How to Work in a Group: Intros and Extros

Although the Myers Briggs personality test is defunct*, the concept of introverts and extroverts is not.

Many of us lean to a consistent side on a daily basis. Although we may swing from intro to extro, or vice versa, typically we remain on one familiar side. Due to this side loyalty, working in a group can be difficult.

Don’t be that person that says,

“I always get along with others.
I’ve never had a problem in groups.”

Calling bullshit.

Even if you are often successful at working in a group, conflicts do arise. Even with familiar groups. What was true yesterday may not be tomorrow, in other words, just because you worked well together once does not mean you always will.

Something else to note, just because you’re introverted among most people does not mean that you are always the introvert. Same goes for extroverts, you may find yourself more soft-spoken depending on the group you’re in.

So, what can be done for all you introverts having the energy drained by socializing vampires? Or the lone extrovert in an office of nods and whispers behind screens?

Or the introvert that feels like an extrovert among even more reserved colleagues?

Sadly, there isn’t any magic formula.

However, there is a key ingredient that will make things run more smoothly, communication.

Communication is hard. Especially when we all have different habits of communication.

The typical extroverts are more social and tend to feed off the energy of other people, hence my vampire crack. They like having others around because it motivates them to contribute.

On the flip side, introverts often want to work in solitude. They need time alone to decompress and focus, the isolation motivates them.

How can these two groups ever hope to successfully communicate?

  1. Try meeting half-way

Progression is measured by completion. Meeting half-way ensures some completion. You won’t have everything you want in life, might as well have a portion.

You can put this into practice by discussing what your coworkers can expect from you and what you can expect from them, both on the project and in behavior.

They can expect you to work your ass off. But they also know that when you leave to take a coffee break, you don’t want nor need any company, it’s your decompress time. They know this because you told them.

This leads into my next point.

2. Verbalize

This can be difficult for the shy spoken worker, but it is important to do so. You need to voice your opinions and others need a fair chance at hearing you.

Try communicating in ways that more comfortable for you in the beginning, emails or slack messages, then build yourself up to speaking directly. You need to have some solid verbal communication skills, no matter the field. It’s never too late to start either.

For extroverts, it requires cutting back on verbalizing and getting straight to the point.

Try writing a short message first. Then, just tell the person that one thing in person. Or send them the message; if it requires further discussion, talk about it then.

You can avoid hovering over your colleagues this way. Nothing more fun than someone over your shoulder talking at you.

3. Handle Conflicts Pseudo Professionally

This is touchy one, mainly due to individual HR rules. Many offices have a set guideline on how to address conflicts, but many don’t.

My advice is to talk about a conflict privately. If it is an entire group matter, do so as a group. If it is a few individuals, do so in a small conference room away from others.

Never humiliate someone in front of their peers.

If you have a problem with them, tell them about it first. They have a right to better themselves before you bring others into the problem.

The main exception is full on harassment, of course. Then report to a manager ASAP.

Moving on.

I say “pseudo professionally” because sometimes, conflicts are better solved without niceties.

Saying, “I realize that I upset you when I told you to leave me alone,” through gritted teeth doesn’t do much for you or your coworkers. Instead, take a deep breath and simply let it out.

“I fucked up, it’s true. I acted like a bitch when you asked to help me. But, I told you earlier that I did not want any help from you. Why? Because you don’t know the technology that I’m working on. Me explaining the entire system to you is unlikely to address the bug I’m facing. Sure, I ultimately snapped but you didn’t cease your pestering until I did.”

There’s not a ton of yelling or cursing above, just a smidge, but there is resolve.

Saying the harsher language can allow the angry conflicted to explain their actions. Why? Swearing allows some anger to be released.

Take the polite gloves off and indulge in some college level communication.

That being said, there should be an understanding, one agreed to by all, that the conflict will be solved without polite words. Don’t start swearing out of the blue.

4. Tolerating that You All Work Differently

Ah, accepting others. Near impossible to do because no one is going to be exactly like you.

Accepting yourself is hard enough, but when someone is doing something differently, slower or with a logic you don’t understand, maddening!

There’s a reason I used the word “tolerating” instead.

You don’t have to accept and adopt your coworker’s mantra of,

“We’re all family here!”

You can just leave them be while you sip some tea.

You don’t have to always express your feelings like your coworker who wants to have a daily chakra circle of sharing. You can do so later privately.

This point is basically piggybacking off meeting halfway; you won’t understand why someone does something a certain way, but instead of causing an argument, just leave it alone.

5. If Someone is ANGRY

Yeah, leave them alone!

There are signs of when someone is angry, obvious ones.

The biggest is clenched fists, they are not looking to make friends.

If the stick out their palm, the universal sign for stop, as you approach, stop. Yes it may be rude, but they’re probably holding back far ruder words.

Mildly annoyed people often have their arms crossed, don’t bug them either if you can help it.

If the person is shaking, back away slowly. Or quickly. Just don’t tap them on the shoulder.

Anger does sneak its way into the workplace, it happens. Is it entirely appropriate? Hard to say.

Should you make it worse by engaging their anger? Always no.

Engaging can be asking them a question that can wait, even if it can’t. Asking if they need help, oh please don’t do this. Speaking down to them, like a parent to a child.

Just leave them alone.

People need a cool off.

Now, if someone is about to break their computer, it is time to step up. This requires direct confrontation.

But Mary, you said not to bother them. True, this isn’t bothering them though. It’s getting them to calm down before they lose it.

Rather than tap them, call out their name a few times. Tell them to take a break, directly. No suggestions.

Before they can answer, explain why:

You’re angry and need to cool off. The issue can wait. Go take a break.

It’s honestly hard to argue to that.

Unsurprising, both intro and extros can spike into the furious zone. Don’t pass off that it can’t happen to you either, be prepared.

6. Take Small Steps

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither are good group habits.

You will need to start gradual if you are guilty, we all are, of committing intro extro group faux pas.

Start by talking to your group about any conflicts. If you don’t have any, talk about some possible ones. Think about behaviors that would prevent you from working and discuss it.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Sure, this will eat up a little work time. But guaranteed, you’ll progress more smoothly.

If you have any other suggestions, share them! We can always add on to the list of group conduct.

To all the shy turtles and verbose dolphins out there, good luck on the project and don’t screw it up.

* just look up who Myers and Briggs were, not psychologists