Extroverts are often assumed to have an advantage in teams because of their enthusiasm and people skills. But new research finds that extroverts' unique energy can either lift a team up or drag it down, depending on the team's dynamics.
According to a study that was recently published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, extroverts tend to energize the group when team members are getting along and generally agreeing on things. However, when there is a lot of disagreement, their contributions tend to cause more conflict, because when they voice their opinions, they are often viewed as doing so in a domineering, assertive and aggressive way.
Alexandra Gerbasi, one of the study's authors and director of the Centre for Leadership and Decision Making at the Surrey Business School in the United Kingdom, said that, based on the research, extroverts' ability to energize their teammates has a lot to do with how much agreement there is within the team.
"In situations where there is a high level of conflict, extroverts can be seen as 'shouting the loudest,' showing a less desirable and productive side of being extroverted," Gerbasi said in a statement.
For the study, researchers examined 27 project-based teams at their formation, peak performance and after they were disbanded. Each team was asked to develop a formal, human resources-style presentation within three and a half months, and measure conflicts, frequency of communication and relationships formed between teammates at each stage. [See Related Story: Introverts vs. Extroverts: How to Get Along at Work ]
The study's authors found that when team members agrees on the team's goals and how to achieve them, extroverted employees are able to develop more energizing relationships with their teammates. This results in extroverts being perceived as proactively contributing to their team by, for example, suggesting new ideas or options for improvements.
However, the researchers also found that when there is a lot of conflict within the team, extroverts aren't seen as bringing as much value to the table. In these situations, extroverts aren't able to develop the same positive relationships with as many of their co-workers as they do when everyone is on the same page, because they are often perceived as trying to force their opinions on other team members. This can potentially prolong the conflict among the people in the group.
The study was co-authored by researchers at Cornell University, the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina, Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Grenoble Ecole de Management in France.