Neurotypical bias: Extroverts vs. introverts in virtual meetings

  • Posted on May 6, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Neurotypical Bias In Virtual Meetings

The COVID-19 global pandemic is driving a rapid acceleration of digitalization across the planet – forcing many organizations to abruptly adopt new models in the workplace for remote working and virtual meetings.

As a consequence, video communication and collaboration tools they were initially designed for ad hoc or scheduled conversations (e.g., Zoom, Teams, WebEx) have been repurposed as engagement frameworks for remote workers to conduct all of their business with colleagues and customers. The ‘new normal’ is all interactions squeezed through a porthole – the flat-panel display on their laptops or desktop computers. All from the "comfort" (discomfort?) of the bedroom, living room, or home office.

“Digital transformation is not about technology — it’s about change.”

- MIT Center for Information Research

The reverberations of this cataclysmic change in the modern workplace are just starting to be studied, evaluated, and improved. For example, it has become common to default to “always on” video cameras and microphones during internal and external meetings. Does this result in ‘video-shaming’ those whose cameras are off?

Has the rush to virtual engagement given an advantage to those who adapt and master the video camera, lighting and background needed to come across in a professional manner? Does the extrovert thrive , while the introvert suffers? What about those who are vision-impaired, hearing-impaired, or neuroatypical?

Who are we leaving behind in our headlong rush to the future?
Do we turn on transcriptions for the hearing impaired, ensure accessibility of menus and graphics for the visually impaired? Have we entered into a hegemony of the extrovert neurotypical? Who are we leaving behind in our headlong rush to the future? Will the native creativity and innovation potential of those cohorts be lost to the larger group?

"We have a lot of work to do...to ensure we extend the concept of diversity and inclusion to incorporate neural and perceptual diversity."

What do you think? Some individuals who self-identify as introverts have told me they actually prefer virtual meetings over those IRL. There is less sensory stimulation, so they can interact online for hours at a time, whereas in-person meetings over that duration can often feel enervating or require downtime to recharge.

Conversely, some extroverts (myself included) find online meetings a challenge because there isn’t enough information. As a team leader, it’s harder to read body language in tiny video windows that are squeezed down to make screen room for presentations. Are people paying attention, or answering email or checking in on TikTok? Who’s leaning in, and who’s leaning back?

So – do we all get a little, lose a little? What’s your experience with virtual (online) engagement? What tips and tricks have you found in order to be as inclusive as possible to all neurotypes and personality types? My takeaway - we have a lot of work to do to optimize interaction and engagement online, to ensure we extend the concept of diversity and inclusion to incorporate neural, perceptual, and personality-type diversity.

If you'd like to know more about how IT, HR and line of business (LOB) leaders can come together to foster a more inclusive and neuro-diverse Workplace Experience (WX): explore Avanade's Rethink WX guide. If you'd like to continue this conversation, hit me up in the comments section below.

Samantha George

Really well written article, Andrew! I agree that we need to be taking this into greater consideration as an organization as we move forward. You've definitely given me something to think about.

May 20, 2021

Mario Monzo

Great article and much needed. I’m speaking in this topic in June. Progressive organizations are going to embrace People Analytics to find continued success post pandemic. Personalities and conversational dynamics are going to need to be better understood to appeal to employee needs and styles. It’s going to be a whole new game...

May 12, 2021

Andrew Borg

Thank you for the feedback Mario. I think a whole lot of work remains to be done to come up with neuroadaptive work processes in the virtual and hybrid work scenarios.  In other word it's a lot easier to describe the problem than it is to provide viable solutions. I look forward to hearing you talk on the topic in June - how can we join you there?

May 13, 2021

Jen Glover

Thank you for this article, Andrew! This issue really came into focus for me after stepping up as my team lead.  I consider myself an introvert and so the unsaid expectation of being camera ready has induced anxiety. But luckily my main collaborators vary with the preference of camera on or off and meetings resumes at everyone preferred way. 

May 6, 2021

Andrew Borg

Jen, I think we're obligated to find virtual engagement experiences that work for all personality and neurotypes. For example, we could pair up interested extrovert and introvert partners to coach each other - extroverts to help introverts feel more comfortable on or off camera, and introverts to coach extroverts to be more effective in being authentically inclusive to all types., and explore different engagement models that work for those types.

May 13, 2021

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