Myers-Briggs in the Workplace

Oct 22nd, 2002 by Tony in QSM3

The four dimensions of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are significant in the workplace because they describe four elements that determine much of a person’s working style.

For each dimension of the MBTI model, there is a pair of letters to choose from:

  • Internal or External, according to how I prefer to get energy
  • Sensing or iNtuitive, according to how I prefer to obtain information
  • Thinking or Feeling, according to how I prefer to make decisions
  • Judging or Perceiving, according to how I prefer to take action

Failure to take the I/E difference into account leads to underperformance by one group or the other. At technical review meetings, for example, Internals prefer to study the material carefully in advance, but Externals prefer walkthroughs so they can study the material through group interaction. One of the manager’s jobs is to assure that meetings are designed to accommodate the environmental preferences of both Internals and Externals.

Sensors want the facts, lots of facts, while Intuitives want the big picture. When a Sensor is giving the facts, the Intuitives become bored out of their underwear. When an Intuitive is painting the big picture, the Sensors itch for some real data. A manager who has communication problems with employees should explore this difference as a prime candidate for the root cause.

Thinkers and Feelers are often intolerant of each others’ preferred style. In an organisation you can see the T/F preference in action whenever decisions are to be made. Thinkers want objectivity, logic and impersonality; while Feelers want humanity, values, and cooperation. In arriving at decisions, neither type objects to consideration of the other’s attributes, but merely considers them of low priority. Many T/F problems can be solved by designing the correct environment for decision making.

The Judging (or closure-seeking) preference is to have things settled, while the Perceiving (or information-seeking) preference is to keep options open on the chance that more information will affect the choice.

J/P differences are often the source of great conflict, as well as the source of great attraction, because each needs the other. Teams without any Judgers tend never to finish anything; while teams without any Perceivers find things only to find they aren’t really finished because some factor has been omitted.

— Jerry Weinberg, Quality Software Management Vol 3, Chapter 7

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