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Wellbeing / Business psychology

The Myer-Briggs Personality Type Indicator and working relationships

We have good working relationships with some people and not with others. Why is that? The Myers- Briggs Personality Type Indicator is a method whereby we can describe our personality preferences and understand our differences.

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If we have a conflict, we often write it off as a personality clash and we are partly right.

For example, I received a call from a soloist who, after reading my articles on this site, asked if I could code a newsletter in HTML for him.

After asking him a number of questions, I established that:

  • he didn’t have a web developer;
  • he didn’t have a newsletter template and needed one developed;
  • he didn’t have any email software;
  • he did not have a significant budget;
  • he needed the work completed by the end of the week.

While I can write HTML, it is not something I publicise, but because I felt I could help him out I agreed to do the work.

As the week progressed, the frustrations – on both sides – increased. From my perspective, I felt that a) even though I outlined and explained what I would do, he did not really comprehend it; b) he had not prepared adequately for the work; c) he thought I was a graphic designer; d) I put more time into the job than I was being rewarded for, and that my efforts weren’t appreciated.

"An organised person who values feelings and order, working with someone whose preference is not is clearly not a good combination."

So what happened? Why was having a working relationship with this person such a frustrating experience?

One explanation is personality.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business psychology section.

When we interact and work with others, and form and maintain our relationships, we organise our lives, work and behaviour around eight elements, which in combination form our personality preference, known as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator:

How energy is received and used Introverts (I) Prefer their own space, and are most comfortable when alone, or with a close friend. They don’t tend to show much of themselves to others, and withdraw in situations of stress. They can be hard to get to know.
Extraverts (E) Prefer the company of others. They are generally quite open, and don’t tend to withhold information about themselves. They can generally transition between different situations easily and quickly.
How information is gathered and taken in Sensing (S) Are realists. They pay attention to details – including their physical surroundings – and are usually very practical. They tend to be loyal to organisations and are good followers if they are appreciated.
Intuitives (N) Conceptualise and dream about possibilities. They see everything in terms of what it means, rather than present consequences, and while they like to plan, organise and form relationships, they like to try new and different things.
How decisions are made Thinkers (T) See everything in light of reason and logic. They value intellect and reasonable thinking above all else, and the emotions of others – or themselves – are a secondary consideration. They do not understand why others react the way they do.
Feelers (F) Make decisions based on instinct, or gut feel, and the way they perceive others are feeling. They are sometimes illogical and unreasonable, deciding action based on the pain they or others are feeling.
How lives are organised Perceivers (P) Are comfortable with a crisis, and do not need to have things ordered, scheduled or planned. They can “drink in” a situation without feeling any need to make decisions – or conclusions – about it.
Judgers (J) Are most comfortable with order and schedule and knowing what to expect of themselves and others. The like a schedule (but not necessarily a routine), and find it difficult to function in an atmosphere they perceive as disordered. If they understand what is expected of them, they can be flexible.

(Source: Dealing with Difficult People by Charles J Keating)

So there you have it. From the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator I know that I am an ENFJ, and I assume from my interactions with the soloist described, that he is an ENTP.

A recipe for disaster if ever I saw one! An organised person who values feelings and order, working with someone whose preference is not is clearly not a good combination.

In retrospect, the questions that I asked at the beginning should have been enough to indicate that the working relationship would be strained, but the need to “make the sale” over-rode my better judgement.

Also, I made a decision to help out based on a feeling, rather than a good business sense.

In a traditional job we have time to develop and nurture our working relationships. We often don’t have this luxury as soloists, because our need to take on business, as well as the excitement of closing the sale, can make it difficult to be objective.

We also have to deal with generational differences, gender, culture and task/people orientation. But that’s another story!

Diane Lee

is a teacher, writer & editor, who specialises in training, development and communications. Her mission is to encourage better ways of communicating with each other in the workplace, so that interactions are quality interactions.

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