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Employee Engagement | 7 minute read

MBTI personality test decoded: Key to understanding your coworkers

December 19, 2016

As a part-time graduate student at the University of Tampa, I recently had the opportunity to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test – a tool developed based on Carl Jung’s Psychological Type theory, for an MBA management course. Jung believed that what appears to be random human behaviors are actually distinct patterns driven by our individual preference for using our mental capacity. He characterized people’s habitual preferences through eight types, and the combination of these preferences shape our personality type. Isabel Briggs Myers made Jung’s theory accessible to the public as an MBTI instrument so that individuals and groups can strengthen their self and social-awareness – important skills to have as a leader, manager, or HR professional. MBTI allows you to understand the differences in others and how to properly engage with certain personality types.

If you haven’t taken the Myers-Briggs test, I highly recommend it as a way to become more self-aware of your personal preferences and to have a grasp on how to more effectively collaborate and communicate with your teams at work. It’s important to know that MBTI doesn’t define our behaviors – all eight styles are typically used by everyone. We simply have a natural preference for or have better developed, one type over another. Read on for additional insight into each personality type and how to appropriately interact with each style in the workplace.

Extraversion VS Introversion

The first type dimensions explain our complementary attitudes toward the world. Extroverts (E) prefer essential stimulation from the environment or outer world of people and things. E character traits include sociability, interaction, a multiplicity of relationships, expenditures of energies, and interest in external events. At work, E’s enjoy variety and action, and prefer a fast-paced environment. They dislike complicated procedures, are impatient with long slow jobs, and are interested in results and getting the job done. They don’t mind interruptions, tend to act quickly (without thinking), enjoy having people around, and communicate freely.

Introverts (I) on the other hand, prefer essential stimulation from within the inner world of thoughts and reflections. Character traits include territoriality, concentration, limited relationships, conservative of energies, and interest in internal reactions. At work, I’s like quiet for concentration, they are careful with details but might have trouble remembering names. They can work for a long time uninterrupted, dislike being interrupted, are interested in the idea behind the job, think before acting (or sometimes don’t act), are content to work alone, and may have trouble communicating.

When working with extroverts – let them talk and think out loud, include a variety of topics, communicate verbally, expect immediate action, and keep the conversation moving. When working with Introverts – ask and then carefully listen, talk about one thing at a time, communicate in writing – if possible, give them adequate time to reflect, and don’t finish their sentences.

“If you don’t know what an Extrovert is thinking, you haven’t been listening. If you don’t know what in Introvert is thinking, you haven’t asked.“ – Isabel Briggs Myers

Sensing VS Intuition

The next type dimensions give us a sense of our perception or the way we take in and process information. Sensing (S) types prefer to take in information by the way of our five senses. They rely on experiences and realistic thinking using facts and practicality. At work, S’s dislike new problems unless given a standard way to solve them, like an established ways of doing things, enjoy using known skills more than learning new ones, work more steadily with realistic completion time estimate, patient and accurate with details, seldom make errors of fact, and are seldom inspired.

Intuition (N) types prefer to process information by “sixth sense” or insight. They rely on their hunches, are speculative, and have an imaginative, “head-in-clouds” mentality. At work, N’s like solving new problems, dislike doing the same thing repeatedly, enjoy learning a new skill more than using it, works in bursts of energy, reach conclusions quickly, are impatient with details, but patient with complicated situations. They follow their inspirations, often make errors of fact, and dislike taking time for precision.

When working with S’s – state the topic clearly, prepares facts and examples, present information step-by-step, stress practical applications, finish your sentences, and draw on previous, real experiences. When working with N’s – talk about the “big picture” and future possibilities, use analogies and metaphors, brainstorm options, engage their imaginations, and don’t overwhelm them with details.

Thinking VS Feeling

These types lay out a framework for our judgment making. Thinking (T) types prefer to use their mental processing function to make decisions on a basis of logical analysis. They make decisions with their head, are concerned with principles such as truth and justice. They are objective and rely on principles, policy, laws, standards, and analysis. At work, T’s don’t show emotions readily, are uncomfortable dealing with others’ feelings, may hurt others’ feelings without knowing it, like analysis and putting things in order, decide impersonally disregarding people’s wishes, need to be treated fairly, are able to reprimand or fire, and tend to be firm-minded.

Feeling (F) types use their mental processing function to make decisions on the basis of evaluating relative worth. They make decisions from the heart, go by personal convictions, and are concerned with values such as relationships and harmony. They are subjective, value-oriented, consider extenuating circumstances, and are appreciative and sympathetic. At work, F’s are very aware of others’ feelings, enjoy pleasing people, and their decisions are influenced by own or others’ likes and wishes. They need occasional praise, dislike telling people unpleasant things, are people-oriented, and respond to people’s values.

When working with T’s – be organized and logical, consider cause and effect, focus on consequences, don’t ask how they “feel”; ask what they “think,” appeal to their sense of fairness, and don’t repeat yourself. When working with F’s – first mention points of agreement, appreciate efforts and contributions, recognize the legitimacy of feelings, talk about people concerns, smile and maintain good eye contact, and be friendly and considerate.

Judgment VS Perceiving

The final dimension explains our preferred complementary lifestyles. Judging (J) types lead decisive, planned, and orderly lifestyles. They are settled and decided, plan ahead, deadline-driven, and have a “get the show on the road” mentality. At work, J’s perform best when they can plan their work and work the plan, they like to get things settled and finished, may decide too quickly, may dislike interrupting current projects for a more urgent ones, may not notice new things that need to be done, need only essentials to begin work, and are satisfied once they reach closure.

Perceiving (P) types lead flexible, adaptable, spontaneous lifestyles. They adapt as they go, let life happen, are open to options, tentative, feel there’s plenty of time, and might have a “let’s wait and see” thinking process. At work, P’s adapt well to change, like to leave things open for alterations, may have trouble making decisions, may start too many projects and leave them unfinished, postpone unpleasant jobs, want to know all about the new job, tend to be curious, and welcome new information.

When working with J’s – be on time and prepared, come to conclusions; don’t leave unresolved, be decisive and definitive, allow them to make decisions, be organized and efficient; don’t waste time, and stick with plans made. When working with P’s – expect many questions, don’t force premature decisions, discuss options, be open to change, focus on the process and not the product, give them choices, and be open to new information.

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