Study: Extroverts Fail to Meet High Expectations in Teams

New research has found that while extroverts may be viewed as high-performing team players, their contributions to group projects are lacking compared to what their less outgoing teammates bring to the table.

*Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify language used in the study.

They may stand out more in groups, but that doesn’t mean extroverts are contributing more, according to new research, which has produced the counterintuitive finding that extroverts do not perform as well in teams as their less vociferous and less assertive counterparts.

In a new study [PDF], researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and Rutgers University found that contrary to conventional status hierarchies, which typically rank extroverts higher than neurotics—a term the researchers use for those who tend to express anxiety, withdrawal, and emotional volatility—neurotics contribute more when working in groups. (Although the study distinguishes neurotics from introverts in the data, it does not define “introvert” or focus on that personality type.)

“Our studies indicate that group members may initially overvalue extroverts and undervalue neurotics,” coauthors Corinne Bendersky, an associate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and Neha Parikh Shah, an assistant professor at Rutgers Business School, explained in “The Downfall of Extroverts and Rise of Neurotics: The Dynamic Process of Status Allocation in Task Groups.”

To test how well different personality types perform in groups, the researchers assessed 229 MBA students to determine their degree of extroversion and neuroticism. Next, the students, who were divided into teams of five, were asked to predict how each of their teammates would influence the group. Extroverted team members were typically rated higher in terms of their expected influence compared to the more neurotic members.

After 10 weeks, students again rated team members, this time for how they actually influenced the group. Extroverts were more likely to disappoint fellow group members because they did not live up to the high expectations of their peers.

“The core of an extroverted personality is to be attention-seeking,” Bendersky told Forbes. “It turns out they just keep talking, they don’t listen very well, and they’re not very receptive to other people’s input. They don’t contribute as much as people think they will.”

Nuerotics, on the other hand, often exceeded their team members’ expectations and were found to contribute more generously to the group, raising their peer-rated status.

“Their anxiety and concern about how others see them motivates them to prepare for and persist at tasks,” Bendersky and Shah wrote.

A second experiment asked 300 individuals to rate a hypothetical person, John, based on his personality and his varying responses to an email requesting his help. Again, the neurotic version of John was viewed more favorably than the extroverted version because respondents expected more from the outgoing person.

What does this mean for the workplace?

“Managers may rely too heavily on extroverted employees, which could be problematic if these individuals become less appreciated group members over time,” according to the study. “In contrast, introverted and neurotic employees may be underutilized because managers inaccurately assume they will be less effective team members.”

(Ron Chapple Studios/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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