Introverts, Extroverts and Psychopaths

Do you prefer working with people or would you rather sit quietly on your own and get things done?  The answer to this question points to whether you are an extrovert or an introvert.  In a society that values the outgoing qualities of extroversion, introverts are under appreciated.  Yet they are ideal for start-ups because they’re self-motivated and they are among the best sales people because they are careful listeners.  Given that between 1/3 and 1/2 of the population are introverts, it seems a terrible waste to be ignoring the quieter ones among us, especially in the workplace.

In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes what introverts have to offer and what we lose when they are overlooked.  Because introverts aren’t a visible component of the workforce (in fact they often try hard to stay out of the limelight!) it can be difficult to engage them effectively within an organization.  Often, instead of embracing their serious, reflective style, organizations encourage them to act more like assertive, outgoing types that love teamwork, brainstorming and networking. Yet a conscious effort to create a workplace that is introvert-friendly would result in greater creativity and productivity.  Think of it as another form of valuable workplace diversity.

While we’re considering personality types, here’s another one to watch for – the corporate psychopath.  These are people who are self-serving, opportunistic, egocentric, ruthless and shameless but who can be charming, manipulative and ambitious (I’ll bet you’ve run into one). The power, prestige and money in a corporate environment, especially within senior management roles, attract psychopaths.  A study by Babiak, Neumann, & Hare (Corporate Psychopathy – Talking the Walk, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 2010, 28, 174-193) found that close to 4% of 203 corporate professionals had a PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist) test score indicative of psychopathy.  Furthermore, high scores were positively associated with in-house ratings of charisma/presentation style (creativity, good strategic thinking and communication skills) but negatively associated with ratings of responsibility/performance (being a team player, management skills, and overall accomplishments).

Corporate psychopaths can be extremely damaging to individual careers and overall teamwork.  They are a threat to business performance because they inevitably put their own interests before those of the firm. In fact, because they have no sense of guilt or remorse about the consequences of their decisions, they represent a constant risk to the company.  Read more about it in the aptly titled book:  Snakes in Suits.

If business is a knife fight, you need to decide whom you want by your side.  The introvert sharpens the knife, the extrovert waves it around and the corporate psychopath sticks it in your back!

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Doug Michaelides (VP & Head of Marketing Practice)
 

One Response to “Introverts, Extroverts and Psychopaths”

  1. Anil Dilawri says:

    Great post, Doug. Interesting link between corporate psychopaths and presentation skills. I always looked at my clients as being introverts or extroverts. Now I know to add a new category…