Introverts, extroverts respond differently to pandemic

‘The things that are stressing people relate to their personality’

Introverts, extroverts respond differently to pandemic

Stress levels are high amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in a recent survey by business psychology provider the Myers-Briggs Company that found economic concerns (78 per cent), the health of family and friends (73 per cent), people rejecting public health guidelines (70 per cent) and long-term effect on employers (59 per cent) are top of mind.

In addition, 47 per cent of respondents say they’re concerned about their own ability to manage stress, found the survey of 841 people.

However, fostering resilience in both employees and managers is a key way to manage stress, according to a psychologist.

“What you find is that the things which are stressing people do relate to their personality,” says John Hackston, head of thought leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company in Oxford, U.K.

Introversion versus extroversion

For extroverts, “not surprisingly, they miss this connection with people [while] introverts tend to cope better,” he says. “[They must] build resilience by connecting with people whenever they can… using things like Zoom or Skype or Microsoft Teams; by being on video just to get that connection with people.”

But it’s also important for introverts, who have managed better since the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, to find ways to foster relationships, he says.

“Their natural tendency is to be internally focused so initially, they’ve found work from home less onerous than people with an extroversion preference. But the danger is that they almost forget to spend time with other people. Introverts tend to spend more time with themselves and although that’s convivial to begin with, over time, it’s not necessarily the best thing to do from the point of view of resilience.”

Employee motivation has tumbled recently due to COVID-19, according to a separate survey, while internet-based CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is considered one way to help address anxiety in remote workers.

Judging and perceiving types

But there are two other types of personalities (judging and perceiving) that must be addressed in order for employees to know how to develop better resilience strategies, says Hackston.

“People who have a preference for judging tend to want to live their life in a very organized, structured way; people who have a preference for perceiving tend to live in a more fluid way.”

John Hackston

Employees with the judging personality type initially found it very stressful, says Hackston.,

“What’s important for them to build resilience is to get into a routine as soon as they can, actually coping with their lives in a more routine-based way. And if they can do that quickly, typically they find working from home less stressful.”

Perceiving people are the opposite, he says.

“Often, those people actually quite liked many aspects of lockdown, it allowed them to be more flexible, work when they want, play when they want; answer emails in the middle of the night, if that’s what works for them. But they need to be careful about communicating with other people at not necessarily the time that suits them but to suit other people.”

Leadership tendencies

For supervisors, they must recognize these difference in employees.

“Many managers have preferences for what’s called extroverted thinking: they like to organize the world of people and things; they tend, when they become stressed, to become more forceful, louder and making things happen. And if they have their stress reaction, and [if an introverted employee is having] a stress reaction, then we’re just going further and further apart: ‘I am not helping them, and they are not helping me.’ We just become more and more stressed.”

“One of the things organizations can definitely do is become aware of the fact that their stress reaction is not the same as other people’s stress reaction; be aware of how stress is likely to affect the people in the organization,” says Hackston.

And leaders must also have a good grasp on their personality type, he says.

“It’s useful for any manager to find out more about themselves and find out more about their personality, wherever it’s using our tool, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, or a different tool or different methods, just starting on a journey to build self-awareness is important. There’s a lot of evidence that managers who are more self-aware are more effective managers.”

“As time goes on, we’re going to see more and more long-lasting effects of this crisis, so the more that we can understand ourselves [and] the way other people are different from us… is going to be really more important for the future than it has been so far,” he says.

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