26th May 2022


Historically, being the quiet one in the office or the meeting room generally meant that you weren’t cut out to be part of the fast-pace, high-stakes world of business – whether that be in the sales, tech, accounting or finance industries. However, with more employees working from home than ever before, it appears that being the loud, social centre of the office may now not be enough to traverse your way up the proverbial ladder of success.

Trait Theory delineates the human personality through five facets: agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness and extraversion[1]. The latter of these traits, extraversion, has recently been highlighted, with national Covid-19 lockdowns and working from home polarising people towards opposite ends of this social spectrum. For the more introverted in society, lockdown and working from home has been the perfect excuse to spend time alone and recharge their energy – where extroverts have had little or no opportunity for the social interaction on which they thrive.


With working from home becoming a new norm, never before have some components of introversion, such as spending time alone, social-distancing, self-care and mindfulness, been so positively promoted in society. So why should we be empowering introverts in business and the workplace, and what can businesses learn from their introverted employees?

Listening to reply versus listening to understand


Tending to be the less conversational members of society, introverts are often amongst the best listeners. By listening to understand, introverts take more time to react to conversations, making the most of their existing cognitive, experiential and emotional intelligence. This can give them the upper hand when it comes to seeing the bigger picture of a conversation, and, as a result, introverts may often have the more creative and innovative ideas, if only they are afforded the space to voice them.


Furthermore, the introvert’s ability to listen means that they are extremely valuable team members and, often, great leaders – due to their ability to be hyper-aware, not only of their own skill set but of others’ as well. In this sense, by engaging their abilities of observation and listening to understand others, introverts are often excellent at delegating tasks, understanding how their colleagues will best contribute to a project. Finally, introverts are also excellent at listening to themselves – not surprising if you enjoy spending a lot of time alone! Therefore, mindfulness and self-care can come naturally to the introvert, placing them amongst the more calm, self-reflective and self-aware humans within our fast-paced, modern working environments.

Success is no accident… it’s introversion


Cain (2012) describes how our obsession to succeed in business has created the ‘culture of personality’, where character traits such as ‘Citizenship’, ‘Duty’ and ‘Integrity’ have been outshone by the extroverted personality, which ‘makes us more successful’[2]. Of course, the issue frequently raised around introversion is that even with the most innovative and creative of ideas, introverts will need to have sufficient communication skills and confidence to voice these opinions.


However, with some of the world’s most effective CEOs having little regard for extroverted ‘charisma’[3], perhaps society’s negative association between introversion, success and leadership has been misinformed. As mentioned previously, the natural observational skills that come with being introverted, mean that introverts pay far more attention to detail when in social situations. Research suggests that individuals do have a certain amount of free will to ‘stretch’ their personality, outlined by the aptly named, ‘rubber band theory’ of personality[2]. In this sense, by being hyper-aware of themselves and of others (‘high-reactives’), and by practising social interactions, or public speaking and presenting, introverts have the ability to be equally as eloquent, engaging and successful as extroverts.

To conclude, both businesses and individuals can learn a huge amount from the introvert ideal, especially in a world where the ability to be by yourself, productively work from home, and practice mindfulness, has never been more important. Perhaps by listening to understand, being more observant, and thinking reflectively about the conversations we have, society and the workplace may just become a more calm, kind and productive place.


[1]Goldberg, L. R. (1990). An alternative “description of personality”: The Big-Five factor structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(6), pp. 1216–1229.

[2]Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. London: Penguin Books, pp. 23-42.

[3]Khurana, R. (2002). Searching for a Corporate Saviour: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.