As an MBTI® trainer and consultant, I most often work with businesses and organizations to improve team and/or individual functioning through type. While type is capable of improving these environments drastically, it is not useful or even ethical to use the instrument in all situations.
Below are some frequently asked questions about using the MBTI® in organizations, along with answers that indicate whether or not type should be used in these situations.
“I have a great team with quite a few strong personalities, but it seems that they could get along better. What can I do?”
Type – This is a common scenario in groups! Whether individuals are being seen as rude, input at meeting seems to come only for one or two people, drastic differences in communication styles are causing workplace tension, or much is being read into a closed or open door a scenario more common that you’d imagine), type can help. When a certified type practitioner comes to work with a group, he or she will start by interpreting the assessment and giving official results back. This gives the members of the group an understanding of their own types, as well as a new perspective on how other people function. After the interpretation, the practitioner will usually facilitate activities that allow coworkers to hear the perspectives of other members of their team. This generally brings many lightbulbs of realization that what seemed like rudeness before is, in many cases, simply a difference in type and style. While this won’t cure all conflicts, it certainly helps separate type problems from deeper issues.
“I want to make sure I hire the right person for this position, so can I hire you to administer the Myers-Briggs® and tell me if this person has the right type for the job?”
Not Type – While this may surprise and annoy a lot of people, my answer to this question is “no”. You may have read articles that criticize the MBTI® by stating that it is not an accurate predictor of job success. I have always found this hilarious because Myers-Briggs® is not intended to predict job success any more than a cholesterol test indicates how tall a person is! Yes, Myers-Briggs® can tell you that people of certain types report being happy in certain careers, and that makes it a helpful tool for individuals to use when trying to find a good fit for their own career. That being said, the assessment cannot, and does not aim to, identify specific talents or abilities. For instance, ESFPs are often describes as people who enjoy performing. That’s nice, but I guarantee the American Idol judges never sent a tone-deaf ESFP through to Hollywood just because the person had the “right type”. On the flip side, they would never reject an INTJ with an amazing voice for having the wrong type. People have interests, talents, and abilities outside of what is common for their types, so they should NEVER be chosen for a position based on type. It is simply not ethical and not what the instrument was designed for. If you are looking for assessments that can be used in the hiring process, there are plenty out there that can suit your needs, but the MBTI® is not one of them.
“My company just acquired another company, and we now have a big group of people working together who don’t know each other and come from different corporate cultures. What can I do?”
Type – This situation is a great place to use type. Whether the companies have different cultures due to country of origin differences or just have different traditions and ways of doing business, type can help the individuals in the group find common ground. Type, according to Jung, is something we are born with that stays with us throughout life. It is something that transcends culture. This means that you can have a group of people from 30 countries in a room, and each person will fall into one of the 16 types. When you translate that to the company scenario, you’ll find that you’ll have ISTJs, ENFPs, ISFPs and so forth from each company. While these individuals have been taught to conform to their previous company culture, knowing that they think in similar ways can tear down walls. This can be accomplished through the same process of results interpretation and activities described in the first question.
“Now that I know the types of my employees, can I put teams together based on their types?”
Not Type – This is very much like the hiring question, in that type does not determine talent. Also, people sometimes have counterproductive ideas of how to form these groups. For instance, you may want to form a brainstorming group and decide to fill it with all ENTPs because they are known for a love of brainstorming. Well, what happens when that group lacks Sensing types to point out details that may derail the idea or to keep the ideas from heading too far in the future to fix the current problem? It is good to have a mix of types to keep groups balanced and functioning, but you still don’t want to create a “perfectly” mixed group based on type. Doing this may eliminate a person from the group who truly wants to work on the project, and it may add a person to the team who hates the topic. What’s the solution here? Well, see who is interested in a group, covering all of the areas of expertise you need, and then use type to help the group function better by seeing what preferences may be in abundance, what preferences are missing, and discussing how to find balance.
“Which type should I promote to a leadership position?”
Not Type – Type alone does not make a great leader, and you should never promote based on type. At this point, you may be picking up on a very important theme in this article, which is that type should never be used to exclude individuals from taking on roles they want to take on.
“How can I help my team members develop as leaders?”
Type – Now, THIS is a great question! Type is great to use with teams or with individuals for this purpose. Any type enthusiast can tell you that each preference comes with its own set of strengths and challenges. For instance, Thinking types in leadership roles may be seen as too critical at times, perhaps failing to recognize positive aspects of other people’s work. Feeling types may have difficulty providing those they lead with criticism, while being great at providing praise. Great leaders provide both constructive criticism and praise, and type can help individuals learn how to do this. It can also assist with learning how to manage energy as a leader, such as when an Introverted leader has an open door policy. The possibilities are nearly limitless to help aspiring leaders of every type learn to improve.
“I have a —- type working on my team. Now, I can just have him do all of the —- work because they are good at that, right?”
Not Type – While a compliment is always nice to get, many ISTJs would not take it as a compliment if you assumed they would want to write the Standard Operating Procedures manual just because they are supposed to be logical, thorough, and timely. When assigning tasks, make sure to consider more than type, including skill level, knowledge base, and willingness to complete the project.
The bottom line is this: Myers-Briggs® is great for improving work situations that involve improving existing communication, culture, leadership skills, stress levels, etc. It is not intended to prevent individuals from following their desires and talents or to doom them to a life of “type appropriate” jobs or activities that they hate. For more information on type in the work environment, check out this article on the 8 preferences in the workplace. For more information about how MBTI® consulting can benefit your business organization, check out the Consulting page, or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thanks for reading!