthermore, the participants indicate that diversity in personality styles will lead to a better outcome: “I always think it's strong that you have different personalities within a team because that is precisely why you can put down a much better



product” (Natalie). According to the participants, certain personality types are better suited for certain tasks, depending on competencies and how much a person will enjoy a task. It is deemed important that the ideal fit is found between task and personality for each employee, and there is some frustration when there is a mismatch. This is demonstrated by quotes from both Lucas and Natalie:

So there is also a very specific look at what is the nature of this work and who would suit it best, also in terms of personality. But also in terms of talents and in terms of abilities and what is within your comfort zone, or what is not in it of course. (Lucas)

We also had some further development in which we really said we should make use of everyone's qualities. What is one good at and what is the other good at? And what makes one happy and what makes the other happy. She just doesn't like big gatherings and meeting people at all. I like that very much. Then leave those things with me, I think in my innocence. (Natalie)

Preference for uniformity. While the benefits of personality diversity within teams are recognized, participants repeatedly describe their most-liked colleagues as being similar to themselves. For example, when asked about his most-liked colleagues, Oliver, who identifies as an ambivert, answers: “Yes, then I think a bit of the qualities that I myself have…So I'm looking for the same kind of people actually”. The conflict between diversity and uniformity is further illustrated by this quote from Anne, who is extraverted and also works with a lot of extraverted colleagues:

You actually want that diversity. But I do think that [similarity] makes your teams strong since everyone gets along very well and everyone has the same kind of work



attitude. But I'm really not saying that everyone […] You cannot be a shy person at my work […] I don't think we have very many introverted people, but that is partly due to the industry I work in, entertainment. And also, I think that you might be selected for that too so that you have similar people. (Anne)

While a company, on the whole, can be described as diverse, employees sharing a team or similar position are regularly described as sharing key character traits as well. Daan mentions this as well: “You can see that there are different types of people at the different layers of the organization”. Participants mention the easy collaboration among similar colleagues and emphasize that they suspect that hiring is selective based on personality and fit within the company culture. An example is this quote from Julia, who is introverted and recognizes that her direct colleagues are similar: “And that's really funny to see because I also think the company is hiring based on that to be very honest because everyone is similar. Unless you're a consultant, then you're more of a chatterbox, you need that too”.

Adaptive personality

Depending on the context both introversion and extraversion can be seen as obstacles to overcome. Participants mention various experiences in which they are expected to or benefit from acting out of character, sometimes even indicating a distinction between their work and private personalities.

Personality as an obstacle. Both intro- and extraverted personality traits can be considered obstacles to overcome depending on the position and task at hand. Participants feel like roles are associated with specific expectations, this is also mentioned by Oliver, who describes himself as an ambivert:



That is also one of my pitfalls. I always take the time to process things before I say something, I don't say things quickly […] While I should be a bit more proactive in certain meetings […] In this profession as a project manager it also requires a kind of leadership. And then you just have to step up a bit faster in some cases. (Oliver)

Multiple participants mentioned that managers are expected to be more extraverted. This is explained by John, who is a manager and identifies as extraverted: “That's why you're a manager, it would be weird if you weren't. So then you really are the initiator of a meeting and I do most of the talking”. Participants indicate that the expectations associated with their position do not always come naturally to them, and have to be learned over time. The lack of the right personality traits for a position can be a source of insecurity for the participants. As Julia (introvert) mentions: “I always find it more difficult to communicate with a group and to be on the same track. And very often there are other people who walk over me a little more”.

Personality is context-dependent. The majority of the participants identified a shift in their personality depending on what the situation demands, sometimes even identifying a

completely different work and private personality like Daan (ambivert): “My personality huh, so not my work personality?”. Both introverted and extraverted individuals mention that they will adapt to meet demands at work, however, participants who identify as ambivert are most outspoken about this. Given that ambiverts display characteristics from both personality types, it stands to reason that these participants engage in adapting the most. Naturally more

reserved participants feel the pressure to speak up and engage, as is demonstrated by Rachel (ambivert): “I think I tend to be outgoing at work. And outside of work, depending on the group, I am sometimes introverted too.” Naturally more outgoing participants describe that they sometimes hold back a bit at work. Like Oliver (ambivert) illustrates: “I hold back much



more at work. A few people have already noticed that. They have the idea that I behave more politely here than when I am private.” The main reasons mentioned for this are the desire to be taken seriously while at work and excel in their position. The importance of trust and familiarity with colleagues to be yourself was also regularly mentioned.

Collaboration is key

All but one participant indicated that they had a preference for collaborative work.

Interestingly, participants mention this preference regardless of their personality style. Only Julia, who identifies as introverted, stated that she preferred working alone since it allowed her to address issues independently and therefore learn more quickly during her the early stages of her career. For every participant, collaboration was part of their day-to-day work, and the participants collectively appreciated this, regardless of their self-described

personality. They indicate that there is both a want and a need for collaboration in the workplace.

Need for collaboration. All participants consider teamwork to be an essential part of their work. There is a strong sense of interdependence between colleagues, without collaboration work can often not be done at all as constant coordination is required. Lucas, an introvert, emphasizes this: “I think collaboration is really key in this company. Yes, you don't really do anything alone here. There are so many dependencies and processes are so complex that working independently hardly actually occurs”. The need for collaboration connects to the benefits of personality diversity in the workplace. The variety of projects does not only require a variety of personalities, it also requires extensive collaboration. The complexity of the work and the need for different skill sets make collaboration a necessity, as John

(extravert) explains in the quote below:



I truly believe in collaboration. Yes, absolutely. It can’t be done otherwise. When you do a project, you are dealing with a client, you are dealing with users, there is simply no other way. You can't do that alone. (John)

Want for collaboration. While collaboration is a requirement to work well, participants also indicate that they enjoy working in teams. This is mentioned by participants with all

personality styles. Participants indicate that working alone can be boring, and working with colleagues is really what makes the job enjoyable. Rachel, who identifies as an ambivert, confirms this: “That's part of the fun of the job. Look, in part the work is about the content, but it is mainly because you achieve things together. And that you also belong somewhere”.

Furthermore, collaboration provides the participants with a sparring partner and confirmation of their ideas. This is explained by Bart (extravert): “I like to work towards something

together with people. It also gives a bit of rest, division of work, to be able to spar with other people”.

Workplace customization

Out of all participants, only one participant worked in a private office. The other nine shared office space with three or more people, often in open-plan offices. Participants express the need for their physical workplace to match their personality and preferences. Participants identify both pros and cons of working in an office and working from home. Work processes have been influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling participants to customize their workplace to their preferences, providing room for restoration where necessary.

Workplace preferences. Participants in the study mention a need for autonomy in their workplace, resulting in a repeatedly voiced dislike towards open-plan offices by both introverted and extraverted participants. Bart, who is extraverted, voices his dislike of open-


27 plan offices:

It's really a failure, I think, those open-plan offices. Imagine I would ever apply for a job somewhere and I'm expected to work in an open-plan office, then I say no thanks I'm not going to work here. Just give me an office where you can have some peace and privacy, where you can also build a relationship with the colleague next to you. (Bart)

Open-plan offices are described as distracting and irritating, with participants choosing to wear headphones to focus. Daan, who identifies as an ambivert, explains: “I'm personally not a big fan of people being able to talk to you all day long. I find it really irritating.” However, participants also indicate that the shared offices are more fun and the interactions with colleagues are valuable. In this quote, Natalie, who is extraverted, illustrates how working in shared office spaces has both a positive and negative side “I notice that when I'm in the office I spend a lot more time chatting. My productivity is much lower. But, well, it also yields something”. A balance needs to be found between approachability and privacy, in which the participant is the one to decide whether the door is left open or closed. Participants indicate that there is a lack of room for restoration, in which there is very limited space to work in solitude when in the office.

Increased autonomy due to Covid-19. The Covid-19 pandemic has required many participants to work from home. All participants that have started working from home during the

pandemic indicate that this was not an option before. The option to work from home offers participants autonomy and flexibility over their workplace, providing the opportunity to do focused work undistracted when needed and allowing for both mental and physical

restoration. Julia, who is an introvert, explains how she uses the possibilities that working


28 from home has provided to plan her work:

Because it is so open you can hear people talking to each other on the other side. So I always have headphones on. And that is why I also know that if I have a day that is very busy, or I have a lot to finish, then I just stay home. Then I know I can't be distracted. I kind of plan it like that. (Julia)

At each company and for each employee an individual balance needs to be found that feels good and is a good fit with personality style. Natalie, who is extraverted, explains how, at her company, employees are given the freedom to find this balance:

The image that people have that people just mooch around at home, that is actually not true at all. You may actually be able to work more efficiently at home. Because you are much less disturbed. So now we look at what feels good to you as a balance.


Conclusion and discussion

The current study looked at how participants with diverse personality styles experience and feel about extraversion-related expectations within the workplace. As previously stated by Balsari-Palsule and Little (2020), the modern workplace increasingly demands dynamism and agility and extraverts can expect advantages at work (Wilmot et al., 2019). This is in line with the experience of the participants. The majority of the participants, both introverted and extraverted, indicate both a need and a want for collaborative work, pointing towards a high level of interdependence at work and suggesting a preference for extraversion following the

‘extravert ideal’. Surprisingly, the demand for collaboration is not necessarily top-down, instead, employees on all levels of the organization and with different personality types



recognize the importance of and enjoy collaboration. Work is never done and cannot be done in complete isolation. Moreover, all but one participant worked in shared offices or open-plan office spaces with considerable external distractions, making the environment more suitable for extraverts. Furthermore, the study shows how the diversity paradox (Hackett, & Hogg, 2014) takes shape with regards to personality, enabling a corporate culture in which diversity in personality styles is valued, but not always realized, resulting in homogenous teams or positions. On the one hand, participants indicate that this similarity is pleasant and makes teamwork easier. On the other hand, diversity is required as everyone has different qualities and strengths and weaknesses. Next to the high demand for collaboration and preference for similarity, the study reveals that there are project and position-specific expectations to which participants feel pressure to adapt. Participants sometimes describe their personality as an obstacle to overcome, depending on what type of behaviour the situation demands. This holds for both introverts and extraverts but is most prominent for ambiverts. Existing theory has shown that workplaces should provide opportunities for restoration to limit the negative effects of acting out of character (Balsari-Palsule & Little, 2020;Little, 2008). The current study shows how Covid-19 and the introduction of working from home facilitates restoration opportunities and creates autonomy in terms of where and how to do work, enabling

participants to increasingly mould their work environment to their personality and limiting the negative consequences of routinely suppressing natural behaviour. High demand for

collaboration, pressure to adapt and lack of diversity all point toward a corporate culture in which extraversion is beneficial. However, while the study points toward an extraversion- biased work environment, this is not necessarily experienced negatively. This could also be due to the new opportunities for autonomy and restoration brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.


30 Theoretical implications

The study contributes to the existing literature on extraversion and introversion in the workplace by adding a qualitative point of view. Where previous research has commonly focused on personality attributes and the positive effects of extraversion using quantitative methods (Blevins et al., 2021), the current research has focused on contributing to existing research by doing in-depth interviews to better understand the experiences of people with all personality styles. The study adds to the existing literature on workplace diversity, including the diversity paradox theory (Hackett, & Hogg, 2014) and the related uncertainty-identity theory (Hogg, 2000) by showing how the desire for both diversity and uniformity

simultaneously presents itself in corporate life. Furthermore, the study adds to theories on the adaptiveness of personality and free traits (Balsari-Palsule, & Little, 2020; Little, 2008), adding to the person-situation debate (Fleeson, 2004) by providing a qualitative view of why people engage in adaptive behavior at work. Lastly, the study adds to the person-environment fit framework (Roberts, & Robins, 2004) by showing how possibilities for restoration as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic enable employees to find a better fit between their personality and work environment according to their preferences. Overall, the study has contributed to a more balanced view of intro- and extraversion, providing additional qualitative support for existing literature.

Practical implications

There is a need to consider the benefits of having introverted colleagues, especially in situations that require thoughtful reflection or analytical thinking, and this should be done at every level of the organization (Blevins et al., 2021). The current study can aid managers and decision makers to reframe their policies and can induce awareness about personality styles at work, creating a company culture that is supportive of all personality styles. The need for personality restoration opportunities at work can directly translate into appropriate work-



from-home policies, in which employees have the autonomy to decide on where and how to work. Furthermore, the present study has provided insight into the need for restoration possibilities in the office, where employees should also have the opportunity to work without distraction. The present study encourages increased awareness among managers about the existence and benefits of different personality styles and the consideration of individual preferences and experiences, something which can also be taken into account during the hiring process by the HR department. Organizations need to ensure that the hiring process looks beyond extraversion and towards other important skills to not just value but also achieve diversity in personality styles at work.

Limitations and suggestions for future research

The current study can only speak for the experiences and explanations of the participants at a particular point in time. Over time, experiences with introversion and extraversion in the workplace may vary, as we are now seeing during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. The participant interviews are not generalizable, which was also not the aim of the study. Instead, the interviews shed light on the participants' thoughts and feelings at this moment and within this particular setting. While participant variation and data saturation were taken very

seriously, other participants may bring forward new or different results. For example, the current study placed a strong emphasis on the individual experience, thus not one organization or industry was studied in-depth. Future studies might concentrate on a single industry or company to see if the experiences are comparable. Furthermore, further research is necessary to determine whether the extravert ideal is also present in other work environments, including manual or service level jobs, and if so, how this is experienced. Additionally, the current study is solely focused on the Netherlands. The participant quotations used in the study have been translated from Dutch to English. Considering Dutch was the native language of the participants, this produced the most personal and detailed raw data. Nonetheless, translation



inevitably causes some of the meaning of the original statements to be lost. Future research could benefit from cross-cultural comparisons to determine whether similar results are found across cultures and countries.

The present study used self-evaluation to determine the personality style of the participants. This was done to get the most honest and open description of personality from the participants. However, the self-evaluation of personality could also be a limitation, as there is a possibility for error. For instance, participants who claim to be extraverted to fit in with societal expectations. This potential for error is recognized in the current study. While phenomenology should primarily focus on lived experiences (van Manen, 1997), future research might consider an additional quantitative element that determines the personality style of the participant before the interview. This will add a layer of insights that can supplement the results from the qualitative analysis and make the findings more credible.

Moreover, credibility can be improved by engaging in prolonged engagement. Due to monetary and time constraints, this was not possible in the current study. Finally, while the present study has made a contribution towards righting the imbalance between intro- and extraversion in research by adding a qualitative view, continuous research into the lived experiences of employees remains necessary. The study confirmed the preference for

extraversion in the workplace, yet some extraverted participants also indicated that they acted more introverted while at work. This is a surprising finding that could be studied more

thoroughly in the future. It is the hope that this study serves as encouragement to further increase our understanding of how personality style is related to our work experiences and help to create inclusive work environments that benefit all.




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