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The Power of Introverts and the Benefits and Pitfalls of Group Work


You’ve likely heard these adages before: “Many hands make light work.” “Two heads are better than one.” “The more, the merrier.” There is truth in all of these sayings, but there are other, paradoxical truths as well. Extroverts may look forward to group meetings and talking about their progress on the group’s project. However, all of this togetherness may be holding the introverts in the workplace back. The most productive office allows people the flexibility and autonomy individuals need to get their work done, and done well.

(Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral/Flickr)

Forced Group Work Can Be Detrimental

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Much has been written about the benefits of group work and team productivity. The information focuses on how to create and manage teams to motivate and bring out the best in employees. Belbin’s Team Roles is a good example; it is a well-thought-out strategy to put people in teams and match their strengths and weaknesses. Goals include building mutual trust among workers and productive work relationships.

Working in a team can be a positive thing, and something extroverts enjoy and may even crave. However, as Susan Cain points out in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, up to one-third to one-half of the population are introverts. An introvert herself, Cain refers to the amount of group work in businesses today as “madness.”

Introverts often work best in their own heads. If we follow Cain’s advice, we will stop having formal group meetings so often, and instead enable employees to have impromptu chats about work projects. Freedom and autonomy to work as an individual works best will motivate a responsible employee to do well. Constant social interaction and working in groups is distracting for introverts, and inhibits their productivity. The introverts in the group are likely waiting for a chance to sit by themselves and think about their work.

Best practice may be to hold to another saying, “Everything in moderation.” Put together groups, but give lots of time for people to work on their own. Introverts are often most productive when working alone.

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Do you work best alone or in a group? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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As an introvert, I do appreciate the value of groups. But I find I do need the quiet to make a good decision. I can see pitfalls in a plan. I love the statement of moderation in all things. There is value in both approaches. To be forced to use one or the other is where a problem will arise

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