Laura Belyea

Blog written by Aoife Lenox, Communications and Training Consultant who helps organisations build positive employee experiences.

As a nation, we Irish are branded as generally introverted, certainly in relation to our US counterparts. This influences our work style, our ways of communicating, how we design our office spaces. Yet, times are changing. By 2025 three quarters of the workforce will be Millennials. Lisa Smith of the training company EngageSmith noticed ‘that Millennials had a different way of working than GenX or BabyBoomers’. This is a hot topic. At the end of June KonnectAgain a Dublin based company which uses their platform to connect alumni from organisations, held an event to explore this. Experts in this area collectively summarised the desires of Millennials as; company culture, flexibility, career and personal development. EngageSmith says Millennials were raised to believe they can do anything. This is a generation that came of age right at the beginning of the Celtic Tiger in Ireland.

So, this begs the question? Are Millennials more extroverted than previous generations? Millennials have grown up in a ‘noiser’ world, more social collaboration, constantly ‘on’ with technology and devices never far away. Work environments are changing in line with this. Open plan office spaces are the norm. A conversation with an employee in the construction industry in New York recently described the office spaces he works on as ‘chicken farms’. A recent New York Times article stated that ‘The average amount of space per office worker in North America dropped to 176 square feet in 2012, from 225 in 2010’. As a researcher into the introverted experience I wondered where do introverts fit in this modern workplace? A 2015 Business Insiderarticle was titled ‘Millennials and Extroverts more likely to succeed in smaller offices’. Is the assumption out there that Millennials are more extroverted? This article recognises that this approach doesn’t always work for everyone and suggests the answer many companies find is to balance this openness and collaborative approach with separate spaces, one company calls them ‘refuge rooms’.

As an Irish born Gen X Introvert, I know where I will be when I need to get some productive work done, in a quiet space huddled away for hours at a time, my American born husband however a Gen X Extrovert would most likely be found in the café surrounded by people. Are we introverts a dying breed? Research shows that approximately 50% of the workforce have introverted tendencies, with the growth of Millennials in the workforce will this figure drastically reduce? Of course, genetics will always play a role in these traits continuing but the nurture debate would strongly support the argument that environment plays a large role in our personality development. Susan Cain in her book ‘Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ discusses research that would state our temperament is dictated by our genes but our personality is more influenced by our environment. If that is the case how much more extroverted are Irish Millennials who have grown up in a world entirely different to generations before and how will this influence our corporate cultures in Ireland? Will there be less variances between country specific workplace cultures as Millennials themselves become a culture of its’ own? Perhaps only time will tell.

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