Posted by: healingtheworkplace | March 9, 2015

Personalities in the Workplace


Did you know that the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI is the most widely used personality test in the world?  According to the Myers Briggs organization millions of people around the world take the test every year.

The MBTI is loosely based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type and can be a useful tool to understand how we perceive the world and how we make decisions based on our preferences.

Most of us want to understand why our colleagues at work behave the way they do. The MBTI has been used to help people understand these differences. It can be beneficial if used correctly.

Writing in Personal Empowerment through Type, Patricia Cranton, author and adult educator, cautioned that if the test is not used properly it may end up reinforcing negative stereotypes about people. For instance, introverts are always quiet and passive and extroverts are always loud and boisterous.

Once they have completed the MBTI, some organizations encourage employees to write the results on their nametags. People walk around proudly proclaiming, “HI, I’m an INTJ” or “Hi, I’m an ENSP”. This might be ok as long as everyone agrees and there is an understanding of what these letters really mean.

Sometimes these exercises can backfire as demonstrated by the following example from a self-described introvert who wanted to share her experience with me:

“After doing a survey as to whether we were introverts or extroverts, we were divided into those two groups and told to come up with a list of what it was like dealing with the other group. We introverts went first, and talked about things like needing time away from the social or interactive scene which didn’t always mesh with what the extroverts wanted from us. Then the extroverts talked about what it was like to work with us introverts. They produced a litany of complaints about how annoying it was to always have to stop and coax us to participate, and how tired they were of having to pay attention to our feelings—why didn’t we just step up to the plate—and on and on…I felt attacked for being who I was, my very essence, and I could not believe that the facilitator didn’t step in to redress the imbalance. But no…the workshop just moved on…(I should have talked to the facilitator, but I didn’t—I was too emotional about it).”

This is one of the pitfalls of using the MBTI without allowing time to really explore the issues that might surface.

In my own experience, when the MBTI was administered as part of a team building session at work, very little time was spent on helping us to understand not only our own preferences but the preferences of the rest of the team. In the end it was interesting exercise but not very useful.

The bottom line is that people are complex and are capable of changing and they don’t fit neatly into categories.

 The Dynamic Introvert






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