Myers-Briggs Column Week 5: Who Am I? Types at work

Bryony Glover 14 February 2014

(To work out your personality type, read my article ‘Who Am I? A Guide to Myers-Briggs Personality Typing’ or go to http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp to take the test. It’s remarkably accurate).

Have you had a bullying boss, an unrealistic manager or a colleague who is late to everything? For better or worse, it seems that personality types are particularly prominent at work. But who wins the rat race – and who misses out?

If you’re an ENTJ (“The Director”), you’re likely to succeed. Assertive, creative and about 3% of the population, ENTJs love to be in charge – and they often are. In fact, ENTJs are likely to be not only consultants and lawyers, but the leaders of huge companies: they’re not afraid to demand the promotion they think they deserve. 60% of the world’s managers are Thinking Judgers, rising to the top jobs even in systems which are supposed to be more caring and feeling, like education. And if they believe they’re right, they will have no problem with acting in just the way they choose, even if it will upset others (Margaret Thatcher, it is said, was an ENTJ). In a competitive world, such characteristics are likely to thrive.

However, it might not be so easy for the ISTP (“The Technician”). Independent and analytical risk-takers, they make up approximately 5% of the population and may well be computer programmers, surveyors or engineers. While the ENTJ will probably stick to the rules, the ISTP is happy to bypass regulations if they think they need to. In fact, the ISTP is very resistant to hierarchy and authority (which won’t go down well if they have an ENTJ as a boss). But even if they have different attitudes, variation in personality types can be crucial. In fact, for NASA too much similarity led to a fatal mistake when the space shuttle Challenger was launched, despite convincing data that it should not be. Seven astronauts died as a result. Why? 80% of those at the top decision-making level in NASA are Judgers, and so are more likely to stick to the original plan rather than respond to new, and crucial, information. So next time your colleague is driving you insane, comfort yourself with the cliché that it takes all sorts to make a world.

(I am indebted to Type Talk by O. Kroeger and J. M. Thuesen for this article. It’s a great book to read if you’re interested).