August 5, 2013

"Many workplace set ups undermine introverted employees by failing to accommodate their personalities and productivity styles..."

"... over-stimulation and excessive meetings can easily stunt their full brain power. One study showed that when introverts and extroverts are given math problems to solve with various levels of background noise playing, introverts do best when the noise is lower, while extroverts perform better with louder noise...."

How about all the classrooms and test rooms? If it's really true that performance is affected, then introverts are systematically discriminated against in getting into schools and onto career paths. But to view this as a condition deserving accommodation would be awfully expensive or — if you let people work from computers in their home space — vulnerable to cheating.

25 comments:

Jonathan Card said...

Yes, but it may not be as bad as all that. It's a great argument for charter schools, for instance, and people of different personality types tend to gravitate to different professions anyway. As a computer programmer, I have never understood who in the world could think the "open office" architecture could make sense to anyone, until this very minute I realized that marketing agencies need office layouts, too. Cubicles drive me crazy.

I just finished Quiet, but book mentioned in the article, and it was really great.

Kirk Parker said...

Hey, it's not only introverts who are harmed by "excessive [business] meetings" (where this non-introvert defines "excessive" as "any quantity greater than zero".)

Hagar said...

Althouse: December 13, 2012

gadfly said...

Fat people sweat more in exam situations but no one cares to make sure that room temperature is tightly controlled.

Having worked with women who are always complaining about being cold no matter what the temperature is in the room are never given special consideration either.

My own experience with Team Building and Quality Circle group gropes tells me that care is always taken to identify the introverts and extroverts using Myers-Briggs testing in order that introverts are not excluded.

Peter said...

It's not so much about legally mandated accommodations as the practical matter of raising workplace productivity.

It's just foolish to hire costly technical people and then waste their productivity (or never hire them at all, because they recoiled when they saw where they'd have to work!).

John Lynch said...

Or introverts need to learn to deal. Life isn't very accommodating, to anyone.

It does no one any favors to teach them that they can't perform unless everything around them is just so.

Aurelian said...

John Lynch's viewpoint is one of the reasons companies don't get the most out of their employees.

LarsPorsena said...

"...Many workplace set ups undermine introverted employees by failing to accommodate their personalities and productivity styles -- over-stimulation and excessive meetings can easily stunt their full brain power...

MEETINGS: definition. The place where ideas go to die.

Henry said...

From the article: when introverts and extroverts are given math problems to solve with various levels of background noise playing, introverts do best when the noise is lower, while extroverts perform better with louder noise

That's why God invented headphones.

To this introvert, this article is utterly idiotic. Business consultants will like it, as it gives them another hook to hang their billable hours upon. Cubicle hawkers will probably suck it up too.

When my group changed offices we were given the opportunity to inspect two sample cubicle layouts created by the prospective furniture contractors. Both cubicle types were low-paneled open-office models. There wasn't a lot of difference between the two. Except that the spokesman for one of the groups was tanked on business consultant BS. He blathered on and on about creative mash-ups, and the cross-pollination of ideas, and the power of casual communications to solve problems. Paraphrasing: "Someone in a different group could see what you're working on, rest their elbows on the low cubicle form, and suddenly you're looking at your project in a whole new way."

It was the most outgoing member of our team who muttered "The first time someone leans over my cubicle wall to give me their brainstorms, I'm going to go work in a closet."

This article is just the flipside to that cubicle salesman: a sideshow circus of research minutiae paraded as policy.

If you have good management and smart, supportive colleagues you'll be productive. If you don't, you won't, no matter how quiet the office is.

Ann Althouse said...

In my law school, lots of the professors just relocate in quiet home spaces. Some say it would be better to have more people in the building, but professors tend to want extreme quiet to think, read, and write. We like to talk, but we're the type who've chosen work that requires immense amounts of time spent reading, thinking, and writing. You can't have all this distracting clamor around and expect that to work out.

Shanna said...

Or introverts need to learn to deal. Life isn't very accommodating, to anyone.

The second line is definately true. As far as introverts needing to learn to deal, I think they vote with their feet if they can. If it's a huge problem, companies will eventually accomodate.

John Lynch said...

I get that highly productive people in highly creative fields benefit from being left alone. However, most of us are not those people. Most workplaces are run the way they are because it works for most people most of the time.

Yahoo! had a lot of people supposedly working from home. It turned out they were just at home. Every office job I've had has had people who were always gone or couldn't make the meetings. They were invariably the worst employees, not the best.

The type of people who are motivated enough to work alone effectively are motivated enough to get jobs that let them do that.

AaronS said...

I suspect most introverts are good at developing ways to cope with office layouts. I know I'd prefer to go home alone and come up with my own solution for my issues. And definitely not have a group of extroverts talking it out in a big meeting and delivering their plan for my success that I am now free to follow. And report back to them quarterly on how much better I'm doing.

Jonathan Card said...

It's fair to say, "learn to deal" and for the most part we do, but let me tell you a story.

I worked for an IT development firm, mostly programmers and engineers, with a specialty in content management (the systems like blogger.com or Drupal that store web pages and stuff so you can author them in the browser, but we also dealt with storing and delivering technical drawings and contracts and all sorts of content; not just web pages) and we were in a cubicle environment because our CEO didn't really think about it and we all hated it and nobody said much and, since we were almost all introverts it ended up no mattering much. Then, the modern digital marketing and Big Data and everything happened, and we decided to get into "digital marketing" like targeted emails and traffic statistics and re-targeting (the stuff the NSA is now using to spy on us all). That meant hiring a bunch of marketing professionals to complement our technical skills and they all loved the open office layout and would talk and talk and the culture clash between the two groups was monumental. There were days I took a whole conference room because they were brainstorming together right next to me for hours and I just needed to get away from them. It was really, really awful to work there.

n.n said...

If introverts fail to adapt, then they will be replaced by extroverts under the same circumstances. I am optimistic that we will prevail.

Hagar said...

Different strokes for different folks.
Also for different occupations.

A school can teach you to operate in AutoCAD, but it cannot make you a drafter. You have to learn that on the job, and from the others in the office with experience in the particular field the firm is doing business in.

These days, when engineers are again doing their own drafting, that also holds for engineers, especially junior ones.

I would think this is also true for a good many other vocations.

For myself, "people noises" are mostly all right at reasonable levels; it is mechanical noises, "white noise," and especially Muzak, "rock," and other "pop-music" I cannot abide while trying to get some work done.

traditionalguy said...

I suggest Introverts get themselves an Rx for three pit bulls as their emotional service dogs. That should do the trick. They will be left alone. But the dogs might get tired of being ignored too and kill and eat them.

LCB said...

Low walls also increase "visual" noise. Concentrating on your job when someone stands up in your peripheral vision is a major distraction and causes a loss in productivity. At least it did where I work. Without discussing it with us, our director replaced tall walls with short ones. She wanted to break down the silos, she said. What she really wanted was to be able to see what everyone was doing. Now...she's gone...and we're still stuck with a noisy (visually and aurally) work area.

Marty Keller said...

This article is just one more piece of evidence that too many people have too much time on their hands.

Peter said...

I recall interviewing at a large-ish company that piped music (soft rock, but not muzaked- the original recordings, with the words in their buildings. The loudness was between soft and medium- somewhat more than background, but not loud enough to interfere with conversation.

What surprised me was its pervasiveness- it was in the cafeteria, in the meeting rooms, even in the bathrooms. Perhaps top management had controls in their offices, but no one else did.

And I suppose one can always stuff earbuds in one's ears (unless that's forbidden- I didn't ask), but then you can't hear your phone ring, and people will have to wave or tap your shoulder to get your attention. And, really, wearing these all day long, every day, could itself become annoying.

I can't say that's why I didn't accept their offer, as there were other reasons (and fortunately I had other choices).But I remain amazed that someone with the authority to impose this could actually think it was a good idea.

Marty Keller said...

This article is just one more piece of evidence that too many people have too much time on their hands. Say, how are those Kardashians doing these days?

Oso Negro said...

For the life of me, I don't understand why phone booths aren't added to modern cube farms as well as public spaces. With everyone packing a cell phone, we need them more than ever.

LarsPorsena said...

They never have these kinds of problems at chicken processing plants.

Mark Trade said...

Just because it might be more expensive (it isn't) or more vulnerable to cheating (who does that hurt in the end?) doesn't make this any less of an injustice.

It's not just introverts who are discriminated against, all children are. In a state like Wisconsin, they have no choice, by virtue of something they cannot control, their age, but to obey both their parents and the state in an unreasonably strict way.

In another state like California, a child's maturity level, ability to provide for himself, and intelligence level, might give him grounds for emancipation and escape the torment of public schooling.

It's time independence becomes something that's not arbitrarily granted to people once they reach a certain age, but something all people must be allowed to claim and protect, as soon as they are able.

colleen cafferty said...

I work best under introverted conditions. I would studiously avoid the library because college kids studying in groups freaked me out. Then I'd avoid the before hall final day, even showing up late, for the same reason. The chatter about whatever everyone studied upset me. But on the actual test, I did great, easily outscoring the extroverts in many cases.

I had to study alone alone alone though. I'd be better off doing it all online, I'm sure, except I'd much rather show up and barely say anything, to come alive on the printed page, then have no excuse and have online section work due that just ended up being like another formal paper.