It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. You and your coworkers have been sitting in a brainstorming session for more than two hours. Finally, your boss dismisses you. With a sigh of relief, you head back to your desk to pack your things and head home to decompress by cooking dinner and relaxing with a book on the couch.
Suddenly, your coworker Brian shouts out, “Hey! Beers at Duffy’s, C’mon!” As he motions for you to join him and a few other coworkers. After a long day of hard work, socializing for another hour with your teammates sounds less than relaxing, yet Brian is already loosening his tie and raring to go.
We all know the difference between extroverts and introverts. In the example above, Brian is an extrovert, someone who focuses on the outside world as he experiences it. For the hypothetical “you” above, your energy derives from your internal world.
When it comes to balancing personality types on a team, there will always be extroverts and introverts, but personality tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test or MBTI, help us understand the nuances of each other’s personalities in-depth.
According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation, the MBTI personality inventory draws from Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. To summarize, his theory proposes that our behavior is not random, but rather a product of how we use perception and judgment. Isabel Briggs-Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs created the personality type indicator to make Jung’s theory accessible to individuals and groups.
The MBTI’s personality types extend beyond just extraversion (E) and introversion and into other areas like sensing (S) versus intuition (N), thinking (T) and feeling (F), and judgment (J) versus perception (P).
The test results provide users with a four-letter combination that matches one of the 16 personality types. From there, a person’s result provides insight into how they interact with the world around them and how they experience it first hand.
Employers often utilize the MBTI to gain a deeper understanding of how employee’s personalities affect their capabilities and skills, both as individuals and on a team. When someone’s result shows they’re an extrovert, we can naturally assume they’re more comfortable in a role that is client facing then they are working behind the scenes. Taking a personality test like the MBTI can also provide a greater understanding of how teams interact and why some members may work better together than others.
In a paper for Open Learning, Professor Daniel Nettle of Newcastle University writes, “Personality differences tend to manifest themselves through the quick, gut-feeling, intuitive and emotional systems of the human mind.” Meaning, because our personality type is genuinely a part of our whole self, we can’t always control how we react to someone whose personality is vastly different.
This concept feeds into team dynamics in how we socialize during group activities and how we work with those different than us. One person’s personality type weaknesses may play into another person’s strengths, allowing for group harmony. In a worst-case scenario, the opposite could be true.
However, different personality types help prevent group hegemony, allowing for new opportunities and a wealth of information. While we all would ideally like to work with direct clones of ourselves, challenges enable us to adapt and grow as both people and employees. It also prevents one personality type from dominating the workplace.
Though the MBTI isn’t scientifically proven to be accurate (it is based only on theory, afterall), identifying the facets of our personality helps lead to a better understanding of ourselves, both inside the office and out. Knowing our type can help us gain new skills, understand workplace dynamics and culture, and cope with change in the workplace.
Use free websites like 16 Personalities to learn your type, or ask an employer for a recommendation.