Introvert Bias Hits Again


Introverts are so often mischaracterized and even blamed for the woes of the world. Now government workers seem to be taking the hit.

I received an email from Nancy Crosby, a Group Manager at the IRS in Lansing Michigan who had attended my leadership program several years ago. Nancy told me about a piece in the Washington Post that “comments on inaccurate characterization and unfair stereotyping of introverts in government. It references a book by Steven L. Katz, author of Lion Taming, Working Successfully with Leaders, Bosses, and other Tough Customers.Apparently Mr. Katz argues the problem is that government attracts too many introverts, perpetuating “government of loners” who don’t want to rock the boat. In order to foster innovation, he recommends that agencies recruit extroverted personalities.”

The Washington Post writer, Alicia Mazzara, asked several government workers about their response to the question about why we don’t have more innovation in government. Their rebuttals are right on. We are not misanthropes, they said, and the lack of innovation is due more to a culture that discourages it than dimensions of introversion or extroversion. Carol Davison, a human resource specialist at the Department of Commerce said, “There is nothing wrong with us. We aren’t afraid of people, lacking in social skills, timid, super sensitive, or need to feel safe. We are introverts because we lose energy to social interactions, so we limit it.”

Another government worker, Kristina Nelson, addressed the key issue of leadership , when she said, “Perhaps the most important ingredient for success has little to do with being an introvert or an extrovert…….Leaders must be flexible and tenacious, she said. “When repeatedly told ‘No, unfortunately we can’t do that because of x, y or z, but it’s a great idea’, that just means taking a different, albeit respectful, approach,” she said. “If you truly believe in something, it’s always worth the effort. That’s one trait I’ve noticed in great leaders regardless of type.”
What do you think? Do you think hiring more extroverts will shape a more innovative government?


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