Managing Introverts and Extroverts in the Hybrid Workplace

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As the manager, it’s your job to support your team through the transition to hybrid. But what people need largely depends on their personality. The author offers advice for how best to support introverts and extroverts during this time. The first piece of advice? Give introverts time and space. If some of your employees are now in the office and some are at home, it’s especially important to ensure that the introverts on your team aren’t overshadowed, especially in team meetings. The second: Give extroverts airtime. If you find that your extroverts are struggling to feel connected, set up a regular face-to-face or video meeting with them so that they can talk things through with you directly. And finally: encourage a range of communication styles so that everyone can engage authentically.

From less social interaction to more opportunities for autonomy, if you’re an introvert, chances are you’ve enjoyed working remotely over the past year plus. On the other hand, if you’re an extrovert, you may have found yourself less productive and more irritable at home, struggling to recreate the external stimuli you had in the office to motivate you. So what happens in a hybrid model? With many introverts opting to work remotely and extroverts more likely to want to go back to the office, how do you ensure your entire team remains engaged, productive, and happy?

In order to effectively lead both introverts and extroverts through the transition to hybrid, I recommend three best practices based on over a decade of research and consulting with high-performing, distributed teams.

1. Give introverts time and space.

If some of your employees are now in the office and some are at home, it’s especially important to ensure that the introverts on your team aren’t overshadowed, especially in team meetings. If introverts are interrupted during the discussion by loud personalities, they may not try to speak again. If this happens repeatedly, they can become disengaged or feel sidelined, especially if they’re working remotely. During hybrid meetings, it becomes easy to overlook the virtual participants on the call and forget to include them in the conversation.

It’s your job as the manager to make sure everyone is heard. Use tools like a chat bar or hand-raising feature to designate who has the floor to speak, and practice waiting five to ten seconds before jumping in. It can also be helpful to send questions out in advance so everyone has more time to prepare. And after the meeting ends, encourage people to email you their thoughts or create a Google doc where people can share input. The opportunity to participate asynchronously gives voice to those introverts who might be especially hesitant to speak up in front of a large group.

2. Give extroverts airtime.

If you find that your extroverts are struggling to feel connected, set up a regular face-to-face or video meeting with them so that they can talk things through with you directly. You can also encourage the use of breakout groups on Zoom or Slack so that they have the airtime to talk out their ideas without dominating a teamwide meeting.

For extroverts back in the office, foster the return of “watercooler moments.” Research shows that during the transition to remote work, these social, relationship-building activities are what people missed the most. They help extroverts find spontaneous moments of social connection during the day, keep managers in the loop of what’s really going on in the company, and build camaraderie, morale, and trust between team members.

It’s important to also acknowledge that not all extroverts will be returning to the office. To avoid excluding those staying home from social activities, organize more optional hybrid team bonding events, ranging from a Zoom lunch chat to a hybrid meeting happy hour. Hybrid lunches have become the new social cafeteria, where team members can come together to share a 15-30 minute meal, whether they’re in-person or online.

3. Encourage a range of communication styles.

As I describe in my new book, Digital Body Language, it’s incumbent on managers to create a cohesive team. But that doesn’t mean forcing everyone to communicate the exact same way, it means creating spaces for different communication styles so that everyone can communicate in their authentic voice. Take my client Brad, the SVP at a large gaming company. He had observed a stark difference in the two Slack channels run by his direct reports, Allie and Dave.

Dave, a self-proclaimed extrovert has a Slack channel filled with emojis, GIFs, and memes. On the other hand, Allie, an introvert, has a more formal writing style, complete with bullet points. “With Allie’s Slack channel,” Brad says, “I’m at home.” Nonetheless, he soon came around to the way Dave saw the world.” If I were to force him to be ‘corporate,’ his team would be less excited and engaged.” He adds, “I’ve learned that the best thing for me to do is try to become conversant in his informal digital body language even if it’s uncomfortable.”

Both approaches work, there isn’t a better or worse way of communicating between emojis and bullet points. The key for leaders is to create a digital environment that fosters and encourages a range of communication styles so that everyone can engage authentically.

Regardless of where your team members fall on the extroversion-introversion spectrum, the overnight switch to virtual work over a year ago forced all of us to adjust to uncomfortable circumstances. We’ve all had to make compromises to make up for distance and — I hope — learned a lot in the process. These lessons will make us stronger and more inclusive as we transition to a hybrid model of work in the long-term, as some of us start to return to the office and others continue to work remotely.

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