Managing Up Part II: Is Your Boss an Introvert or Extrovert?

By Harrison Smith, VP Credit Manager, Stonebriar Commercial Finance and Camtu Vo, Digital Consultant, DLL Financial Solutions Partner. Editor: Jacob Fahl, VP Funding & Portfolio Services, Hitachi Capital America Corp.

This resource is part of the Career Development series developed by the ELFA Emerging Talent Advisory Council. Learn more.

Establishing strong productive working relationships is the single most effective way to accelerate your success in any organization. One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to understand your boss’s personality and then adapt your interaction style and communication accordingly. As you navigate your career, you will undoubtedly encounter diverse personality types and working styles of many bosses. A boss’s personality and style will (most likely) not change, but YOU can change how you interact with them to achieve greater outcomes. In Part I (How Young Professionals Obtain Better Outcomes by Managing Their Boss) we discussed strategies to understand your boss and yourself and how to use this information to Manage Up. In this Part II article, we’ll discuss strategies to manage two common personality types: the Extrovert, and the Introvert.

Managing Up Pt2

People fall on a spectrum of two broad personality types: Extroversion and Introversion, which is characterized by a person’s source of energy (internal / external), direction of energy (inward / outward) and response to external stimulation. This core personality trait can range anywhere from very extroverted to very introverted or somewhere in the middle.

The key to Managing Up is understanding which personality trait you lean toward compared to your boss, and then adapting your communication style and energy accordingly. While you can quickly determine where you fit by taking a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, understanding your boss's personality will require effort. You will need to observe their behavior over time to determine where they fall on the extrovert/introvert range. Below are examples of behaviors to help identify where your Boss’s personality lies:

Introverted Boss

  • Listens more than talks
  • Shares minimal information
  • Infrequent team meetings
  • Works alone with door closed
  • Feels cold and aloof
  • Infrequent check-ins, works alone

Extroverted Boss

  • Talks a lot and can be long winded
  • Readily shares information
  • Regularly sets team meetings
  • Enjoys engaging with staff and checks in regularly.
  • Quick to make a decision or take an action

Managing the Introverted Boss
Introverts thrive on working independently because they gain energy from quiet reflection. Though introversion is not solely about being quiet and shy, it is about how a person approaches people and tasks. Introverts are systematic, structured, analytical, logical, risk averse and have a preference for planning ahead. They are good listeners and less emotional in challenging situations.

Some benefits of an introverted boss are that they give you space, they do not waste your time and they listen to you. Some downfalls of an introverted boss are lack of information sharing and less solicitation of input and ideas. Working with introverted bosses means managing communication style and energy style. 

  1. Take the Initiative: Don’t wait for your introverted boss to reach out to you. Take the initiative to schedule one-on-one meetings and regular check-ins. Embrace email.
  2. Respect Their Space: Introverts need alone time to recharge. Avoid impromptu meetings and limit your regular check-ins to once or twice per day.
  3. Give Them Time to Prepare: Tell them ahead of time what you want to talk about as introverts prefer to process information before speaking about it.
  4. Ask Questions: When meeting, keep the topic of your conversation focused and concise. Introverts often don’t share enough information, so it is your responsibility to ask questions to get up to speed. Keep your questions open-ended—“what,  how, why, tell me about…”—to prompt your introverted boss to share more information.
  5. Keep Them in the Loop: Take the initiative to keep your boss informed and updated on your projects and deliverables. Tell them your plan of action or how you want to approach a given situation. The moment you come out with something they do not approve of, they will let you know precisely what they want you to do.
  6. Introvert Trap: If you are also an introvert, be sure to step out of your comfort zone and be proactive in your communication with your boss so that you don’t miss important information and action items. Take the time and initiative to schedule face-to-face meetings.

Managing the Extroverted Boss
Extroverts are outgoing and in constant motion, whether it is through meetings, brainstorming sessions or informal discussions. Extroverts are very open to conversations and are energized by social interactions. They can be overwhelming and draining for those who require more time to think and process information or prefer a quieter personality in general. As we do not get to choose our boss’s personality, learning how to manage their extroversion will enable a healthy, collaborative working relationship. 

Benefits of an extroverted boss are that they will enjoy talking with you, you will know where they stand, they usually have a wide network, and they are action driven. Challenges with extroverted bosses are that their thoughts may seem unclear or confusing, they move too quickly to action, they spend too much time talking and their personality may be draining.

Working with extroverted bosses is fairly easy by managing communications and interactions. Below are strategies to manage your extroverted boss.

  1. Listen and Clarify: Listen actively to what your boss says and help them to build out their ideas to an executable plan. Be enthusiastic and encouraging. Extroverts tend to think out loud, therefore, not everything your boss says is an action item. Listen and follow their thought process. Ask questions for clarity and the action items will come forth.
  2. Be Friendly: When working with an extroverted manager, it is essential that you meet their need for social interaction at the office. Say “Hello.” Smile. Participate in team events. This builds your relationship with your boss.
  3. Speak Up!: Do not be a wallflower. This will be hard for those who are not used to speaking up. But you need to let your boss know your ideas. Communication is a must with an extroverted boss. Your value will increase as you open up to them with your opinions, questions and willingness to share your knowledge.
  4. Be Present: Get face-to-face time with your boss regularly. You can set up recurring meetings or pop into their office for a quick chat. Outies thrive on external interactions and discussing things in person will ensure your boss knows you are committed.  Also, it wouldn’t hurt to highlight your achievements. 
  5. Set Boundaries: If you are an introvert and need more time to process information, be okay with asking for a moment to process. It is also good to set time to yourself to recharge from all the communication and interactions.  
  6. Welcome Brainstorming: Participate and learn to like these sessions as your boss will appreciate the collaboration and social interaction. The energy during a good brainstorming session is instrumental in nurturing extroversion.
  7. Extrovert Trap: If you are also an extrovert, you and your boss will have similar tendencies. Be careful to make sure you stay on topic during discussions. No hijacking or going on tangents.  Keep yourself and your boss focused on work related topics. 

Working for an introvert or extrovert boss can be frustrating if you do not know how to navigate the communication style, energy and interactions with them. The strategies above are a guide for you to identify your boss’s predilection and manage a better relationship with your boss by using their natural tendencies.  Remember, it’s a learned skill to proactively anticipate the best way to interact. Your boss may be both an introvert and extrovert. If this is the case, you may need to use a blend of these strategies.

There are many spectrums of extroversion and introversion as well as many categories of sub-personalities. In our Part III article, we will explore how to manage bosses with different personalities. We also encourage emerging leaders to pick up a copy of Mary Abbajay’s book Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss in which she dives into the management of dozens of sub-personalities.

If you missed Parts I & III, access them here: