Why some of us struggle to work from home and others don’t

Reading time: 6 minutes
Thinking time: might be a lifetime?

Whenever I took an assessment in the past, and believe me – being responsible for testing and assessments in a big corporate for years – I took many, I was always portrayed as an extreme extravert. Extraverted to that extent that not only the assessor, but even I, often wondered if it was because I am really that extraverted, or because I somehow learned that extraversion gives me more chances for success in the ‘big angry’ world. In that case, me scoring that extraverted could simply function as some type of survival strategy. The armor of a smile. If you know what I mean.

People that know me or have worked with me, will definitely recognize this extraverted side of mine. I never fall out of words or stories to tell. I can talk on the phone for hours. And I don’t mind being the center of attention in a group or at a party. But in all honesty, if you give me the choice between networking, socializing, partying, or just reading a book on my own, playing some classical piano, or working on a painting, I’ll almost always prefer the second.

Am I really an extravert?
Or am I simply an introvert in disguise?

The TMA Assessment

It wasn’t until recently, when I took a TMA assessment, that I started to understand how this works for me. Let me explain.

A TMA assessment connects individual talents, based on psychometry, to professional behavior indicators, based on competencies and performance management. It reports on 22 motives, 53 competencies and 44 talents.

Think about ambition, conformity, the need for status, pragmatism, energy, extraversion, purposiveness, responsibility, self-esteem, sociability or for example the extent to which a person needs variety.

Competencies are e.g. adaptability, assertiveness, attention to detail, commercial power, conflict management, creativity, decisiveness, delegating, leadership, negotiating, presenting and problem analysis.

There are two ways every motive can turn into a specific talent. This depends on whether you score high or low on the continuum of one and the same motive. For example, when looking at the motive confrontation (shortly said your desire to set verbal boundaries), you can be gifted with the influential talent of assertiveness on one hand, or the influential talent of tolerance on the other hand. Other examples are deliberation or problem-solving, team orientation or autonomy, creativeness or precision, etc.

Competency vs motives vs talents

Sociability as a competence
When we look at sociability as a competence, I find it easy to be amongst people, I am not shy and can talk to anyone. It is something I learned by multiple sales and negotiation trainings. It is something I definitely trained by upbringing. Say hi. Shake hands. Be friendly. From a young age. Today, at the age of 46, you can say my extraversion as a competence comes seemingly naturally when needed.

Extraversion as a motive
As I wrote before, I don’t mind being in the center of attention. No issues with ‘one to many’ situations (presenting, giving a talk, etc.). Next to that, I know am good at expressing myself and I love to share my daily or not so daily experiences. Hence my writings right now. I am an optimist and do find myself pretty humoristic. I like to present, perform and persuade. Let me add to that that I can be a bit impulsive and might situationally seem too complacent, although that’s absolutely not my intention. But, outside my coaching role, it is indeed a challenge for me to give the other one enough space, not because I intend to take up all the space, but because I always have something to tell. Know your own pitfalls ;).

Sociability as a motive
Here it comes. Sociability as a motive, not a competence, as in ‘the degree to which a person feels the need for friendship and social contacts’. As extraverted as I am, I can be very selective in whom I connect with. I don’t feel the need to socialize all the time. One networking event a year will do perfectly fine for me. And although I’ll have fun once I am there, I’ll feel obliged to go just before I leave.

Individuality as a talent
My real talent here is not related to group situations but to individuality. Call it autonomy. Or independence. A lot of relations to be entertained cost me so such energy, that I need to reload in between. I talk easily but trust slowly. I’m not that assertive, I tend to avoid conflicts, and am more autonomous than a true team player. You can put me in front of a 1000 people to do a talk, I’ll enjoy that. But please let me be on my own or in a limited company in between. No real fun in the after-work-drinks for me.

When job requirements do not match your true talent

When we look closely at the above, still focusing on my own case here, there is only one conclusion to be made. I do have the competence to be sociable and the main reason I am ‘able to be social’ is that I am that extraverted. You could say my talent for extraversion – without judgement about the talent of being introverted, which brings other benefits – is compensating my outspoken preference for autonomy and individuality, which is again another talent of mine. Next to that, my upbringing also very much supported me in developing the competence of social behavior. From that point of view, my job as a personal executive coach is a perfect match for me. I don’t do group coaching because I simply don’t like it. It costs me too much energy, whereas coaching 1-1 gives me energy instead.

From my case to your situation. Take a look in the mirror now. How is that for you? Are you feeling fulfilled by your job? Do you feel as if you are really doing the things you love to do (instead of what you are able of)? Do you have fun? Can you forget about the time whilst working? If not, chances are there is a mismatch between your talents and drives and the competency you are demonstrating for the job. Just as you would ask me to work with groups or join networking events from Monday to Friday. Does that give you food for thought?

Job requirements in corona times: working from home

Let’s take it one step further. Taking into account my score on the dimension of sociability, you would think I love to work from home. No real need for a lot of human interaction. Yet, the opposite is true. I honestly hate it. How is that even possible? The TMA assessment explains that for me as well. Although my need for sociability is low, I dislike structure, rules and conformity. I need diversity in my daily routine. And above all, I am anything but pragmatic. I love to drive around just for the sake of it. I prefer to move. Experience some daily stress. Be able to use my creativity. How valuable is it to understand why I am struggling in my home office? I know for sure that I am not the only one.

Today a lot of people work from home. Out of necessity. Whereas one person is very pleased and happy to be able to work from within the domestic walls, another person feels drained every end of the day. This is a beautiful example of how talents and drives can (and do!) intervene with your overall level of job satisfaction and not to forget efficiency. This is a perfect example of what happens when your job requirements do match your competency (as we are all ‘able’ to work on zoom) but don’t match your talent. This is also why understanding ‘why you love or hate working from home’ is more complex than answering the question of extraversion and sociability. As if every person low on sociability would prefer the home office. This is not the case. Not even for introverts.

Leading from a distance

Having fun leads to more efficiency, doing those things closest to your natural talents gives you the best chances for success and effectiveness. Not to mention happiness and overall satisfaction. That is why it is so important for leaders of today to understand what their people (including themselves) are going through. Why are some people less effective? Why are others, under the very same circumstances, blossoming? You might be surprised where the shoe pinches. And, as you see in my case, the solution for the displeasure is not simply adding more social activities. How interesting would it be to know where you and your team stand today? I know!!

The outcome

Back to the question it all started with. Am I really an extravert? Or am I an introvert in disguise? Here is my answer. For once and for all. I am not an introvert. Not even in disguise. I am indeed an extravert. No survival strategy there. There is a difference between extraversion and sociability, that I knew. What I didn’t know, is that there is an even more important difference between sociability as a competence and sociability as a motive. Knowing this now, it totally makes sense to me. Even more: it gives me some kind of relief to be able to accept myself the way I am. Next to that, I now know for sure that my job circumstances are a perfect match with who I am. At my best. How cool is that?!

Are you yourself an individual looking for more understanding? Do you struggle working from home without knowing why? Do you feel a lack of job satisfaction or are you in the process of finding a new job? Order your own TMA assessment here. Use code ‘BFPM20’ for an additional 5% reduction on the first assessment. It is a great tool to create insight in your motives and talents. It allows you to be as effective and successful as you can be, simply because you are able to substantially modify your current role or daily routine. When more drastic rules apply, you have all you need to select a new job that is closest to who you really are. Sometimes it’s simply not the people that are falling short. If only they can change their environment or talk about mutual expectations. So take the test yourself.

In the end, if you, just like me, can conclude you are already perfectly organized just the way you are, isn’t that worth everything?


About me – Being a certified executive and personal coach, I am associated to the Global Coach Group and Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching team and owner of the global executive coaching practice where I am working on an ambitious scale-up plan now that I’ve learned to ‘not having to do it all on my own’. Next to that I’ve co-founded in December 2018 and started working some hours a month for my old love, the Adecco Group (LHH) as well as for one of the biggest Dutch coaching practices in Amsterdam. My passions include playing my quarter grand piano and messing around with acrylic paint on large sized linen canvas. When I’m not catching some proverbial Big Fish, for now I’ve partially replaced the gym for my now brand-new mountain bike, and I am loving it. But then again, I am still luckiest doing what I do best, challenging others and myself to perform at ‘our’ best