Team Work Sucks! – In Defence of Introverts Everywhere 8

Gen Y 2I`ll try not to be too cynical here – but give me a break. Do teams really work? I know dolphins do it, whales do it, and even orcas, lions, and wolves do it too but, do we really accomplish more working in teams? I know teams and team work makes for a great sound bite. But in the real world – your world – does it really make that much of a difference? Research conducted by Susan Cain and published in her New York Times – best-selling book “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” paints a different picture. According to her research not everyone performs up to their full potential in a group setting. I know in a perfect world together everyone achieves more but after reading her book you may change your mind.

Worth Remembering … ” A strength over – used or used in the wrong situation, can become a weakness” – Unknown 

Generally speaking extroverts tend to be assertive, dominate, direct and decisive. They make quick decisions when others on the team cannot. They will confront tough issues or situations, accept change as a personal challenge and keep the team focused on the task at hand. Extroverts work well in a team environment as long as they are in a position to influence the direction the team is headed. They like to be in charge and lead the charge. They may come across to others as being unapproachable and insensitive to the needs of team members. (It’s their way or no way)  However, in a team environment their very vocal – in your face  – out-going and gregarious personality could stifle creativity. Listening to a difference of opinion is not their strong suit. They are comfortable with conflict.

On the other hand introverts – according to Carl Jung – are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling. They tend to listen more than they talk, think before they speak and work more slowly and deliberately – tackling one problem at a time. Other team members may see limitations because they act aloof , appear to be shy and prefer to work alone. They dislike conflict and would rather sit quietly in a corner – not offering an opinion for fear of making waves and getting noticed. They prefer to maintain status-quo and fly under the radar. They need a quiet space  to contemplate and reflect. They aren’t comfortable making quick decisions. They make decisions based on fact not emotion. The course of action taken must be logical and correct as they see it.

Worth Remembering …  “The task of an executive is not to change human beings. The task is to multiply performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals” – Peter F. Drucker. 

The tide may be turning. Team work and working in teams may not be all it’s been cracked up to be. Recent studies suggest that the open office concept made popular in the late 90’s and early 20’s is reverting back to the cubicle. Studies conducted by the likes of Marvin Dunnette, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister have shown that performance gets worse as group sizes increase. (Too many cooks spoil the broth) The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups. If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is of the highest priority” says the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham.

Can extroverts and introverts work together on the same team and accomplish more? That will depend on the team leader – a team leader who understands the strengths of everyone on the team and gives everyone the opportunity to do what they do well. You can’t put a group of people together, call them a team and expect them to perform without teaching them what it means to be part of a team and how to be a good team player.

Copyright (C) 2013. Brian Smith – May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission.


  1. Pingback: Team Work Sucks! - In Defence of Introverts Eve...

  2. As an introvert, i used to find it difficult to work with extroverts. I spent more time studying the temperaments of my “extrovert” colleagues and it worked out fine. But sincerely it was an herculean task because we were direct opposite


  3. Trying to rock the boat I see, Brian. I guess I think it’s both AND. Effective teams can be comprised of both extroverts and introverts. The challenge falls upon the leader to recognize the individual strengths and pull the team together.

    As far as reverting back to cubicles. I am still seeing just the opposite. I’m seeing companies create open space, shared space, and collaborative space. The cubicle seems restricting to me, but may have a place in certain settings.

    Are teams the only way to go. Hardly. It depends on the desired outcome and the talent with which the leader has to work. However, having led teams since the 1970’s (gosh, I’m getting old), I would say I value team work today, more than ever.


  4. Thank you Abraham. Communicating and interacting effectively with others is the greatest of challenges. You took the right approach by learning how to work with them. We don’t have to like the people we work with – we just gotta figure out how to get along. – I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and to post your comment. – Cheers


  5. Great post! Many extroverts seem to have difficulty conceiving how someone else might be hardwired to work best in a different manner. My best insights and ideas generally come during situations in which I have plenty of quiet time for reflection, and when I’m banging my head against a wall trying to solve a problem, my breakthroughs tend to happen when everyone else has long left the office so that all that chatter and ambient noise is gone.

    By the way, there are “loner” dolphins too! Susan Cain mentioned that this preference can be found among a plethora of animal species known for functioning as a herd. I think it’s a natural, healthy form of adaptation – just in case a situation arises where members of a species must function as more autonomous beings in order to survive. 🙂


  6. Nice to hear from you Lynn and for taking the time to read my post. Enjoyed reading your comments – thank you. Teams and teamwork works – but only if the team leader allows everyone on the team to play to their strengths. Teams are people – people have different personalities – we need to learn how to work together to achieve individual and team goals.


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