If you are an extrovert, your introverted colleagues may be holding you back from career success, new research finds.
In workplaces that rely on peer evaluations for awarding raises, bonuses or promotions, introverts consistently rated extroverted co-workers as worse performers, and were less likely to give them credit for their work or endorse them for advancement opportunities, according to a study set to appear in an upcoming issue the Academy of Management Journal.
"The magnitude with which introverts underrated performance of extroverts was surprising," Keith Leavitt, an assistant professor at Oregon State University's College of Business and a co-author of the research, said in a statement.
Leavitt said the research offers a better understanding of the role personality traits play in the workplace, especially in the current climate, in which employees can have a significant impact on their colleagues' careers. He points to companies like Google, where co-workers can award bonuses to peers, and LinkedIn, where employees have the opportunity to recommend or endorse their peers.
"That gives employees a tremendous amount of power to influence their peers' career opportunities," Leavitt said. "It's something individuals and employers should be aware of."
For the research, the study's authors conducted two studies to test how co-workers' personalities influenced their evaluations of one another. The first study involved 178 graduate students at a large Southeastern university. Each student was assigned to a four- or five-person project team for the semester, and midway through the term, participants completed questionnaires about their team members, team processes and their own personalities.
The researchers discovered that introverted team members rated the performance of other introverts higher than that of extroverts. The ratings made by extroverts were not significantly influenced by the personalities of the team members they were rating.
In the second study, 143 students in a management program participated in a brief online game with three teammates. What the participants didn't know was that the teammates were actually electronic "peers" whose profiles and comments during the game were randomly manipulated to highlight high introversion or extroversion. The participants then evaluated their team members and made recommendations about promoting or awarding bonuses to their teammates.
The study's authors found that the introverted participants gave lower evaluations and smaller peer bonuses to the extroverted electronic team members, even though all versions of the electronic team members performed the same.
"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 the performance of others with those traits in mind."
Based on the results, Leavitt suggested that extroverted employees use a "dimmer switch" — in other words, tone down their extroversion — when interacting with introverted peers. Additionally, he said 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.
The study was co-authored by Pauline Schilpzand, an assistant professor at Oregon State University; Andrew Woolum, a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida; and Timothy Judge, a professor at the University of Notre Dame.