Personality in the Workplace

The ideological cornerstone of our culture is pride. We have the drive to find our place in the world. Our personality is unique and shaped by many factors. We are individuals, contributing to something bigger than ourselves. But we also relate to others. We share aspects of our personality with others.

The methods for understanding and classifying personality is in perpetual evolution. The most well-known method is the Myers-Briggs test.

“The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C.G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives.” (cite)

The test takes what seems like random behavior and creates a consistent pattern. There are 16 distinctive personality types based on a combination of four classifications:

  • Extraversion or Introversion
  • Sensing or Intuition
  • Thinking or Feeling
  • Judging or Perceiving

Boiling a person down to 4 letters can seem limiting and conformist. It puts us in boxes that we want to break out of in search of our individuality. How can 4 letters explain my entire personality?

But these classifications aren’t meant to define our entire selves. Instead, they give us a foundation to understand how we behave in certain situations. It gives us a window into how we process information in relation to how others see things.

Internal monologue of a personality type uncomfortable with conversation.
Image from XKCD 1089

As is the case with most “one or the other” choices, most people fall somewhere on the scale between the two. That is where the ability to relate to others comes into play. It’s important to understand the different personality types. It’s possible that you may display qualities of more than one personality type.

Personality types aren’t a code to live by, but are a tool to learn about yourself and others.

The MBTI® uses self-reporting as the basis for their final designations. That means the accuracy of the results is up to you. The test provides a framework for understanding individual differences. It gives us insight into potential strengths and weaknesses. Our job is to be aware of our shortcomings and take steps to embrace them.

Applying this to the Workplace

We prepare for interview questions like “What makes you unique?” and “Why should we hire you?”, but what makes us similar is just as important. Most importantly, do we have the tools to deal with the differences between us?

Person answering typical interview questions with complicated answers.
Image from XKCD 1545

Understanding your own personality can help you work better in a team. It not only makes it easier to find a way to work with your peers, but it can help you to work with your superiors as well.

As a boss, it’s important to understand the possible differences between your employees. It’s the key to creating an engaging and encouraging atmosphere. So knowing the personality type of your employees can help you learn the best way to lead them. It’s important to remember to step back and observe the bigger picture and the company as a whole. What you may see as flaws might be an extreme difference in personalities. It’s more helpful to approach evaluations with a more neutral frame of mind. You may think the employee doesn’t care or doesn’t work well with others. Instead, they might be doing the complete opposite. How you relate to others is different than how they do.

Personality vs Inadequacy: Determining the Difference

What you see as unengaged and uncaring might actually be observation and consideration. As the boss, you’ve learned to make quick decisions. Just make sure you do your due diligence to keep from letting an otherwise valuable employee go.

If an employee doesn’t speak up enough, do they take initiative in other ways? Do they never contribute, or do they only contribute under certain circumstances? Does this lack of contribution apply to all aspects of their job? Or is it only during the big meetings or conference calls?

Some personality types are more comfortable in smaller groups of people. You’ll get the most out of your employees if you organize company meetings in a way that allows for many different group sizes. As they learn to trust each other, the group size might become less of a barrier.

Have one-on-one meetings. If it’s not possible for you to have one with each employee, then have the leaders in each department handle them. You can then meet with the department leaders to discuss.

Meetings are important, but it’s also helpful to observe employee interactions. This can give you more of a complete picture of a person as a result. Personalities interact differently depending on the personality type of the other person. You hired this person for a reason, so give each personality the opportunity to succeed.

A knob set between detail-oriented and seeing the big picture.
Image from XKCD 1796

The Takeaway

The importance of understanding personality in the workplace applies to every business. It applies to every job type at every level. And it can also strengthen relationships with family and friends. We need to understand the basics in order to understand ourselves and empathize with others.

Personality type is important, but it is only one part of our individuality. A combination of genetics, experiences, and personality are also parts of our identity. Your 4 letters give you a starting point, so use it to your advantage.

Further Reading

Some resources for learning about the 16 personality types: