MOST companies worry about discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender or sexual preference. But they give little thought to their shabby treatment of introverts. Carl Jung spotted the distinction between introverts and extroverts in 1921. Psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator consistently show that introverts make up between a third and a half of the population. Susan Cain’s book on their plight, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”, has sold more than 2m copies; the TED talk based on the book has been viewed just over 14m times. And yet, if anything, the corporate approach to introverts has been getting worse.
The biggest culprit is the fashion for open-plan offices and so-called “group work”. Companies rightly think that the elixir of growth in a world where computers can do much of the grunt work is innovation. But they wrongly conclude that the best way to encourage creativity is to knock down office walls and to hold incessant meetings. This is ill-judged for a number of reasons. It rests on a trite analogy between intellectual and physical barriers between people. It ignores the fact…Continue reading