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Effectively Influencing Decision Makers

Top tips from Marshall Goldsmith


  • Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the “right” person or the “smartest” person or the “best” person. Make peace with this fact
  • When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realise that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy
  • Focus on contribution to the larger good—not just the achievement of your objectives.
  • Strive to win the big battles. Don’t waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial point
  • Present a realistic “cost-benefit” analysis of your ideas—don’t just sell benefits. Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy
  • Challenge up on issues involving ethics or integrity—never remain silent on ethics violations.
  • Realise that powerful people are just as human as you are. Don’t say, “I am amazed that someone at this level…It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans.
  • Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers—don’t be disrespectful. While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction
  • Support the final decision of the organization. Don’t tell direct reports, “They made me tell you.” Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral, illegal, or unethical, go out and try to make it work. Managers who consistently say, “They told me to tell you” to co-workers are seen as messengers, not leaders. Even worse, don’t say, “Those fools told me to tell you…” By demonstrating our lack of commitment to the final decision, we may sabotage the chances for effective execution
Tips for reducing stress
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Tips for Reducing Stress

Stress is a normal reaction to those times when we feel under pressure. We may have a crisis at work, a health issue or just feel there are not enough hours in the day.  Our work life balance may be out of kilter and it is all too easy to let stress get out of hand. Typical ways that people allow stress to overcome them include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Taking out their stress on others with moods and bad temper.
  • Drinking or smoking too much.
  • Procrastinating to avoid dealing with problems.


Tips for reducing stress

We cannot prevent the feelings of stress that occur as a natural part of life but it is possible to control the bad effects they can have on our life if we let them get out of hand.  Here are a few tips to help you:

Exercise – There is nothing like exercise to beat the effects of stress. It releases tension and produces endorphins into our system that promote a feeling of well-being.  A good walk or run when we are feeling stressed can get things back in perspective. Try to do some exercise outside in the fresh air. Being in nature can help make our thoughts more positive.

Diet – Eating the right foods can have a dramatic effect on how we feel. Eating foods rich in B vitamins will support your nervous system and help you produce enough energy. Broccoli, Barley, nuts, lentils, and whole grains are just some of the foods you should incorporate in your diet. Vitamin C supports your immune system and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread boost our energy levels.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs – Using alcohol to make us feel relaxed and numb the effects of stress does much more harm than good. Alcohol is a depressant so while it might make you feel more relaxed for a while it will ultimately make you feel worse.

Sleep– Getting a good nights rest is one of the most important factors in stress management.  Recurrent lack of sleep can make the effects of stress far worse.  Try to do something to help you relax before bedtime; reading an uplifting book or article will keep your thoughts happy. Hot milk and a piece of toast and jam will boost your serotonin levels and aid sleep. Avoiding alcohol is key as it leads to broken sleep.  If sleep is still a problem during times when you are stressed, do not hesitate to see your doctor.

Daily Relaxation time – Taking 15/20 minutes a day to stop and do nothing but reflect can slow the rush. You can combine this time with a relaxing walk or simply sit somewhere quiet and gather your thoughts.

Keeping a positive attitude – Approaching hard times in a positive and productive way is healthier for our minds and bodies. Thinking the outcome will be the best rather than the worst, can help us cope with stressful situations. If you find you think more negatively about things then it is possible to learn positive thinking: Identify the times when you think more negatively and when you catch yourself taking a negative view then use some positive self talk to see things in a different way. Be open to humour during difficult times and ensure you have positive and supportive people around you to talk to.

If you accept there are some events you cannot control e.g. job loss, bereavement, illness you can learn to put yourself under less pressure.

Manage your time – There are certain situations which cause us stress where we do have control of, e.g. Managing time at work, managing travel times, planning ahead for appointments and social events. If we learn to prepare and prioritise tasks then this helps our daily life run smoothly which leads to fewer unexpected events that can cause us stress.

Seek social support – a good chat with friends that can support you works wonders when we feel stress taking over.

Being aware of when stress is having an adverse affect and doing something about it, will make you happier and healthier.

Seek expert advice – there are experts such as business coaches available who can help you manage your work life balance in such a way as to help you work through your tasks better. This in itself will help you reduce your stress levels.

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DavittCP are OPP’s new Alliance Partner for Ireland


DavittCP are delighted to announce we are Ireland’s Alliance Partner for OPP and we are officially licensed to offer consultancy services to OPP’s clients based on OPP’s psychometric tools.

Click on logo below:


OPP Alliance Partner Logo Colour

Happy International Womans Day

According to a Chinese proverb, women hold up half the sky.

International Women’s Day was originally all about the RIGHT TO WORK– and the right to work in fair conditions, properly compensated for labor, and legally organized in open forums. It actually goes back to a protests by women garment workers in NYC against poor working conditions.

Women and the Workplace

  •  A Global Gender Gap Report 2012, showed that by reducing gender gaps in employment  the US GDP  increased by 9 percent and eurozone GDP by  13 percent.
  • Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faus argues that women bring a different approach to social interactions in the workplace.


Yet, in Ireland……

Only 16 per cent of TDs are women; with only 9 per cent of our boards of  top private companies being made up of women. Fewer than one in four voices on our news and current affairs radio shows belong to women.

Interesting facts about women and work in the  Developing World?

  •  When women and girls earn income they reinvest 90% of it into their families compared with only 30-40% for men
  • 44% of businesses in Ghana are run by women
  • 75% of women worldwide cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs
  • A World Bank Study of 100 countries found that the greater the representation of women in parliament the lower the levels of corruption
  • Women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in governmental positions around the world



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Is your Brain Hooked on Being Right -Judith E. Glaser HBR

Is your Brain Hooked on Being Right

When we experience stress, fear or distrust cortisol floods our brain and our executive functions which once helped us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down.

What happens instead is our amygdala, aka,  (instinctive brain), takes over, and we default to one of four responses: – fight (we keep arguing the point) – flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus)- freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up)- appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

Whilst all responses can be harmful to communications,  the fight response seems to be by far the most common and damaging to working business relationships.

After winning arguments, our brain floods with chemicals: adrenaline and dopamine; these make us feel good, and dominant – even invincible,  hence we want to replicate these feeling as often as possible, and this leads to us recreating the  “fight” response in any other similar situations. Whilst leaders may be extremely good at fighting for their point of view they may be completely unaware of the damaging impact this behavior can have on the people around them.

However, there is another hormone that can elicit a similar feel good response: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is activated by human connection and it opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex, further increasing a person’s ability to trust others.


Some tips for increasing Oxytocin levels when communicating with others

(1)  Set rules of engagement.  Have everyone suggest ways to make meetings  and conversations both productive and inclusive –write down these ideas down for everyone to see. These practices should counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. 

(2)  Listen with empathy. Make conscious efforts to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other peoples’ perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them.

(3)  Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.

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Overcoming Interview Nerves


The interview process can be a daunting experience. Read more here about overcoming nerves.

The nerves and anxiety that some people suffer during the interview process can be debilitating and cause even top candidates to perform poorly. Even though, for most people, it is quite natural to be nervous in a new situation, some peoples’ responses to these feelings can get out of control and significantly affect their chances of completing a successful interview.

We can all recognise the signs of anxiety, such as, hands shaking, mind going blank, sweaty palms or an increased heart rate, to mention but a few. Here are some physical and practical tools to help refocus your attention and overcome your nerves to prevent them affecting your performance. While you can do the things below yourself, more and more people are enlisting the services of a Career Coach to give them and edge in what is a highly competitive jobs market. Click on one of the links to see what a DavittCP Career Coach  can do for you.


  • To begin with, most people have a distorted sense of what an interview is. So, start by reminding yourself that this is a two way process. You have been invited to the interview after consideration of your C.V. You have not been plucked randomly from the street.  Your C.V. has made the organisation think that you may have the skills required for the position.  It’s a learning opportunity for both sides to see if this is a match. That’s really the main purpose of the interview. Holding this thought will increase your confidence.


  • Controlling your breathing is a key tool in overcoming some of the physical sensations associated with anxiety. Anxiety causes some people to breath quicker and therefore talk faster. This can affect the way you come across and will certainly be difficult to control once the interview has started.  Practice breathing at a slower rate for at least an hour before your interview.  There is an effective technique called 1-4-2 where you inhale for one second, hold for four and then exhale for two. You can lengthen this sequence with 3-12-6 and so on.  Not only does this increase blood flow to your brain, which can help those blank moments, but also it will calm you down if you use this technique before your interview.


  • Arriving 15 minutes early will give you time to sit and compose yourself. It can be relaxing too to smile and make some polite conversation with the person who greets you at the reception. Observing the people who work there, while you wait, will give you an insight into the culture, atmosphere and ethos of the company. But do not forget – from the moment you enter the building, you are being assessed. Many managers, even very senior ones, take the opinion of the receptionist as well as that of their PA/secretary very highly. This is because your behaviour towards them is considered to be indicative of how you behave in real life because “your guard is down”, so to speak as you have not yet entered the somewhat contrived setting of the interview. If you are in any way impolite or brusque with a receptionist or a PA/secretary, you can pretty much forget about being called back for another interview. Of course, this is not the case with all interviewers or prospective managers but it is better to be safe rather than sorry – be polite and friendly to everyone you meet on the way to the interview.


  • Remember the pressure that your interviewer is under. They are probably just as keen to impress you and to find a suitable candidate for the position.  Reminding yourself of their position in the process will refocus your attention away from your own feelings of anxiety.


  • Knowledge will give you power over your nerves and help you feel in control at the interview. You should know about the company from detailed research and in particular find out about the person interviewing you. Research will give you a feel for the company and you should prepare questions about the organisation that will make the conversation flow and be more relaxed. Some examples of general questions include:
    • How is success measured in this role?
    • What is a typical working week like?
    • What are the particularly stressful times in this position (e.g. annual reporting, presentations, management issues, appraisals.)?
    • What does your interviewer like about working there?
  • The main point here is that as I’ve said from the beginning, this is a two way street and you should not be afraid to ask questions. A good interviewer will expect to have questions to answer. In fact, they may think you are not as prepared as you could be if you don’t ask them questions!


  • Avoid the unexpected by anticipating questions that may arise from your C.V. Be able to answer key questions about your skills and how they fit with the requirements of the position. Your problem solving skills are always relevant as are how you might have performed better in a situation and your greatest weaknesses and achievements. All your answers should be linked it to the core competencies required by the position. This is absolutely critical.


  • In general they will want to know what you can do for the company so be able to answer this question to stay in control. The bottom line, once they have established you have the necessary skills, is to see if you will fit in.  Being a match for the company is crucial. Understanding this will enable you to treat the interview as a two way process and focus your attention away from any anxiety.


  • By staying in control of your nerves you will face each moment of the interview as it happens.  By doing this you will be able to have the conversation that is required to see if the company think you are the right person and more importantly, whether you think that you would want to work for them.  Remember, even if you are not offered the position it is all excellent practice in remaining calm and composed in an interview.


Our next blog will be about psychometric tests and how best to prepare for them, the ones you can prepare for that is. We will also look at the history of psychometrics and what each test is designed to find out about you.


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Time to redefine work-life balance?-Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They do not die of hard work.”  David Ogilvy

Studies examining the detrimental impact of excessive work often rely on subjective evaluations of work “overload”, failing to disentangle individuals’ beliefs and emotions abouttheir work. If something bores you, it will surely seem tedious. When you hate your job, you will register any amount of work as excessive — Overworking is really only possible if you are not having fun at work and, any amount of work will be dull if you are not engaged, or fulfilled.

  • Hard work may be your most important career weapon:

Hard work distinguishs you from everyone who is smart enough/qualified enough to do your job. Workaholics often have a higher social status in every society, including laidback cultures like in the Caribbean, or South America. Exceptional achievers live longer, and they pretty much work until their death. The 10 most workaholic nations account for most of the world’s GDP.

  • Engagement is the difference between the bright and the dark side of workaholism:

Spending one week on a job you hate is as dreadful as spending a week with a person you don’t like. But when you find the right job, or the right person, no amount of time is enough. Do what you love and you will love what you do, which will also make you love working harder and longer. And if you don’t love what you are doing, try something else — it is never too late for a career change.

  • People who have jobs, worry about work-life balance more than people with careers

 If you are lucky enough to have a career — then you should embrace the work-life imbalance. A career provides a higher sense of purpose; a job provides an income. A job pays for what you do; a career pays for what you love. If you are always counting the number of hours you work  you probably have a job rather than a career. Conversely, the more elusive the boundaries between your work and life, the more successful you probably are in both

  • Complaining about your poor work-life balance is a self-indulgent act. The belief that our ultimate aim in life is to feel good makes no evolutionary sense. It stems from a distorted interpretation of positive psychology, which, in fact, foments self-improvement and growth rather than narcissistic self-indulgence — you will not see many people in Japan, China, or Singapore complain about their poor work-life. Unemployment and stagnation are in part the result of prioritizing leisure and pleasure over work.
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Sometimes Negative Feedback is Best- Heidi Grant Halvorson

Avoiding negative feedback is both wrong-headed and dangerous –  when delivered the right way, at the right time, criticism is highly motivating, and gives awareness of the mistakes a person  is making, leading to  improvement. New research by S Finkelstein and A Fishbach makes it clear why, when, and for whom negative feedback is appropriate.

Positive feedback increases commitment to the work you do, by enhancing  your experience and confidence. Negative feedback  tells you where you need to spend your effort, and offers insight into how you can improve. Given these two different functions, positive and negative feedback should be more effective (and more motivating) for different people at different times.

When you don’t really know what you are doing, positive feedback helps you to stay optimistic and feel more at ease with challenges. As an expert, and you already know what you are doing,  therefore negative feedback can help you get to the top of your game.

Finkelstein and Fishbach show that novices and experts are  motivated by, different kinds of information.

In one study, they asked American students taking either beginner or advanced-level French classes whether they would prefer an instructor who emphasized what they were doing right (focusing on their strengths) or wrong (focusing on their mistakes and how to correct them). Beginners overwhelmingly preferred  the former were as advanced students the later.

In study 2, the researchers looked at individuals engaging in environmentally friendly actions.  “Experts” were members of environmental organizations; their “novices” were non-members. Each participant made a list of the actions they regularly took that helped the environment — they were offered feedback from an environmental consultant on the effectiveness of these, and then given a choice: Would you prefer to know more about the actions you take that are effective, or about the actions you take that are not?

Experts were much more likely to choose the negative feedback — about ineffective actions — than novices.

Taken together, these studies show that people who are already have developed some knowledge and skills — don’t  live in fear of negative feedback.

Remember negative feedback should always be accompanied by good advice, and given with tact. For the full article please visit


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Change your Culture to Thrive – Sunday Business Post


The culture of a company can make or break its fortunes, and it comes from the top down, writes Gareth Naughton in the SBP 20th January 2013

Though it was once an abstract concept that bore little relation to how a company operated, corporate culture is becoming increasingly important as organisations work their employees harder and deal with the growing dominance of Generation Y. Minds have been focused in this area by the experience of the last few years. When push came to shove, the corporate cultures of many institutions – particularly those in the banking arena – were found seriously wanting, according to Michael McDonnell, managing director of CIPD Ireland.

‘‘There is a realisation that small groups of executives – and the banks are a really good example of this – can effectively hijack an organisation for their own personal gain and greed, and destroy it. That is something that we have seen in Ireland and Britain,’’ said McDonnell.

Toxic brands

This tendency could also lead to the emergence of what McDonnell called a ‘‘toxic brand’’ – such as FAS in the public sector.

‘‘That brand became so toxic that it effectively had to be eliminated. We are seeing it now in the BBC with the Jimmy Savile scandal. In all those cases, people are asking, ‘How did this happen? How were we so stupid?’ ’’ he said. The problem is that there was a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. You can define a corporate culture by writing value and mission statements but, unless you follow through, they are essentially useless. McDonnell said that organisations needed people, particularly in HR, to stand up and challenge the corporate culture when they saw something going awry.

‘‘The rhetoric says that ‘We don’t want yes-people in our organisation, we want people with the courage to challenge’. The reality in most organisations is that people who challenge are dismissed as oddballs, cranks and not team players,’’ he said.

‘‘The part of business that is probably in the best position to do that challenging is HR, but it has often been uncertain in its role so it has gone along with it. It didn’t want to be seen as a soft, fluffy part of the business. It tended to stay quiet.’’

The organisations which establish successful corporate cultures tend to feature chief executives and heads of HR who have a good relationship, where they are able to discuss issues arising without the latter feeling like a lone voice. HR should act as a guardian of corporate culture, and continually demonstrate why it is a good idea for companies to take an active interest in its development.

‘‘One of our difficulties in HR is that, to a large degree, ours is a qualitative profession in a quantitative environment,’’ said McDonnell. ‘‘By that, I mean we look at things like training. It is very hard to say, in total terms, that if you invest in a management development programme, it will create the following amount of wealth for you. ‘‘Business is measured by bottom-line results, so what we need to do is develop more analytical frameworks and quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of HR.’’

Lead by example

The culture of every organisation is defined by its people, but it’s the man or woman at the top who exerts the most influence. If your chief executive is a tyrant, that is going to filter down through the rest of the organisation and have a detrimental effect on the working environment, with consequences in terms of employee engagement, attraction and retention. How the business leaders in your organisation interact with the rest of the employees has a significant impact, according to Adrienne Davitt, senior corporate psychologist and managing director of Davitt Corporate Partners.

‘‘A lot of business leaders forget how visible they are because they are busy thinking of things at a higher level – but when they walk through an organisation, the energy they put out, the way they connect to people and whether they communicate at all are very important,’’ she said.

Davitt believes that, from the moment you walk into a place, you can sense its culture. This can be ingrained, which is why it is important that leaders are conscious of it.

‘‘Culture is developed by people at the top of an organisation, and those people can change over time, but what often doesn’t change is the culture. Any group of leaders has a responsibility to make sure that the culture of the organisation they are leading is the best place for people to work in and be as productive as they can be,’’ she said.

The economic difficulties of the last few years have had a transformative effect on the Irish

workplace, with companies leaner than ever before. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge, according to Davitt. Companies now have the chance to redefine their culture having survived the downturn; the challenge is to recognise how important it is to do that, rather than bury their heads in the sand.

‘‘It is the future of work,’’ said Davitt. ‘‘Organisations have changed because they had to – but now, in order to grow, develop and be successful, they need to take control over that change process so it is not imposed on them. The culture that you want to have in five years’ time is the one that you are putting in place now.

‘‘It doesn’t happen by osmosis or default. It only takes about 10 per cent of a leader’s time and energy to constantly focus on this, but the return on that is 30 to 40 per cent.’’ Davitt cited clothing retailer H&M as an example of a company that has reaped the benefits of focusing on corporate culture.

‘‘They are bigger than people realise, and they have an amazing culture,’’ she said. ‘‘They have it because they created it, and they sustained it regardless of what happens in the world markets.

‘‘Typically, people start with them on the shop floor and they move up. When you connect with people like that who have very strong fundamental values, and share those throughout the group and really live those values, then you have a very successful business,’’ she said.

The bottom line

This doesn’t just make sense from an employee’s perspective. There was solid evidence that companies who built high trust corporate cultures did better than those who failed to make any headway in this area, said John Ryan, chief executive of Great Place to Work.

‘‘There was a ten-year study done in the US where they did a comparison of the Standard and Poor’s 500 and Russell 3000 against the Fortune 100 list of best companies, and the Fortune 100 had three times the performance level,’’ said Ryan.

‘‘This is research-based – it is not just nice to have. That is why organisations are saying, ‘Hang on a second – maybe we should look at this stuff, it seems to be essential’. It is about building a competitive advantage, and there are certain organisations that have realised that culture can be that advantage for them.’’

The critical change has been in the demographics, according to Ryan, with workplaces in Ireland currently featuring five generations for the first time.

Diversity is no longer about integrating different nationalities. It is about working out how to get the baby boomers working with Generation Y to maximise potential. The impact of Generation Y cannot be underestimated. To some extent, it is this group that is really driving the move towards a more open and collaborative corporate culture.

‘‘Generation Y is the type of people who absolutely demand transparency. They are not interested

in being told what to do, like the people of the past who would have kept their head down and done the job, taking the lead from above and doing what they were told,’’ said Ryan.

‘‘The new people coming into the workplace – and these are critically important, talented people that organisations need to bring on board and keep – are not willing to accept that.

‘‘They want full information about what the organisation is about. They want to be included in devising the strategy of the organisation so they are not simply listening to the senior team; they want their say in how to create it.

‘‘They constantly want to be able to put their views forward, and they need them to be listened to.

‘‘They are not interested in staying around organisations that don’t have really strong corporate social responsibility, and they are also committed to sustainability so organisations have had to change dramatically,’’ he said.

Culture costs

Ryan said that organisations were increasingly finding that the new generation of workers were less attracted by money than company culture. Where the culture is not right, it is costing money.

‘‘If you are in a really competitive area, like the IT sector, where one new innovation can make or break a company, you know that you have to attract the brightest and the best,’’ he said. ‘‘If you think that it is all about money, you are making a mistake. Some companies are paying higher levels because they had to. Their culture is not strong, and they are trying to make up for it by paying more money, but the individual s are making lifestyle choices in terms of how and where they can work.

‘‘Can they take sabbaticals? What is the culture like? Is it a fun place to work, or is it dreary? “They want this place to be inspiring for them, and they are willing to take less money for a better culture.’’

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Article by Carol Ryan, Irish Times Journalist, where Amber Hanna & David Keane are interviewed.

obama_irelandWhat do the theory of evolution, Beethoven’s 9th symphony, the Mona Lisa, Harry Potter and Apple Computers have in common? They are all the work of an introvert who spent thousands of hours alone honing their work to perfection. Some of the world’s most famous introverts include Bill Gates, Google founder Larry Paige, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Anthony Hopkins and Steven Spielberg. Despite his charisma, Barack Obama is a classic introvert who has learned to “act” extroverted on the campaign trail. Many Asian countries prefer reserved people but in the West being labelled “quiet” is not a compliment. The ideal personality here is fast-talking, fun-loving and risk-taking. Bad news for nearly 50% of the population who are more introverted.

Where you fall on the introvert/extrovert scale has an impact on pretty much every aspect of your life including the partner you choose, the friends you meet and your career. Extroverts get their energy from the outside world and love interacting with people. They are more likely to have a wide circle of friends, to place big bets on the stock market, to be hospitalised with an injury, to exercise and have affairs.

Introverts get energy from solitude and feel drained by too much socialising. It is not the same as shyness, introverts just prefer situations that aren’t overly stimulating. They like more “down time”, have a greater need for privacy and are less outspoken in groups. The two personality types even arrange their work spaces differently. An extrovert is more likely to decorate their office and leave the door open to lure co-workers in for a chat, while introverts tend to keep their door closed to ward off interruptions.

Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” says that we miss out when we ignore the strengths of introverts. “Some of our greatest ideas, art and inventions…came from quiet, cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there”. She describes growing up as a soft spoken child in America (the most extroverted country in the world), and being pushed to socialise on an endless round of play dates and boisterous summer camps. As she grew older, she noticed that parents often apologise for shyness in their child, that the volume of a person’s voice is sometimes more important than the quality of their work at the office, and came to the conclusion that introversion is a second class personality trait in the West. “Extroversion is a hugely appealing personality style but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform. If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one”.

Most workplaces and schools are more suited to the needs of extroverts. “Classroom desks are increasingly arranged in pods to foster group learning” says Cain. Research shows that the majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert but in fact, introversion is linked to intelligence. The US Gifted Development Center found that 75% of children with IQs above 160 are introverts. Although they are more natural students, quiet children are at a disadvantage where there is a lot of emphasis on classroom participation and group work in school.

David Keane is a Senior Corporate Psychologist with Davitt Corporate Partners. He says that Irish businesses should be aware of the strengths of extroverts and introverts when selecting employees because a bad hiring decision can cost a company three times the person’s annual salary. Introverts have a more difficult time selling themselves in a traditional interview as self promotion does not come as naturally to them. “The nature of an interview is more suited to an extrovert because you have to talk about yourself and think on your feet” says Keane. “But if you throw in something practical like a presentation where an introvert really gets time to put their thoughts down on paper, it levels the playing field”.

In the business world, there is also an assumption that extroverts make the best managers. Amber Hanna, also a Corporate Psychologist with Davitt Corporate Partners, says that a quieter style of leadership is coming into fashion. “In the past number of years that kind of alpha, charismatic leadership hasn’t worked…just take a look at what happened on Wall Street. People are now more willing to accept that people who listen, get a consensus and make more logical, thought-out decisions probably make better leaders”.

Even office design can have a big impact on how productive introverts and extroverts are in the workplace. The funkily decorated, open plan offices ushered in to Ireland by multinationals are more suited to extroverts. “Plenty of introverts do really well in open plan offices but they probably go home at the end of the day exhausted from hearing so many voices and having so much interaction all the time” says Amber Hanna. “So if an open plan office has breakout rooms or quiet rooms, you are more likely to find introverts going off in there to work”.

Introverts are happiest when they can work in nooks and crannies and if a company has a lot of introverts on their team, it makes economic sense to give them their own workspace. A study by consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared 500 computer programmers (an occupation stuffed with introverts) at 92 different companies. The main factor separating the most successful companies from the least successful was that they gave more privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption to their programmers.

If job specs are anything to go by, being an outgoing “team player” is one of the most important attributes a job seeker can have today. But is team work really all it is cracked up to be? Teamwork can actually hamper innovation and lead to group-think where people toe the line even if they don’t agree with the group’s decision. If a company is seeking creativity and visionary ideas from their workforce, they would do better to advertise for an introvert because introversion is strongly linked to creativity.

Steve Wozniak, the engineering genius who designed the first Apple computer (but was completely overshadowed by the more charismatic and extroverted Steve Jobs) has little time for teamwork and has this advice for introverts who find they don’t quite fit into today’s corporate environment. “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists…and artists work best alone. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee. Not on a committee. Not on a team. Work alone”.

Carol Ryan, Journalist with the Irish Times.

This Article was published in the Health Supplement of the Irish Times on Tuesday 22nd January.