I’m being asked to take the Meyers-Briggs test as part of applying to a training program

A reader writes:

I’m a government employee, and Human Resources is launching a very intense management training program that will last one year. There are only 30 spots.

Some of the application requirements are straightforward. For example, I have to have two recommendations from superiors. There is one requirement I have a big problem with: an individual Meyers-Briggs test.

I have nothing against people who love M-B, but I hate it. The questions are too vague for me to answer. I feel like I’m being pigeonholed into a strict personality assessment. I’ve interacted with far too many people in the workplace who rely on M-B results like they were the Oracle herself. Truly knowing people and how they think takes time and effort, but the M-B provides a demeaning shortcut to that.

I was pressured to take a M-B assessment during an internship. I did, and much to my surprise, all the results were shared with everyone. In front of the entire office, my boss argued with me on how I responded to some of the questions! She even went as far as to question my M-B type because she didn’t think I assessed myself “accurately.” For the rest of that year, she asked the managers to assign projects based on the M-B results.

I don’t want to be a jerk about this, and the application process needs to be fair to everyone. Although I really want to take this training, I’m willing to forgo it just to get around another M-B individual assessment. I’m wondering, though, if it’s worth raising this issue with HR? I’ve never nitpicked anything before, and I wouldn’t if this wasn’t important to me. I don’t want to do more damage than this is worth, but I honestly do not understand what an M-B assessment could tell HR that they wouldn’t already know in a very already-intense application package.

Set me straight?

Hopefully they’re not going to use the results of your Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to decide whether or not to accept you into the program. That would be directly counter to the way Meyers-Briggs recommends that their profiles be used; they say explicitly that using the MBTI as part of hiring is unethical and not at all how it’s intended to be used. They encourage people to use the test to understand you can you can better communicate and work with your coworkers — but it’s not supposed to be a tool to tell you who to hire.

Of course, just because Meyers-Briggs says that doesn’t mean that employers will listen to them. But there’s at least a decent chance that your employer isn’t actually using your test results for assessment purposes and instead plans some sort of activity using your results once/if you’re accepted into the program.

But since it’s not clear, why not just ask? I’d say something like: “I was curious about how the Meyers-Briggs results will be used. Will they be part of the assessment process or are they for another reason?”

If it does turn out that they’re part of the assessment process, I’d point out that Meyers-Briggs specifically tells employers not to do that. (And luckily, you work for the government, where they tend to be excessively devoted to rules-following, so there’s a good chance that this will have an impact.)

If that doesn’t solve it, you could try explaining that you’ve never found the test particularly accurate for yourself, and could try requesting that your results not be given significant weight in your application. That may or may not work, but I think it’s a better option than just opting out of applying.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. Eva*

    As someone who is a big enough fan of Myers-Briggs to have a website where my coadmin and I speculate on the personality types of famous people (click on my name if you’re curious to see it), this story really grinds my gears. Some people take it way, way too far. I wouldn’t recommend using it in the workplace at all, except maybe offering an MBTI workshop as an optional personal development kind of thing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh no! I see you have removed me from your INFJ section! My fame (notoriety?) has been downgraded :)

      (At least I’m not listed in black like the evil INFJs though.)

      1. Eva*

        Nono, we didn’t remove you! You’re now part of the paid content – hope you don’t mind! As we added more and more people, the pages got overwhelmingly long to scroll down, so we made part of the content members-only. I’ll send you a login. :)

          1. Jamie*

            If you need a written reference that you are not Hitler let me know – I’m happy to whip up a letter attesting to that fact.

            1. Eva*

              Oh, but it wouldn’t be as easy as just a letter, you know. I’d be calling you up and asking you probing questions like, “If you could wave a magic wand over Alison’s head and change something about how she runs her blog, what would it be?” And then if you couldn’t really think of anything and said you love the blog just as it is, I’d be all, “Oh! She’s clearly been brainwashed and is terrified of saying something negative. Alison Jong-Un – black box it is!”

              1. Jamie*

                I am on record with my displeasure that the font isn’t comic sans and nothing is pink – so I am clearly a radical and should be closely monitored.

    2. Jamie*

      I happen to find M-B fascinating and I’ve had co-worker friends take it for fun and all 3 were exactly the types I guessed, which was made me feel pretty intuitive (which as an N I so am. :))

      But I’ve never seen it used in the workplace and this would be so bizarre to me. Assignments based on it? Why not assign based on knowing people’s strengths and weaknesses and then giving them some stretch if they want to grow.

      Unlike the OP I don’t find it demeaning, I consider it shorthand before you get to know someone – but we’re all more than our types. I do think it could be helpful as you mentioned, in professional development for people to use it to be more aware of themselves which can help them carve out a good fit – but it’s not a label to stick on people.

      1. Observer*

        Well, this particular boss seems to have been pretty bad at knowing the people she was working with.

        But, of course it makes a lot more sense to actually get to know people rather than using what is really no more than a generalization, even if it’s an accurate generalization.

      2. ProductiveDyslexic*

        Ugh, so I first took the MBTI as a summer student in a research group. I found it highly interesting.

        However, it was the idea of a postdoc that we all do this test and share the results, which we did. About half the group were INTJ, including me, and the other half were some form of E??J. So far so normal and expected for a group of geeky scientists.

        Only one person came out as an F rather than a J. She was already feeling not-so-included and slightly different, as her project was a bit different to what most of the group did. It did not help to know that this might be due to personality type. I think it was quite damaging.

        1. Anonymous for this*

          THIS. I had to take the M-B test as part of a class. I already knew what I was, and I already knew that I was likely to be the only one of my type (ENFP) in the class. The professor then put us into groups according to the various letters — the first was an E/I split. The class skewed very heavily towards I’s, and about half the people who came out as E’s were upset about it, claiming the test was wrong. We had to write questions on the board for the other group, and the I’s (in other words, practically the whole class) wrote things down like “Do you ever stop talking?” “Do you have any shame?” and so on. I found this upsetting and talked with the professor afterwards because I felt so out of place and like I’d made a mistake by being in the program, period (I still wonder about that). Her response was that my letters meant that I was well-placed for certain kinds of jobs, but that I was going to be very lonely in the program because it skewed so very heavily to I-Js. She was right, but it was sort of awful, because I do need the energy I get from being around people, and the exercise felt really shaming. We were supposed to spend two days of class going over the class’ results, and for my mental health, I skipped the second class.

          1. Meyers-Briggs OP*

            “Her response was that my letters meant that I was well-placed for certain kinds of jobs, but that I was going to be very lonely in the program because it skewed so very heavily to I-Js.”

            And this is what I’m talking about. Pigeonholing. I understand that the *original* intent of M-B wasn’t to supply statements like this, but the process has been so bastardized that it ends up marginalizing people and shuffling them into certain types of jobs. That’s so limiting.

          2. catsAreCool*

            This is not the way people should be using the test.

            The idea is to make it easier to communicate, so if you’re an extravert, and you’re working with introverts, you know that the fact they don’t always say much is just that introverts tend not to say much unless they have something to say.

            This was not supposed to shame anyone. One beauty of MBTI is that none of the types are “bad”.

            1. Anonymous for this*

              Thank you!! I’d taken the test before and that was my understanding of it too — that it wasn’t meant to be about pigeonholing or judging, but more about understanding people’s behaviors and inclinations rather than taking behaviors more personally, etc. It was bizarre to be in a setting where people were saying, “OMG, I’m NOT an *E*, the test must be wrong!” as if they’d been told they had a terrible cancer gene or something.

          3. Vicki*

            Your professor was not properly certified in using the MBTI instrument. This class was not handled according to the ethical considerations of the MBTI.


    3. Jamie*

      Your test is different than others I’ve taken – I came out ISTJ on yours – 91% for I, T, J and 64% S. Interesting – I’ve come out as an ISTJ a couple of times before, but like at 51-52%. My N-S is always the closest – I’m never at > 60% for N.

      (Yes, I do take it for fun every time I get someone else to take it for fun, so I’ve taken it a lot. I have 3 ISTJ siblings and now I’m one of them according to you!)

      Maybe because I’m in end of month accounting mode and I’m very less theory and more “where the hell are my numbers people” kind of mood.

      1. Judy*

        I took it too, and came out ISTJ for the first time, usually INTJ. The S was in the 70’s and I usually have an N in the 70%.

        I do have a sort of theory in that, based on being 4 months in a new job, in a much smaller company, with a lot less process and procedures. I’m probably just needing a little more assurance of “how things should be”. ;)

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Similar here. I’m always an N, and I’m an S here. I think N is actually right for me—the issue on this test is that at work, I have to be organized, realistic, and detail-oriented, and this particular test reads those as S values. I need people to get their heads out of the clouds and be right about the little things, because otherwise nothing gets done. I still operate mostly in the world of theories, though; the exciting parts of work are about developing new ideas and strategies.

          1. Eva*

            Hmm, sounds like we may have to calibrate the test a bit to make working professionals focus more on how they prefer to be and disregard how they have to be. Thanks for the feedback!

            1. Turanga Leela*

              You’re welcome! I also responded below. Thanks for the great test—it has given me a lot to think about. I am always, always happy to talk about MBTI things. :)

            2. Becca*

              Really cool test! This is the first time I’ve come out as ENFJ though, usually I’m ESFJ…but I don’t remember the specific percentage.

            3. AnotherAnon*

              Eva, thank you for this resource! I’ve taken different MBTI-like tests before, and the results of this one for me were pretty similar, except here I was 73% S / 27 % N (usually I am about 50-50). For what it’s worth, I know that when I was younger I would consistently test as INTJ, and I feel like from the descriptions that most strongly matches me, both now and in the past. But, after pursuing postgraduate degrees in science and medicine, I have suppress my N tendencies (being theoretical, interesting in ideas) in favor of S tendencies (sticking to facts and proven ways of doing experiment X or treating patient Y). I went to a seminar a few years back about MBTI in medicine – a field where a lot of diverse personality types work and thrive – and I remember commenting about this to the facilitator, who said she’s seen that trend a fair bit.

              1. Eva*

                AnotherAnon and others, thank you for your comments; it’s so nice to hear that you are enjoying the test, and interesting to hear your results and your thoughts about them!

                (By the way, I have replied to a few others, but with links, and the comments are stuck in Moderation.)

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Yes: I’m usually IN*P (pretty close to the cusp for F/T), and I got ISFJ on this one – which surprised me. Strongly J as well, though that may be down to localized frustration about our house-addition plans and wishing we could just get everything firmed up and get working already. May be making me judgier than usual. :-)

          2. Jamie*

            I should have just THISed this and saved the typing – exactly my thoughts about details vs theories.

          3. Dr. Doll*

            I would agree with Turanga – I’m not a strong N, but an N; and I read as S here because I discipline myself to be more so at work.

            Thanks, Eva, this was fun and enlightening!

          4. Sarah*

            I could say the exact same thing. I’ve taken these tests dozens of times over the years, and this is the first one to return INSJ (with a strong S) over INTJ.

            As a researcher my workday is probably split at 40% theory and 60% practical. I love the theory but if I don’t follow strict processes I’ll never get the data to make theories with.

            I think this is probably true of most successful N’s in the workforce. Being interested in theories and possibilities isn’t the same as being absent-minded or sloppy.

        2. Snargulfuss*

          I’m another person who has always come out INTJ but got ISTJ here. I’ve always been pretty close on N and S though. Also, I got 100% clarity of preference for J, which will come as a surprise to absolutely no one who has ever interacted with me in any way.

      2. A Non*

        Same thing here, it tells me I’m an ISFJ with 60% S, when I’m pretty sure I’m an INFJ. I usually test more like 60% N. I figure it’s because my work is running my life right now, and I’m in a STEM field where you make all final decisions by logic. But it’s intuition that tells me what direction to look in to start with. Though if several other people are also getting an S when they’re usually Ns, I wonder if something’s a bit off.

        (I’m amused that all of us have theories why we’re testing this way. You’d think we’re similar personalities or something.)

        1. Sabrina*

          MBTI measures mental processes where are tests like the KTS measure behaviour. It is not uncommon for these tests to conflict if there is no concerted effort to keep the verbiage consistent. Another thing to consider is we often think one way and act another. Mentally I am more extraverted but my behaviour is pretty reclusive at times.
          With many STEM jobs, your S is likely to be a great system analyst whereas your N will likely gravitate towards programming. T is the the more common of the rational functions in STEM careers for sure!

      3. Eva*

        Unfortunately most of the other free online tests are horribly biased towards N, basically equating intelligence with intuition. For our test we’ve tried to come up with better questions that get at the *actual* differences between N and S types.

        The real MBTI, which costs money, does a pretty good job of differentiating the types, too. Have you done that one, Jamie?

        1. Judy*

          I can’t answer for Jamie, but I have done it at 3 different F50 organizations over the last 25 or so years. Probably a total of 6 times. I’ve not ever taken it free online, one of the times 4 years ago they did have us go online (not free) and do it rather than the bubble sheets.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          I think you’re right about the bias toward N in online tests, and I’m glad you’ve tried to correct for that. I will say, though, that as a classic N (I mean VERY much N), I still wound up on the S side of your scale because I care about accuracy and competence. I think you’re probably picking up other NTs as well. Some of the N options are a little fluffy-sounding.

          This is not to say you’re doing it wrong—your test is a really interesting alternative to some of the other tests out there, and no test will be perfect. If you’re looking for areas for improvement, though, I’d continue to think about the N/S balance.

          1. Jamie*

            Fluffy – yeah. Some felt a little warm and fuzzy to me – but so much of this is interpretation.

          2. Eva*

            Your feedback (and everyone else’s) is duly noted and really appreciated, thank you! We’ll be making some tweaks based on it.

        3. Jamie*

          No, I’d love to if I ever worked somewhere that would pay for it, but I wouldn’t go out of pocket myself just for curiosity. I’ve read enough I know the essense is I’m very highly ITJ and the N-S is usually really close although an edge to N – but I would never be a strong N the way I am with the others because I love facts and proven methods and empirical evidence as much as I love theory and patterns and for me those aren’t distinct but really interwoven in how I approach problems.

          What I have done and find fascinating, and I think this would apply to some others especially strong Ts as well, is that when I take the test not as how I naturally respond for 99.99% of people/situations but if I only respond taking into account how I would be if it were my kids or family in the hypothetical I go from a very strong T to a soft F – around 65% and I’m still J but it’s a lot lower.

          Feelings, personal POV, emotions hold enormous weight with me when I am reacting to someone I love as opposed to everyone else. And I think that’s true for a lot of TJs – we’re different with the people in the inner circle of love and personal loyalty. So it’s not that we don’t respond based on feelings, it’s that we’re extremely selective over whose feelings are important enough to us to trump the default of logic.

          1. Shell*

            As usual, Jamie said everything I wanted to say, except better.

            I didn’t know that online tests biased for N though…I guess I would be a super-S in a proper MBTI since I’ve always been biased S, even for online tests. Though yes, I do tend to be less hardcore ISTJ when I think about my ways of communicating with certain people… :P

          2. Eva*

            Thanks for elaborating! I will be lying awake tonight thinking about your type, haha. (I’m only half-joking!)

            I do want to point out that S types aren’t people who can’t do theory or see patterns. (Very few intelligent people would identify as S in that case!) If Alison will allow me one more plug, I’d like to link to this article on the bias against S that is rampant in much of the online material on MBTI: http://www.celebritytypes.com/blog/2013/06/on-the-bias-against-sensation/

            1. Snargulfuss*

              Oh yes, you hit it on the head. Also, for INTJs being one of the less-common types, in blog posts that talk about this sort of thing, there are always a good number of comments from INTJs. It seems to be a format of communication that resonates well with INTJs.

        4. EB*

          Oh, now everything makes sense.

          When I was in college I took the Meyers-Brigg test (didn’t know what it was then) when I worked at the campus career center and it had me putting down which words I preferred over other words. I was told I was an INFJ personality, and then given information on the types of careers that the personality type seemed to enjoy. The nice thing was I did this during down time at work, and got paid to do the test.

          When I saw the online Meyers-Briggs test, the questions were very different than the original test I had taken, so I kept wondering what the original test I had taken was. I also popped up as a different personality type as well.

          1. TF*

            Just read your article on the bias against S and say kudos! As an INTJ I agree Insufferable Crackpot is just as accurate as Rational Mastermind.

        5. Elysian*

          I know I’m coming to this party late, but I had the same N/S situation as others. I’ve taken the MB test that you have to pay for (through a job – I actually found it really interesting since the job involved a lot of relationship building and that was why they used it) and was INTJ. When I took your rest I was ISTJ. N wasn’t my strongest trait on the M-B (always J. I’m so judgey – it was 100% on your test), but I think when I took the paid version I was a pretty strong N. It’s also possible though that I’ve just changed through the years, I suppose, but if you’re looking to improve your test, now you have my data, too :)

          1. Eva*

            Thanks, Elysian, your data point is duly noted! I’m subscribed to email notifications to this thread, so no feedback will escape me. :)

      4. Persephone Mulberry*

        I came out strongly INFJ, which has NEVER happened to me before. Typically I’m INFP, with the I fairly low and the P nearly off the charts.

          1. EJ*

            I’m another who’s always an INFP and got INFJ on your main test – I got INFP on the INFJ-or-INFP test, though.

      5. JAL*

        The test has ALWAYS come out ISFP or ISFJ for me but I took it again and got INFP and I have found my people. I have never felt more understood in my life.

      6. Vicki*

        There is only one _real_ registered, statistics-backed, official, MBTI test.

        All others are knockoffs. Results vary.

        In any case, NEVER simply accept the 4 letters you get, especially from a knockoff (the real MNBTI will tell you this). A very important part of the real MBTI is to validate your type.

        And those % numbers you get from the “not the real” MBTI? They are NOT what you think. They don’t tell you you’re a 60% N. They only tell you that. based on your answers to the questions at this time, the program is 60% confident of returning N as a result. (They’re a confidence factor for the algorithm, not for _you_.)

    4. A Non*

      That’s one of the better Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken, I like how the questions are phrased! So many personality tests come with a whiff of “by the way, there is a right answer here”. I like that yours emphasizes that both answers are reasonable and no-one’s going to be absolutely one way or the other.

      (Is there a place where you’d like to receive feedback? I have a thought about one question.)

        1. Sidra*

          Wow, your test is the first and only that did not have me as an INTJ (I got ENTJ). That’s interesting because many people think I am ENTJ (I feel introverted, but do not act like it).

      1. allreb*

        Agreed – that was definitely one of the better versions I’ve taken. (Much less leading, none of the framing of the questions made me feel like I’d be a horrible person for checking one of the options.)

        I came out as very strongly INFJ…which is what I always am. So it seemed accurate to me. :)

      2. Vicki*

        Again, there is only one Myers Briggs instrument. There aren’t many, there aren’t several. There aren’t better or worse.

        The true MBTI(R) is a set of “forced choice” questions which represent “psychological opposites” designed to get at your _preferences_. (i.e. you _cannot_ prefer both). Both answers ARE reasonable, and yes, many people will not be absolutely one was or the other (some will, never say no-one).

        But the point is not to second guess yourself or say “it depends”. The point (which you would be told if you took the inventory with a qualified practitioner) is to answer, based on your best fit self, what do you prefer. In your ideal world –not work, not school, not family, not where anyone else is placing expectations on you — what do _you_ prefer,

    5. IndieGir*

      Great quickie test! Just some more feedback for your fine-tuning. I came out strongly ENTJ, when normally I’m weakly I, strongly NTJ. If you were to ask me, I’d say I’m moderately E in my office role, and moderately I in my personal life. The way the questions were phrased, though, made it hard for me to honestly pick the I ones even though I didn’t really feel the E’s were a good answer either.

      1. Eva*

        Thanks for the feedback, IndieGir! If you (or anyone else) would be willing to share your thoughts about specific questions where you took issue with the wording, that would be super helpful. Our email address is in the site footer.

      2. Sidra*

        This is exactly my experience. I would describe myself as INTJ, and this test was the first to have me show up as ENTJ. I think this is due to my job, which demands I be more social, and because I have become more practiced in social situations with age. Do you feel about the same?

        1. skyrat*

          I was strongly E (82%) by your test, which is crazy. I’m very introverted – but my work requires me not to be. A lot of the questions I was answering in job context, where I am very social (all my social/human interaction energy goes into my job – I tend to prefer almost no social interaction outside of work).
          I get different results from these type of test, and often quite strongly. Just took two on line – with the results of INFP and ESTP (I answered all questions thoughtful and honestly, not trying to slant my results).

          I have to say I really dislike these tests. I think that they are both pigeonhole people and and the tendency to look for a “right” and “wrong” answer (no matter how many times it said there are just for better understanding). My job should definitely be an extrovert position, but I am find as a socially adapt introvert doing it – it just takes all my social energy. I can see how people would be told you should be doing x y or z, reducing people’s complexity to a binary (E or I).

          Is there any data backing them up for being useful? I wonder what would happen if you just randomly assigned people descriptions – would they agree with them? I feel like we could be having the same conversation with horoscopes almost (I’m a Libra too!), or those terrible high school “what career shoud you be choose?” tests.

          I just see the disadvantages outweighing the advantages.

          But I also have a bad toothache and am cranky, so maybe it’s that.

    6. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Eva, this was awesome! I’ve never taken a Myers-Briggs test before so I’m pretty fascinated by the result (ENFJ)

    7. jamlady*

      Agreed. I was just recently asked in an interview if I worked well on a team. I’m an INTJ – I hate team work. However, I can do it and do it well. I’m not incapable. To employers, my personality type would say otherwise. I really hope they don’t use this thing for hiring. I barely tolerated it for short-term team-building exercises. But then again, I AM an INTJ :-P

  2. Nivaneen*

    I’m curious about this part of your reply: “But there’s at least a decent chance that your employer isn’t actually using your test results for assessment purposes and instead plans some sort of activity using your results once/if you’re accepted into the program.”

    Are workplace activities based on personality test results common? What are they meant to achieve?

    1. Judy*

      I’ve taken MBTI at all of my professional jobs except this one, and I’ve only been here 4 months, so it may come. (All 3 of my professional jobs were at F50 companies in the US, in engineering departments.)

      Usually there’s a workshop, you take the tests beforehand, and then some trainer comes in and discusses it. You find out what the types are on your team and discuss how different types work together.

      1. tt*

        They’re usually intended to foster better awareness of each other and improved communication.

        The OPs previous internship supervisor was out of line – individuals self-validate the responses, the boss has no business arguing with him/her or telling them that they’re “wrong”. (I’m a qualified MBTI administrator.)

        1. puddin*

          As an example…I was on a newly formed team that took the test about 6 mos after the team was launched. It was used as a team building tool. There were a lot comments like, “Oh, THATs why you do it that way!” For us it was fun, informative, and created a common experience that we could all reference going forward. We were not evaluated with the tool or test results at all. But we did learn how to better work with each other and what profiles compliment each other.

      2. Nivaneen*

        That’s so interesting to me – I’ve heard of/read about MBTI and other personality tests online, but I’ve never been asked to take one as part of a job. Either it’s not as big of a thing in Europe (or in my industry), or it just hasn’t popped up on my radar.

        (And I kinda I hope it never does – I’d be really nervous at the prospect of being judged based on my personality test results).

        1. skyrat*

          “I’d be really nervous at the prospect of being judged based on my personality test results”

          YES this.

      3. Matthew Soffen*

        I’ve NEVER taken it as a “requirement” of a job. Sometimes its been done a a “team destroying”.. I mean “team building” exercise.

        Taken.. Reviewed.. Ignored.

        In my time the only big evaluation I’ve ever taken that was extremely useful was one from “Center for Creative Leadership” at Eckard College in Tampa. You get as many people as you can to do “anonymous” evaluations (they’re more semi-anonymous since there are write in areas) – and you self evaluate with similar questions.

        After the reviews, you go to this class room environment for a week to go over the results. The results can be a shocker. You find out (in a neutral environment) how you’re really perceived.

    2. Gwen*

      Not workplace, but my experience with MBTI was taking it at a retreat. We were then grouped with the other respondents of the same type to…discuss it, I guess? Unsurprisingly, the one other INFJ and I just kind of sat there awkwardly looking at each other.

      1. Nivaneen*

        I’d probably do the same. Or try and ramp up the awkwardness by start the conversation with “So who else clicked through the test at random?”

      2. Lily in NYC*

        That happened to me too and I was the only one in my group out of 100 people! I decided to feel smug and superior about it instead of like the odd man out.

      3. Judy*

        I’ve been grouped that way for a long time during several of the trainings, all by myself in my INTJ group. Most of them do a quick grouping like that, and then assemble you into your teams so you can talk about it among the people you are working with. The ones that you were discussing with your immediate team were the trainings that were most beneficial, in my experience.

    3. Laufey*

      Before I started at my Company, they had done a Myers-Brigg training session at an annual event. Everyone (small company, so less than 50 people) took the test, and then experts/trainers/whatever came in and discussed communication strategies, methods for ongoing training, areas to expand, places where our company might be weak (sounds pretty similar to Judy’s experience). From what I gather, it was actually one of the more useful sessions they’ve offered at this event, and people are still talking about.

      It also revealed that between 80% and 90% of people at the company were one of two or three types, which lead to a (still) ongoing discussion about recruiting and stuff.

      1. Clever Name*

        This happened at my company as well. The vast majority of my company are two types. It’s certainly not used in the hiring process, but candidates are definitely assessed during the interview for fit into our company’s unique culture.

        1. Laufey*

          Oh, no, we don’t and we would never use it during the hiring process! It just prompted conversations of “Yes, we all get along, but are we losing out by not having more extroverted people on our staff? Are we scaring people away with our introverted tendencies? Is there something inherent in our hiring process that’s causing this, or is is self selection? Do we really care if we’re all fairly introverted?” Etc.

          1. Anon-y-mouse*

            It’s really awesome that your company cares enough to evaluate their staff that way – not just to say that this is what you are, so work with it, but to really try and check if it means you need to change the recruiting procedures or culture.

            I always thought that this is what personality tests should be used for in the office, but so far I haven’t seen any that actually use them for this purpose.

    4. HM in Atlanta*

      They’re really meant to facilitate a thought process during development activities. How do I like to work? How do I notice Jane likes to work? How do we work together? Where are the issues? What can I do so we can be more effective.

      Part of using your results, whatever they are and whether you think they’re correct or hogwash, is to try to understand yourself. Then, use that understanding to think about being more effective when working with others.

    5. INTP*

      I have never seen test results used that way. When I’ve taken personality assessments in the office, we’ve just taken our test and talked to each other about the results and that was that. No one ever held the results against you or tried to pigeon hole you over it and opportunities were never given or denied based on it. (Though, in one workplace we took some test that tells you whether you approach problem situations with the goal of optimizing the results of the work product, making the people involved as happy as possible, or avoiding conflict, and I was literally the only results-oriented person. No one else cared but it was an omen of how well I fit into that team!)

  3. HR Manager*

    My previous company used to administer the MBTI to all incoming employees, and they encouraged sharing this. We also offered a similar training where this was required for teams and had to be shared publicly (partly the assessment was outsiders view of you) and I found it remarkably useful. Inherently, there are NO bad MBTI types. It just informs you of your preferences. If the session is conducted properly, it’s all about awareness – for yourself and for those working with you (or for you). Understanding your styles and preferences (if used correctly) can help others manage their relationship with you to maximize effectiveness. From a self perspective, it’s about awareness of your own tendencies. If your tendencies might be derailers for success, you have to acknowledge and be open to working on them.

    I don’t think many pull these concepts through when doing the MBTI, so it’s shame, but I would encourage you to keep an open-mind about how this information is used. With that being said, MBTI is not my favorite ‘style’ model. I much prefer the other one we used, because it included the external perspective in your assessment.

  4. Observer*

    It’s not clear why you are so against the B-M assessment that you would give up a chance over it.

    I get that your prior boss was an idiot. But, that has nothing to do with the merits (or lack thereof) of the assessment. And, although I agree that assigning work based on nothing but a B-M “score” is really bad management, the real problem is that she has no judgement. Do you really think that this woman would have made any better assignments using her own judgement? I find that hard to believe, based on what you described. In fact, as poor a tool as the B-M assessment is, I would bet that she actually did you a favor by using that as the basis for assignments, rather than her own judgement. After all, would you really trust the judgement of someone who knows what you are “really” thinking, even when you explicitly say otherwise?

    1. Helka*

      I think the OP was very clear about why they dislike the test.

      The questions are too vague for me to answer. I feel like I’m being pigeonholed into a strict personality assessment. I’ve interacted with far too many people in the workplace who rely on M-B results like they were the Oracle herself. Truly knowing people and how they think takes time and effort, but the M-B provides a demeaning shortcut to that.

      1. jen*

        that seems to really relate to the reaction post-test, not the assessment. i mean, i get that some questions are vague, but the test itself doesn’t and can’t “pigeonhole” you – a person does that. the MBTI isn’t even jsut the 16 types – each piece is a sliding range. jsut because two people score as introverts still doesn’t they’re the same. i could be an introvert, but close to the middle of the scaleof etrovert to introvert. another person could be a strong introvert, far down the scale from me. it really seems like the OP’s negativity was about the way they’ve seen it used, and they’ve allowed that to color their opinion of the assessment itself.

        1. Helka*

          And that’s a very fair thing for the OP to do. “Every one of my experiences with this thing has been negative, therefore I have a negative opinion of this thing” is a pretty logical train of thought. And while someone who is interested in the test may see the classifications as sliding scales, on the surface it is actually pretty dualistic and therefore pigeon-holey. Either you’re an I or an E, either you’re an S or an N, etc. Separating the test from the way people use the test seems like somewhat of a false dichotomy as far as the OP’s issue is concerned. They aren’t talking about taking the test on the internet for funsies, they’re talking about having it applied as part of a job thing and therefore the results used.

      2. Observer*

        Which doesn’t really explain much.

        The fact that some people are way too reliant on the results (the former boss is hair raising) says nothing about the assessment itself. My experience is that the people who work that way are going to find a different (though probably less clear) way to pigeonhole people if they can’t / don’t have the B-M type to work with. But, not everyone who uses the assessment is over-reliant on it, as others have noted.

        The fact that the answers are too vague for the OP’s comfort is not an arguable statement, of course. But this hardly seems to rise to the level of problem that would make someone be willing actually give up a good opportunity over it.

        And, what exactly makes the results “demeaning”? It’s totally not clear what makes the results demeaning.

        1. neverjaunty*

          OP has no idea how the test is going to be used.

          I don’t understand this passionate need to defend the test itself and act as though OP is in the wrong for having negative feelings about its use in the workplace.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not defending the test at all, much less “passionately”. I’m merely pointing out that giving up a good opportunity to avoid the assessment seems pretty extreme – especially since, as you yourself point out, he has no idea of how it is going to be used. And, on the other hand, even if HR says he can avoid the assessment, if the people who want it are as stupid as his last boss, it’s not going to make a difference.

            A LOT of the tools used in the workplace are of little value. And, even a tool that might genuinely be useful if properly used, can be misused. But it’s one thing to believe (or even know without a doubt) that the tool is flawed and not useful, and to be annoyed and displeased at the use of the tool. It’s another thing altogether to take the resistance to the point of being willing to give up on a good opportunity just to avoid it.

        2. Girasol*

          “I can read you like a book!” was my boss’s take on it, and that seemed rather demeaning. While there are no good and bad results, a very competitive team can use the results to figure out the team winner and loser, and poke fun at the guy with whatever the team agrees is the loser personality type. None of that is what Meyers Briggs is really about, of course, but in a team that’s a bit dysfunctional to start with, MB can make matters worse instead of better. You need a team with emotional intelligence to use MB the way it’s meant to be used.

    2. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      You’re completely right. She was a disastrous boss for sure. What I didn’t like about her M-B approach was that projects I was currently working on and wanted to work on were suddenly taken away from me based on my assessment.

      In addition to what Helka outlined below, the other reason it grates on me is that my answers will totally vary day to day because the questions are so vague. On a bad day, I might be prompted to answer one way. On a so so day, it could be completely different. If I take a test five days in a row, and I get five different results, then I find that assessment to be fruitless.

      And that’s why it chafes with this application package. I know I’ll be consciously and subconsciously concerned about what I think HR wants combined with whatever mood I happen to be in that. That’s not an accurate assessment of who I am. Not by a long shot. And certainly not when I can give different results 24 hours later.

      1. Observer*

        In other words, it won’t provide anyone with any useful information anyway. I get what you are saying.

        What I was asking was not why this ticks you off, though. What I was wondering about was why you would be willing to give up a good opportunity for this? If I read your later comments correctly, you are not going to give up the opportunity, so it’s a moot point.

        As others say, just game the stupid thing. Normally, I really would not give that advice. But, it’s not as if they are going to get any real information if you try to answer honestly anyway.

  5. long time reader first time poster*

    I think these types of tests are so easily manipulated. I was required to take a similar (but not MBTI) test as part of a the interview process once — the hiring manager kind of laughed it off and told me that it wouldn’t impact their decision, it was just the owner of the company’s particular woo. So, I took it, and I just answered everything in a way that I assumed a manager would want to hear from a person in the role I was interviewing for.

    Well, I got the job, and as I got to know the owner of the company he told me that I blew him away with my score on the test. I told him that I’d basically just gamed the test and put in things I thought he wanted to hear. He *insisted* that the test was impossible to game, and that I was just the right personality for the gig.


    1. HR Manager*

      This is exactly how they’re not intended to be used. Terrible! We used to assess all our sales staff on yet another ‘type’ tool. It was never used directly to hire or not hire, but it did steer our interviewing questions one way or another. No surprise, most of our sales staff usually score high on the extrovert/external relationship dimension. We had a pocketful of ‘introvert’ types, yet one of the most successful reps was someone who was naturally an introvert! He worked really hard to be different on a sales call and was great at it, but it was energy zapping for him, so the team knew he wasn’t usually partaking in off-call shenanigans as the sales team often did. They didn’t take it personally, because they knew his ‘style’. He eventually became one of our most successful sales managers too.

    2. DL*

      This would irk me too, for similar reasons. On the official MBTI assessment I’m barely an “I” and too close to center to call any of the other segments. The career councilor was pretty surprised about this result, but said it can happen and seemed accurate for me.

      So, I wonder if there’s a way to indicate that the MBTI similarly ambiguous for you?

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I worked at a company where all managerial applicants had to take a personality test. It took months to fill positions because excellent candidates were failing the personality tests. And when we finally hired managers, they were the most monstrous, aggressive people I ever met. I wondered if HR didn’t really know what a manager should look like on the results, or if the worst candidates had no ethical issues with gaming the test.
      I don’t know what test it was, but it took a whole day to take and I understand that it was grueling.

      1. long time reader first time poster*

        You think gaming the test is an ethical issue?

        I don’t think it’s any different than answering interview questions with answers that the interviewer wants to hear. Same thing as when somebody asks “Tell me your greatest weakness?” and you say “Being a perfectionist” instead of “I spend thousands of dollars a month on scratch tickets.” Both might be true, but you need to paint yourself in a light that fits the role you’re applying for. I don’t think that’s unethical.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        I worked in sales for a medium-sized software company, and they had all their potential new sales people take a personality test (I forget which) and then compared the results to that of the very successful, very smart, very kind VP of Sales. The closer the match to his profile, the better the chance of a job offer. (I was an almost-exact match, the closest one they’d had in all the years of testing).

        1. A Non*

          Considering that personality tests aren’t supposed to measure kindness, intelligence, or success, that was not a sensible metric. But hey, at least they were comparing people to someone awesome, rather than some jerk-ass?

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            That was the point, actually. They weren’t measuring for kindness, intelligence and success. They just knew they wanted more people like the VP of Sales.

    4. A Non*

      The owner’s an idiot, it’s super easy to game. It’s hard *not* to game, if you have some idea of what people are looking for.

      (Fun story: My family once took an informal version of the test together at a professional’s suggestion. We all came out as the same type – my very controlling dad’s type. He was a scientist and there was one right way to think, dammit. It was quite an eye opener.)

      1. Observer*

        It sounds like the professional gave you a good piece of advice, whether he meant it that way or not. Do you think that this is what he had in mind?

        1. A Non*

          I’m not sure if she planned that, but she sure took advantage of it. I was pretty shut down as a teenager, so she asked me to take the test as a tool to get me thinking about my own likes and dislikes. (And she’d already pegged me as an analytical and curious type who would have fun doing so.) When the rest of my family got curious and took it as well, she looked at the results and said WOAH this isn’t right, and that’s not your type. It ended up getting right to the guts of the issue in a hurry, and also had the intended effect of putting me on track to figuring out who I was.

          So that’s part of why I happily jump in on conversations about Meyers-Briggs types – it was an important first step for me in getting out from under a suffocating parent. I think there’s some usefulness in the categorization, but it’s primarily valuable for the conversations and self-awareness that can come from it.

          1. teclatwig*

            What a fascinating experience, and good for that therapist.

            I was going to post about this lower (and still might), but the college career counselor who administered my assessment told me that my off-the-charts T could very well be an adaptation to a mom who expected T at all times. I can’t remember if the strength of the T alone led her to have a question-mark, or if it was my own feeling that there was some hidden F, but I have since held onto the idea that our “type” can change over time, especially as we gain self-knowledge and growth in our late 20s and 30s, and as we shed (if we do) the expectations that we tried to live up to in our youth.

            1. A Non*

              Either the type changes or our understanding of it changes, that’s for sure. I have a good friend who has a master’s in psychology – she started college understanding herself as one type, and ended college with the opposite type on every measure. Most of her classmates changed type as well, though not quite as dramatically.

  6. The IT Manager*

    I work for the government and partipated in an intense leadership program. We did not take a MBTI as part of it, but we did other tests to assess what type of person (leader, communicator, etc.) we were and these results were used for us to understand ourselves and others in the program and we did discuss them.

    There’s two things here (1) Your dislike and distrust of Myers-Brigg is unusally strong. It’s not meant to be difficult; if none of the answers fit, pick the closest possible one. I would recommend not making a huge deal out of it because it does seem odd. (2) OTOH I do find it wierd that you’ve encountered so many people that think this test is the be all and end all. I have not experieinced that yet in my career.

      1. JMegan*

        Probably. And also – although this is going to sound ridiculously ironic and meta – it might be that a particular personality type is associated with hating personality tests. :) I too had a strong negative reaction to M-B at first, because I LIKE putting things into neat little pigeon holes, and I like doing “well” on tests, so it about drives me round the bend when I can’t answer a question to my own satisfaction.

        Which is not to say that it’s true for the OP, of course. And if you don’t like the test, that’s totally legit, especially considering your past experiences with it. But I’d really hesitate about making this the hill you want to die on, and missing out on what might be a great career opportunity because of it.

    1. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      I posted this above, but I’d like to reiterate. My answers would change day to day, depending on what day I’ve had and what work situations I’ve faced at the time. That’s why I hate it. I don’t find it valuable because I’m sure if I took it every day for 100 days, I’d get a variety of different assessments.

      I haven’t encountered the diehard M-B fans frequently, but it’s enough that I’m turned off by it. I’ve had job candidates put it on their resume or cover letter. I’ve also met about 5 people or so who introduce themselves with their M-B assessment.

      I even had one coworker be so dumbfounded with my distaste for it that *she took the test for me* because she just had to know what I was.

      As for that internship, yes it was bad all around. But what really grated on my nerves was how the boss and everyone else put so much stock into it. I remember once during a debate over politics, I had a coworker say to me, “Oh well you’re a IETNJ. You would say something like that.” I hated it.

      Plus my understanding is that when administered properly, results aren’t supposed to be shared with a group.

      1. A*

        Also when administered proprely, you are told to remove yourself from any role you play and answer as you innately would as a person. Don’t respond as your employee self or parent self. Just answer as you would if someone asked you the question when you first wake up in the morning. Your responses should not be dependent on the day you are having.

      2. A*

        Also when administered proprely, you are told to remove yourself from any role you play and answer as you innately would as a person. Don’t respond as your employee self or parent self. Just answer as you would if someone asked you the question when you first wake up in the morning. Your responses should not be dependent on the day you are having.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’ve had the same experience as you, with results changing day to day. I’m right on the cusp for at least 3 of those letters, and can’t see being pigeon-holed on something that will be different tomorrow. So I understand your dislike, especially since you have been negatively categorized on something that isn’t the same day to day.

  7. soitgoes*

    I’m not a fan of these personality tests. I know that the “introverted v. extroverted” thing has become a buzzword-laden talking point recently, but I have a feeling that only people on the extremes tend to latch onto their assessments. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. I truly do not know if I am introverted or extroverted. I make decisions about socializing depending on how I feel in the moment, not based on some all-consuming personality label.

    The signifier for “big picture v. detail-oriented ” is odd too. Ideally you should be good at both.

    idk, maybe I’m biased because I get different results every time I take that stupid test. I would be worried if an employer based hiring decisions on however I scored on that particular day.

    1. HR Manager*

      MBTI doesn’t assume you will always make the same decision because of your label either. This is again, someone who has not really been properly trained on what the MBTI tells you (or was, and didn’t listen because it’s more fun for you to be like Hermione as an ESTJ, rather than sticking with the ‘boring’ actual application of the model).

      1. soitgoes*

        I think that the recent trend (and yes it’s a trend) of outing yourself as introverted on the internet has soured me toward anything that touches on that subject. I don’t see it mattering much as long as you’re kind, but there’s soooooooooo much navel gazing devoted to it that I fail to see how it isn’t just an excuse to talk about how special some people think they are.

        1. Jamie*

          It has nothing to do with being special – and if some people think it makes them so then they should really work on developing some actually accomplishments of which to be proud.

          It does come up more on the internet than in real life because it’s where a lot of introverts feel far more comfortable being chatty. In real life you have to pay attention to the whole conversation, pretend to be interested, can’t skim when boring people ramble…and that’s only worth it if you get some points for being social out of it with tptb. And for people who prefer to think something through and formulate a response in their head before chiming in that’s a non-issue in type on the internet where irl it can be a problem for some.

          I’m a big fan of Susan Cain as she does a beautiful job of explaining that it doesn’t make anyone better, it’s not a superior thing…and it’s not an anti-extrovert thing. Many of us love extroverts and many of us even pair up with them because we enjoy what they bring to the table (or, sometimes, we love that they do the heavy lifting of the socializing for the couple which is awesome.) But she also does a great job of pointing out how the world is structured in many ways to make us feel like there is something wrong with us, or that we’re less than in some way from as early as pre-school clear into the workplace as adults. Much of the world is structured for the needs of extroverts – and they are the majority (although it’s not a huge sweep) so maybe that makes sense – but there is an undercurrent directed toward us that we’re not different in a way that’s okay…we’re different in a way that should be fixed.

          The outgoing extroverted kid is charming, happy, joyful. We could be just as happy and joyful, but when you’re quieter and live in your own head there is a lot of “what’s wrong?” “is s/he okay?” “Why don’t you just go play with the other kids, introduce yourself, make friends.” When we were perfectly happy in our own heads or reading. And we do make friends, just not in a “Eric Stratton, damn glad to meetcha” kinda way.

          I remember one of the absolute joys of discovering the early bulletin boards and IRC was being able to interact on my terms. You were only available when you chose to be so and if the interaction wasn’t to your liking you didn’t have to do it again – irl relationships aren’t as compartmentalized and can come with ongoing demands.

          And the beauty of it is there are loads of others who feel the exact same way – so you go from feeling most people (irl when it comes up) wish you would change and be “better” by which they mean more outgoing…to meeting other people who have dealt with the same unreasonable expectations who totally get it and that’s pretty cool when you first discover it.

          So you will find a lot more introverts online both because for many of us it’s our preferred medium by far but also because it’s where these kinds of conversations tend to come up. If they start talking about introvert/extrovert thing by the coffee maker right now I’m walking away without saying a word and so are the couple of other people of my ilk because we already know how that conversation ends and we don’t feel the need to defend or champion anything because it’s exhausting as well as boring.

          1. Apostrophina*

            As someone who still vividly remembers a K5 substitute teacher asking me “Why don’t you ever smile?” when I was mostly just thinking about stuff, I want to say this is a great explanation.

          2. Persephone Mulberry*

            The outgoing extroverted kid is charming, happy, joyful. We could be just as happy and joyful, but when you’re quieter and live in your own head there is a lot of “what’s wrong?” “is s/he okay?” “Why don’t you just go play with the other kids, introduce yourself, make friends.” When we were perfectly happy in our own heads or reading. And we do make friends, just not in a “Eric Stratton, damn glad to meetcha” kinda way.

            SO MUCH THIS. When my daughter was 3 or 4, my home daycare lady was due for an evaluation by the state or county or something, and the evaluator, after observing my daughter for less than 30 minutes, had the nerve to tell my daycare lady she was concerned about DD’s development because she was sitting quietly with a book instead of bouncing off the walls like the other kids.

            1. Jamie*

              That evaluator needs another line of work. It’s called thinking, people! Why on earth are there people who want to suppress that/i>?

              And when the real world becomes as interesting as the one in my head has always been I’ll join it more often.

              I can remember being super little – well before kindergarten – and one of my favorite things in the world was sitting behind the living room drapes with my stack of books and Mrs. Beasley doll. Heck, I wouldn’t mind doing that right now except my office has blinds.

          3. Shell*

            When I was in elementary school the administrative staff booked me an appointment with the school counsellor because I was too quiet and didn’t socialize with kids enough so they were wondering if something was wrong.

            I mean, I appreciate the gesture because it probably would be useful if there actually was something wrong, but it kind of underscores the fact that extroversion is the default.

            1. Jamie*

              This is exactly what Susan Cain is talking about when she speaks about the messages we receive.

              I have 24 first cousins and am in the group of the youngest so by the time I was a kid the older ones had kids our age so there were what seemed like thousands of kids when I’d go to my Gram’s house. She would tell my mom she never knew what to do with me because I was would just sit and read or watch tv even if it wasn’t something I liked rather than go out and play, until they coaxed me to.

              I wasn’t coaxed, I was badgered and finally went out when it was easier to do that than convince people I wasn’t unhappy. I didn’t dislike my cousins but I didn’t know them all that well (couple of times a year and might as well be strangers to me) and I already knew I liked my book. Why risk something I’m already enjoying for something that may or may not be fun?

              And while introvert =/= shy I can see why it manifested that way in me as a kid – because I was never allowed to warm up on my own time and dip a toe in the water – it was always pressure to jump into social things immediately with both feet and the adult concern that I didn’t have the tools to do that made me feel like there was something defective about me. Like everyone had this ability to be immediately at ease that I didn’t understand. And just like going into a situation where you have a track record of achievement increases confidence so being repeatedly pushed into a situation where you can’t meet the exceptions increases anxiety and instills a pretty deep aversion to those situations which can manifest in shyness.

              And I always envied the people who people called shy – because they were always the bashful kids who made it look so cute. I don’t come off that way so I was pegged somewhat “difficult” and “aloof.” “Thinks she’s too good for (fill in the blank.)” But it wasn’t (always) – it was just that I didn’t know how to jump on the roller coaster once it had left the landing which is what it felt like. I just wanted to wait to get in and metaphorically buckle up first.

              I will say this I never did this to mine. They could toe in the water until they were comfortable but ironically 2 out of 3 never needed that….they were the jump in off the high dive and then wonder if there is water in the pool kind of kids. :)

              1. KJR*

                I think you just undid some of my deep seeded feelings of inferiority for being an introvert, especially as a kid. I don’t think my parents knew what to do with me — I was always reading, and when I did go outside, it was out in the woods to explore by myself. I really was happiest during these times, as I did not have any strong desire to mingle or socialize. Same with the cousin situation — I am getting to know them better now, through Facebook! So what you said about being more comfortable online makes a whole lot of sense. Great post, thank you!

            2. Is it Performance Art*

              There were a couple of times when I was a teenager where someone insisted that I had Social Anxiety Disorder because I wasn’t interested in going to a lot of parties and liked to spend time alone. When I tried to explain that I found parties boring and draining, they insisted that I was really afraid of people and was telling myself that I didn’t enjoy parties in order to avoid acknowledging my fear. Clearly these people had not been to a party full of teenagers in a long time. (A few of my friends with similar personality traits had similar experiences.) FWIW, I think that whole “allergic to people” ad campaign really muddied the difference between SAD and introversion/not a people person; a lot of people thought they were being helpful suggesting to the introverts they knew that they might have SAD.

          4. catsAreCool*

            I’m an INTJ, and I remember how relieved I was once I understood the test – I’m not odd, just a rare type! That might sound funny to people who are a more popular type, but I spent a fair bit of my life up to that point wondering why my brain seemed to work differently than other people’s.

        2. HeyNonnyNonny*

          In case this un-sours you: I recently figured out that I was introverted thanks a lot in part to all the recent chatter on it. I’m not shy, but I get super tired after having to deal with people. I got some great resources from people online–and here– and now I have a lot better understanding of how I can manage my energy levels. So some of the outing and navel gazing can be really useful to people. :)

          1. Kristinyc*

            Me too! For most of my life, I’ve been told in need to “come out of my shell.” And in more recent years, I was worried that I was boring/ shy because I hated going to parties and bars. All the recent buzz about being an introvert has explained SO MUCH about his my brain works. When I took the Meyers Briggs test, it said I was 68% introvert, and suddenly it all made sense.

        3. Tau*

          I think the introvert/extrovert stuff can get frustrating because a) people tend to assume everyone fits neatly into one of the two categories and if you’re sitting there going ‘…uh…’ that gets pretty alienating, b) people also often pile a lot of personality traits onto “gains energy from being alone” vs “gains energy from being with people”. Mind, this was more annoying for me when outgoing gregarious me still thought I was an introvert. But there’s a definite tendency to assume introvert = shy, awkward, bad at social skills and extrovert = outgoing, good in groups, socially adept, which may not hold true. I also agree that it seems quite absolute; I’m pretty sure no one does well with either complete social isolation or interacting with people every waking minute.

          That said, I think it’s unfair to dismiss it as navel gazing. Although I think the distinction is just not a useful one for me, it’s clearly a useful concept for some people and helps them understand themselves and their friends, explain their needs and set the boundaries they need. I tend to view it as “okay, label I don’t need but others apparently do, hope it’s useful for you.”

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            So true about the assumptions that go along with the labels. My boyfriend of 12 years is an extrovert (gets energy from others), but is shy, socially awkward, and frequently offends people because he has no filter between his brain and his mouth. I, however, am an introvert (people drain me), but I had a successful career in sales and can walk into damn near any room full of strangers and walk out with several potential friends. I’m not shy and I’m not socially awkward, I just can’t stand to be around people for very long. :-)

    2. Formerly Bee*

      I agree. MBTI and the weird popularity of “introvert vs extrovert” leaves no room for people whose traits fall in the middle. I don’t think most of us can be accurately categorized by MBTI and most of us are probably ambiverts.

      But the test isn’t the hill I want to die on in a job application.

    3. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      The times I’ve either taken it or someone has taken it for me, I’ve scored both introvert and extrovert.

  8. IndieGir*

    Well, I’ve always wondered why there are some folks who hate M-B with a purple passion — and now I know. I personally have found M-B a useful tool for understanding myself and how I best interact with others, but it would really cheese me off if my manager was using it to assign projects. And your boss also sounds like a jerk to argue with you about your answers. I can’t imagine how someone like that gets promoted!

    Having said this, I’m perplexed about why you were upset that the results were shared. It’s not like IQ test results or anything, and one type isn’t any better than any other. Both of the training programs I did that incorporated M-B made this very, VERY clear and overall, it was a positive experience for everyone of every type. I’m wondering if the new program being offered to you will do a much better job than your jerkinator old boss.

    1. LoFlo*

      Our group all had to take DISC profiles as part of “team effectiveness” so we would all know how to communicate with each other. If was a flipping disaster. The drama queen in the department took everybody’s results very seriously and if you deviated from your assessment you were not being transparent (one of company’s new values).

      1. Adam*

        That’s the thing about M-B. It can identify likely patterns and responses of behavior, but people are still people so it’s not going to be 100% on every moment of your life. Every M-B I’ve ever taken puts me on the very introverted side of the scale, and people have been very surprised to hear that when considering how I often present myself.

        1. IndieGir*

          I agree it’s never a 100% fit — but it also doesn’t claim to be. It’s a tool, and some people use it badly.

          In terms of the introversion thing, not all introverts always stay in the background or are at all shy. I’m not — I’m a very verbal introvert. I talk to strangers, make conversation, and often find myself being the leader in a situation. The difference is where you recharge your emotional batteries. At the end of the day, I emotionally recharge by having alone time, as opposed to an extrovert who would find all this interpersonal interaction invigorating.

          1. Adam*

            Exactly. M-B is a tool; not a D&D character sheet.

            For the record: I don’t play D&D but I have seen how seriously some players take being “in character” along with any deviations from a stated alignment, so the analogy fits in my head.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I would MUCH rather participate in a workplace exercise where we were asked to write a D&D character sheet of ourselves.

              I am one of those people who thinks the MBPI is about half a step above horoscopes. Yes, I understand that it is a tool, and is meant to be informative of general tendencies to help people understand communication and working styles, but it’s widely abused (as has been noted more places than here) AND, more importantly, people’s natural tendencies to pigeonhole and stereotype means that even well-meaning folks are going to use it to slap labels on others.

              Also, as was pointed out up thread, they can be very easily gamed. Particularly by the exact type of person who would not want you to know about unsavory personality traits.

              1. Elsajeni*

                Oh man, that would be SUPER FUN. Ooh, and you could have people fill out, like, an accurate sheet and then “level it up”, to get at what areas you want to develop over the next year or so… I don’t know, I’m kind of sold on this. The only problem, alas, is that the Lawful Evil coworkers of the world have too much sense to publicly identify themselves as Lawful Evil.

                1. Judy*

                  Not workplace, but if you’re on a fitness journey, I’ve discovered nerdfitness dot com. You can pick your character and attributes, then work out a plan to level up to those attributes. Want to be a ninja? So strong-ish, quick-ish and martial arts? A druid? Strong-ish and yoga? A warrior? Strong? A scout? Quick with endurance? Use RPG ideas to motivate your fitness.

                2. VintageLydia USA*

                  Judy, that sounds awesome. I always play willow rogues in RPG’s and I don’t have the faintest idea on how to be one in real life. May have to check that out!

              2. allreb*

                I have a friend who isn’t into MBTI at all but really digs star signs, where I am the completely opposite. Not shockingly, it seems to break down like this: she identifies really strongly with everything that describes her sign, but is meh about her MBTI type descriptions; I identify REALLY HARD with my MBTI type and not at all with my star sign. I suspect that sort of thing comes down to whether it reinforces what you see in yourself.

        2. Jamie*

          Right the introvert =/= shy thing is something most people don’t understand. I used to be shy, I’m not anymore…but I’ll always be introverted even though I give a heck of a presentation and don’t mind public speaking. And I do enjoy spending time with people and will do so of my own volition, it’s not being a hermit just about how we recharge and what drains or energizes us and in some cases how we work best.

          Don’t expect me to come up with my best ideas during a brainstorming session full of interaction and feedback – but that doesn’t mean I’m a danger to all the chatty people in there. Usually.

          1. Adam*

            Word. I love people. I love being social. I love to talk when the conversation is fun and/or meaningful. I get a lot of happiness from it. But sometimes even the best of times seriously wipe me out.

          2. HR Manager*

            If I remember, MBTI defines introvert as inwardly focused, gets energy internally (ie., internal thoughts), whereas extroverts are outwardly focused, gets energy from external stimulus. Some of this may happen to overlap with behaviors exhibited by a shy person or a gregarious person, but by MBTI definitions they are not the same.

            An introvert might get really motivated by a cross-word puzzle, whereas an extrovert might grow bored if s/he can’t solve it within 15 mins. The introvert might see this as a challenge and be more motivated to complete it. An extrovert on the other hand will absolutely relish things like karaoke night! Doesn’t matter if they can’t sign, but they’ll be energized by the thought of being surrounded by people and the chance to try this in front of friends or colleagues.

            And as others have noted, introverts can be social. But it will wear them down after a few hours, and might have to bow out early. An extrovert might get more lively as the evening goes. An introvert can spend all night with a puzzle or book, or trying to craft the right solution, but an extrovert might start getting unfocused after a few hours.

            1. Zillah*

              This extrovert absolutely would not relish karaoke night. I get what you’re saying, but a couple of your examples really buy into the stereotypes.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                This extrovert doesn’t want to do karaoke, either. One thing that always strikes me with introvert/extrovert stereotyping: as an extrovert, yes, I get energy from being around people, but the kind of interaction is important, too. People often think extroverts are great teachers because we get energy from being with people, but teaching can be about a LOT of energy output and sometimes not very much coming back to you, and I can get seriously drained if all of my people contact is heavy output on my part. What energizes me is more mutual interaction. Not every extrovert needs all people all the time, and not all interactions are equal; for me it’s more that if I don’t have a certain amount of “good” people interaction, I’m unhappy.

                1. Cheesecake*

                  Absolutely! The reason why i turned out to be “extrovert” is if i am down, interaction and discussion will cheer me up. But for some interactions i prefer a good book. The funny thing is, my husband is a clear I, but he sometime accuses me of being “coach potato” because i don’t want to go to a club after busy Friday work-day, while he is ready. Strange, right? Absolutely not. He wants to go, because he doesn’t really need to talk to anyone, but drink and listen to music. While i hate it, as i can’t have meaningful conversations. Same counts for karaoke night. And again, if there is no fun interaction and discussion and just small meaningless talk and people i don’t know/like (i am ENTP – verbal battle is important for me), i will go home early.

                2. So Very Anonymous*

                  Cheesecake: EXACTLY. I look like a couch potato, too, and I love to read. It is definitely about wanting to have interesting conversations — too much small talk will wear me out, too, because to me that’s not really talking. It’s almost all introverts where I work, and some of them actively resist talking with me, so I really appreciate the handful of extrovert colleagues who also need to talk things out, and are up for collaborative work.

      2. IndieGir*

        Sounds like you had a real winner on your hands! But I’m also guessing that your DQ would have been a joy on any other team project.

      3. HR Manager*

        Haha, I took DiSC too, and didn’t love it either. Not sure why – might have been just type indicator assessed out. I’ve read of and or taken so many of these (psych major geek), that I now really believe only one of these to be most useful. But this is also highly dependent on the competency of your trainer.

        I’m reading so many horror stories of how people have identified their type as this unyielding archetypical thing that it’s quite scary. Are people doing this with properly certified facilitators? This is one of the things that all facilitators should lead with — these types are not a summation of you. While some models debate whether your type/preference is inherently flexible, most will agree that you can exhibit different behaviors under different circumstances.

    2. DM*

      My office did M-B assessment and training a few years ago, and I loved it. I don’t remember my classification (other than introvert), but the training part was really helpful to understand that people function in different ways.

      One thing that stands out to me to this day is the difference between introverts and extroverts. I have small circle of people I spend a lot of time with, and have been told a handful of times that people “don’t get what is wrong with [me] since people like” me, but I don’t have a large circle of friends (one relative went so far as to tell me that it’s a sign I’m a bad person, but I think it’s safe to say she has her own issues). And I honestly feel a little bad for people who are always trying to surround themselves with others – a quiet night at home is one of my favorite things. But knowing that I get my energy from me-time, and others are recharged by others makes it easier to understand differences, even if I can’t easily relate.

      Anyways, I think a high-quality training around the MBTI can be really helpful in understanding differences (and results do not have to be publicly disclosed to do so). I guess I’m lucky that my experience with MBTI was so good.

    3. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      My understanding is that M-B results aren’t supposed to be shared with people. I read somewhere years ago that proper administration of the text requires the person and a trained administrator. The idea is so that others don’t sit there and gab about what they think you should be or why you have the rating you do, and then using it against you somehow.

      Regardless if it’s true, if someone is doing a personality test on me, spectators in the room would make me nervous and certainly influence my responses. I’d feel so vulnerable.

      1. A*

        This is correct. You make the decision on whether to share your type or not. When I facilitated open group intro to MBTI sessions, I never referred to people by their four letter type and told them they could share or keep it to themselves.

  9. Adam*

    I know it’s not the same thing, but this reminds me of all the around minimum wage retailers who require you to take an online personality test when you submit your application which rumor has it you need to get 100% “correct” if you have any hope of getting an interview. I got a second job at just such a place for the holidays this year, and knowing this I went online and found an “answer key” on Youtube. I submitted my application with those answers and got a phone interview the very next day.

    1. long time reader first time poster*

      Hah! Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that these tests results are easily manipulated.

      1. Adam*

        I’ve always found this sort of hiring tactic sketchy anyways. I get there are some personalities that are just not a good fit for certain jobs (I will never be good at sales. Ever.), but the implication that there’s a right personality as opposed to a right attitude and skill set just bugs me…

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Aw, I’ve actually worked on some of those– in a very limited capacity– but knowing how they’re designed and why the questions are worded certain ways makes me kinda sad that they’re treated like that. They certainly shouldn’t have to be 100% “correct,” but just using the answers online also makes it harder for the company to find employees that will be a good fit.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I have told this story a million times, which means I’ve probably told it here.

        I was applying to work in a convenience store, lo these many years ago. I think I was about 20. The interview process involved one of these tests. Most of it was sneaky wording designed to trip you up into admitting you’d steal. My guess is that if they wanted to reject you, they could justify it either way: either your answers proved you were a thief, or they were too good so they proved you were a liar and also a thief!

        But there was one question that really gave me pause, because I couldn’t work out what they wanted. It was true/false: “My personality doesn’t change much when I get high.” I asked the interviewer about it, as either answer implied that I did get high! She didn’t know. I think she ended up advising me to put false if I didn’t get high. I did not get this job. Probably dodged a bullet.

        1. Jamie*

          A similar question is still making the rounds on the online tests. A couple of months ago one of my kids filled out an online app and one of them was something to the effect of “I have problems with poor judgement when I’m high.” Another was “I have become violent in the past when drinking.”

          If you’ve never been drinking and have never been high it’s kind of hard to answer the question.

          1. Judy*

            I’d think both of those are false if you haven’t been high or drink. If you’ve not been high, you haven’t had any problems with poor judgement when high. If you don’t drink, then you’ve not been violent when drinking.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Logically, yes. 1. If P, then Q. 2. NOT P. 3. Therefore, NOT Q.

              But the way the question is phrased allows the “If P, NOT Q” interpretation as well. It takes P as read. It’s “When did you stop beating your wife?” It assumes facts not in evidence. It should be rewritten in order to avoid this gotcha-ing of applicants.

              1. A Non*

                True, but unless it’s a *really* interesting job I think it’s a safe assumption that they’re looking for “does this person have behavior problems under any conditions” rather than “can this person get drunk/high and still do a good job?”

                (Now there’s a job requirement for you. “Must demonstrate good judgement while high.” Um, nightclub bouncer who might get secondary exposure? Chemical facility where mind-altering spills are a job hazard? Test subjects in a drug experiment where they can filter out certain behavior sets without screwing up the data?)

      2. Adam*

        I understand the mindset behind it, at the very least it might be a time saver for these companies’ HR departments, but I never got an interview at any of these places until I cheated the test. And if someone were to say to me that means I’m not cut out for a part-time retail job I’m getting to supplement my income, well, let’s just hope I’m in a good mood that day.

        I don’t how the creators of said test intend them to be used, but the general consensus I find online is these tests are seen as being designed to attract people who will work hard but are also fairly agreeable borderline yes-people who aren’t interested in getting more out of the work.

  10. sab*

    I’d encourage the OP and anyone who’s skeptical of being “pigeon-holed” by MBTI to consider that it’s a spectrum. Of course, this is dependent on who adminsters your MBTI. I had to take the test as part of a leadership program, and what the instructor (certified MBTI coach) had us to do was line up the around the room according to numerical signs she put up and we placed ourselves according to our numeric result for each MBTI letter. It was an interesting exercise (and got us moving after sitting down all morning! Yay, all-day leadership seminars) as it was a good visual of that everyone does to tend clump towards the middle/lower ends of the spectrum. Considering that these traits are supposed to be personality *preferences*, it’s important to remember that preferences adapt over time. I’m much lower on the J scale when I took the test last year compared to when I took it in college. I think the people who cling to their type as apart of their identity help perpetuate the stereotype that MBTI is a bunch of stereotypes.

    1. Red*

      It’s nice knowledge for the test-taker, but the real concern isn’t the nature of the results but rather how the results will be used by whomever is paying for the MBTI test. Not every company/superior understands that the results are a continuum and that they describe an individual in the same terms one would describe oneself (and are thus subjective and do not describe/predict reality all of the time). Instead the results may be taken as some sort of objective gospel about how a person will work and interact.

  11. Training Manager*

    I am actually a Certified Facilitator of the MBTI and with the situation you described I understand completely why you don’t like it. Your manager challenging you on your results shows a complete lack of understanding of the assessment. It was mentioned above, but I train that the M-B is to help you see how you prefer to communicate and process information, then use that knowledge to help you communicate with other types in a method they are comfortable with. It really bothers me how many times I hear managers say, “I want to know what types my team members are.”. It does not matter, you should use the information about yourself to learn how to better communicate in a style that will ensure successful collaboration with other types. I could keep going on and on about how M-B is misused, but for the OP, you are not in the wrong and that manager was way out of bounds to argue with you about your responses.

    1. IndieGir*

      “you should use the information about yourself to learn how to better communicate in a style that will ensure successful collaboration with other types”

      This is exactly why I found it so helpful. I’m an INTJ, and my facilitator looked at my results and said “I bet you spend a lot of time in group meetings being annoyed that it is taking so long for everyone to come to a decision that you already realize they are going to make.” I was stunned b/c that’s EXACTLY how I feel in most meetings and I want to push people along to get to the point. It has been enormously helpful for me to understand that the conversation I find so irritating is part of *their* type’s way of processing things, and that my pushing wasn’t helping but making them feel constrained. It has helped me in so many ways change how I interact with others for the better. (Like being able to sit patiently when the third person says “Yes, I also think we should do ABC and here’s why” instead of me saying “Goddamnit! You all want to do ABC so we don’t need any more reasons why!”)

      1. A Non*

        I’m highly amused, because I tend to agree with you – I know where this conversation is going already, so can we please just get there – but I can also see how important it is for people to come to that conclusion for themselves. There’s a real balancing act in facilitating meetings to give people enough time to figure out a decision but not let it ramble needlessly either. And make sure the decision actually gets clearly made.

        I just watched a situation where a manager moved forward on a hiring decision before their subordinates were ready for it. Everyone liked the candidate and we were pretty much certainly going to pick them, but the manager’s short-circuiting the process came across as really high handed and made everyone unhappy. To make it worse, they didn’t even acknowledge that they were short-circuiting the process, and maintained that they’d been as transparent and inclusive as they’d promised to be. Acknowledging that people would have liked more processing time but that it wasn’t possible due to the candidate’s availability would have done a lot to smooth feathers.

        1. IndieGir*

          Sounds like the manager could have been helped by M-B or any other system that would help him understand his subordinates’ mental processes. Because you’re right, it would have made all the difference in the world if he had at least said “Ok, team, we have to make the call by XX date or lose the candidate.” Then they would know he wasn’t ignoring or discounting their input but managing to a timeline.

          1. A Non*

            Yes, and that’s not a personality type thing, that’s a pretty standard good management thing. I was surprised, this person has otherwise been very socially adept.

      2. Judy*

        Yep, as I said above, INTJ. I’ve used the type information to help reign in my pushing until the S’s finally get to the endpoint. (At least at my last job, I was surrounded by S’s, and I’m married to one.)

        I do use my understanding of my “I” nature, to make sure I take care of myself. Especially since having kids, I make sure I keep my evenings balanced to give me some alone time.

        1. IndieGir*

          LOL! My office is like that too. Now I just zone out while they are backing and forthing and think about what I’ll have for dinner. :-)

  12. gg*

    I’ve taken lots of personality tests and they’ve all been helpful to some degree. My favorite was the one that had you focus on how you are at work versus how you are generally. There was one time where I was on a team and it turned out that 3 out of the 4 of us has the same personality type. Which explained why we’d have these long meetings where we argued and argued while agreeing with each other. My mbti type is infj, which is odd given my career (it). But I do a lot of systems work.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    I’d like to ask the OP to consider that some of your reaction to this activity is colored by your previous experience. In no way should the MB be used to determine work assignments. However, I don’t see why everyone knowing your score is a big deal. It’s not a medical diagnosis.

    I agree with AAM that results shouldn’t be used for admission criteria. That’s so not right.

    I’d also ask you to consider that the MB is a point in time evaluation of your personality. It’s not permenant. I went from being an far left hand I to far right hand E over the course of about 5 years. I, and others here, have taken the MB or DISC or other similar tests multiple times because our results do change and it does give us insight on ourselves and coworkers. Doing a DISC with my boss immeasurably helped our communication. Doing a MB type assessment as a part of a leadership training is pretty standard, so I don’t think you’ll be able to stop that from happening.

    When it comes to the assessment, don’t stress over your answers. Pick the one that is closest to your “right” answer and then move on. Agonizing over your answers will show up in your results. And remember it’s very much a sliding scale. All ENFJ’s are not the same, speaking as an ENFJ that is about as much ENFJ as you can get.

    1. neverjaunty*

      It’s a big deal because a lot of people treat it like they would a medical diagnosis. You’re either I or E completely and that’s how you are. And then people make dumb extrapolations from that.

    2. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      My understanding is that results aren’t supposed to be shared, if properly administered.

      I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it, but, yes, lots of people not only take that thing as gospel but the assessment can be used to write you off or pigeonhole you into being an introvert or an extrovert. The whole thing is so limiting to me because the implication is you can’t be anything else or you can’t consider X or you won’t do Y or Z never crosses your mind.

      I see the attraction to it though. If there was a test that could accurately tell me if a stranger was going to lie, cheat or steal from me, I’d want to see the results ASAP. Problem is, there is no test like that, but M-B has been mis-marketed that way.

      1. catsAreCool*

        The sad thing is that what I’ve read about M-B, it has nothing to do with whether someone is good or bad. It’s more about preferences, almost like right or left handedness.

        1. Meyers-Briggs OP*

          You wanna know what’s funny?

          I’m an extrovert. Sometimes I really can’t stop talking or interrupting. There are times I get introverted though especially when I’m tired or moody. It largely depends.

          The reason I bring this up is because the handful of times I’ve pushed back on M-B, people assume I’m an introvert and embarrassed about it. (I’m not, and there’s nothing wrong either either label or anything in between.) It’s just humorous.

  14. HAnon*

    I knew of a woman who would require potential applicants to job positions at her company to complete personality tests…a friend was rejected on the basis that she was not an “E…” (she was an “I”) and therefore would not fit in well with the team. Legal or no?

    For the record, I’m an introvert and I do not enjoy being automatically pigeonholed in work settings as shy, withdrawn, unfriendly, not a group speaker, not a leader when none of those things are true! I regularly give presentations, speak in front of groups, take leadership initiatives and am very friendly to my coworkers within a work environment…and perfectly comfortable doing all of those things! I may prefer not to be on the phone all day, and forced group “bonding” activities are torture to me, but just because I’m not the life of the party doesn’t mean I’m going to be a wallflower…I think that’s what makes me nervous about those tests. Not the results themselves, but the uneducated prejudices and inferences people will make about my professional capabilities based on those results that have no basis in fact or experience.

    1. Training Manager*

      Don’t know about the legality, but very uninformed and stupid. E and I is not about ‘Shy” or “Outgoing” but rather how you process information (generally). As an “E” I like to soundboard with a group “Speak, Think, Speak”. I have to respect that an “I” may want to think about it for a while first “Think, Speak, Think” and I should shut up for a few and let them have a moment (not that I always succeed, but I try).

      1. Judy*

        I thought it was about how you get your energy. A 100% E would be more exhausted about spending a day by themselves than at a party. A 100% I would be more exhausted by a party than being by themselves. That is certainly how I see it manifesting in my life. Too many evenings with meetings or weekends with back to back kid birthday parties and I am sooooo tired and grumpy.

        1. Training Manager*

          That is also very true and your analogy is spot on. E’s get energy in groups (External) I’s get energy from self (Internal). So E’s talk it out first and I’s think about it first. That is the problem taking a large concept and summing up in a few words. Probably the cause of this post in general.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! This was a continual issue in one of my past relationships, actually. I’m an I, and when we argued, I’d spend a lot of time thinking quietly of exactly what I wanted to say before saying it. He would process ideas by trying them out aloud. To him, it seemed like I was giving the silent treatment and being closed off. I would get offended because he’d say something hurtful and then be like, “No, I didn’t mean that.” From my perspective, of course he did, or else he wouldn’t have said it. But what I came to understand later was that no, he didn’t actually mean everything he said (in the way I thought). He was floating test balloons aloud, and if what he said wasn’t it, he’d try something else. We almost always ended up arguing more about our argument styles than about the actual topic.

    2. Observer*

      Probably legal unless it also results in too few people of protected class being hired.

      But, stupid, stupid, stupid.

  15. WorkingMom*

    I would hope that as part of a management training program – this would be used a tool to help trainees determine how they can most effectively communicate with their direct reports, understand their direct reports’ communication styles better, etc.

  16. BRR*

    This is dumb. As Alison suggested I would try and use their own rules against them. Just tread carefully because some people obviously take it very seriously so you need to do it in a polite way.

  17. Sara*

    You could also point out that the MBTI is no longer the accepted personality assessment tool among psychologists, due in large part to the fact that it dichotomizes traits, which in actuality tend to occur on a continuum (for example, introversion and extroversion are actually normally distributed, with more people leaning towards the middle), among other reasons. The currently accepted model is the Big 5.

    1. Jamie*

      MBTI is a continuum though. The shorthand is the 4 letter classification – but it’s absolutely about where you fall on the scale as well. An introvert scoring 52% I or an extravert scoring 48% E is for all intents and purposes an ambivert. I would assume anyone using them for real purposes other than internet boredom or curiosity would take the actual scores into account.

      1. Felicia*

        Yes that – i get 85% I, so obviously i am a strong introvert…but for example get 55%T , 45%F, (sometimes reversed) which makes me pretty much right in the middle for thinking vs. feeling.

      1. Jamie*

        Tbf the article is misleading saying that the results are either/or as if there isn’t a spectrum of all of them where people fall on different lines.

        I don’t see the point in using it for work, I think it’s fun (although I disagree with the poster who said it’s like astrology because at least this is based on answers people are giving about their own attitudes and not an arbitrary date they were born. No one should act based on these results in a workplace, imo, but reading about the different approaches to things (whether you use the labels or not) can be interesting and shed light on how others don’t all think the same as we do and maybe become a little more open minded to differences being just differences and not being “wrong” per se.

      2. Eva*

        In the past year or so, several articles ostensibly debunking the MBTI have been published and made the rounds online. What they have in common is that they are all superficial criticisms based on a poor understanding of the MBTI. It is unfortunate that reputable magazines such as Fortune are willing to lend their name to highly bombastic pieces of such low quality. Here is my site’s debunking of the particular article you link to, A. D. Kay:


        And here is our general “MBTI for Skeptics” article:


        Here’s a relevant quote from that article:

        MBTI is pseudoscience and no better than astrology.
        False. By the common definition of pseudoscience (i.e. that there is no empirical evidence for the claims that are set forth by the theory), the MBTI is not pseudoscience. No scientific study has ever found that there is no validity to the MBTI. On the contrary, every study ever carried out has found that, while there are problems with the MBTI, there is nonetheless an acceptable level of empirical evidence supporting its claims. By contrast, astrology has repeatedly been found to have no empirical validity. Thus no skeptic who says he is “just following science” can claim that the MBTI is no better than astrology or that the MBTI is pseudoscience without relinquishing his status as a skeptic.

    2. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      Your comment and this thread are very helpful. I’ll point this out, if I feel I can. (I’m on super good terms with HR.)

  18. Ann*

    N-S has nothing on the hell of being a P. People who are strong Js think you stare at your navel all day long. So annoying.

    1. Jamie*

      I married one of you and it’s the smartest thing I ever did. Yes, there are times I’d like to jump through a closed window but those are short-lived and then I remember how grateful I am that he helps me unclench and this part of him enables him to terminate the eternal “if-then-else” loops in my brain which would otherwise continue endlessly.

      And I remind him to worry when necessary. It’s all about balance. :)

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Wow, this sounds exactly like my husband and me! I agree, it’s all about balance. And complementing each other’s skill set.

    2. catsAreCool*

      As a strong J, I tend to think of P’s as spontaneous, not as navel gazers. A strong P will make some of us strong J’s look like stick-in-the-mud types though :)

  19. Karen (another fed)*

    My agency happens to use PACE Palette as part of initial orientation training. Some areas use it, some completely ignore. My team, which is a support organization for a number of larger operational areas, uses it, in combination with MBTI and another personality assessment (which our results are shockingly consistent across…) to enhance our on-team communication. To a certain extent we’re also able to use it to prepare for dealing with difficult stakeholders. (Okay, guys, we’re going to have accounting (heavily yellow) and IT (heavily green) in this meeting. We’re going to need to provide enough detail to engage the accountants, but we can’t risk losing the IT folks’ attention, so be sure to balance it with. Both groups are going to respond well to arguments built on logic.)

    Everyone in the agency tests, but it’s definitely not a criterium for hiring.

  20. lowercase holly*

    i applied for a job once that had handwriting analysis as part of the process. that’s about as helpful as someone reading my palm :-p

    1. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      See what I mean about taking shortcuts to get to know people? Shortcuts don’t exist.

      M-B tests remind me of a friend of mine who wouldn’t date guys who were over a certain age or wore a particular pair of shoes or had a cat and other random criteria. She’d try to convince me it was because if Guy does X that means he’s [undesirable trait]. I’d always say, “No, sweetie, you actually need to get to know him to find out deep-rooted personality traits and even then you don’t always know.”

  21. Meg Murry*

    I waffle too much when I take MBTI tests because I’m terrible about thinking too hard on the question, and I also learned to compartmentalize – so I always have to think “in my personal life or in my work life”?

    However, I worked at a company that offered training on “Social Styles” that I would highly recommend. Instead of doing a self assessment, you ask coworkers (current or former) to assess you and that is what you presented with – so its not about how you see yourself, but rather how you come off to others. It also gave a great analysis of what your strengths and weaknesses were when dealing with people with a different style. For instance, I rated as an “Analytical” style – I tend to give every single supporting detail and fact and be a little too long winded (like this post). For someone who was a “Driver” style – they prefer direct, to the point communication, while someone who is a more “Amiable” style might want a little more personal interaction first rather than getting straight to the point.

    Since it was a group training that a lot of our coworkers took, it was really helpful to be able to discuss the personality types of ourselves, bosses and coworkers and tailor our communications to their personal styles.

    I highly recommend this training, I’ll post a link to it in the next comment.

    1. Jamie*

      Is there a list of adjectives they are choosing from or is it their discretion?

      Because I’m wondering how many euphemisms for b*tch mine would be able to come up with. :)

      1. Meg Murry*

        Mine didn’t come of with too many euphemisms like that for me, despite what I expected :) Although with a critical eye, some of the lines below can definitely read as b*tchy. This is the summary of an Analytical type:
        Focuses on tasks more than people
        Likes to be right and will take time to ensure this
        Thoughtful, careful fact-oriented and precise
        Good at objective evaluation and problem-solving
        Likes organization and structure
        Avoids group work, preferring to work alone
        Can be over-critical and unresponsive
        Cautious in decision-making
        When stressed may withdraw or become headstrong

        I’ll post another link to the 4 styles – the link below is for the training (which I think is a key part of it) but the 4 styles part is interesting

        1. Jamie*

          My oh my – that so accurately describes me I’d wonder if someone had followed me around to write that description. :)

          1. Meg Murry*

            My links are in moderation, but you can do a search for: changingminds social styles and its the first link that comes up.

            But if it makes you feel better, 3 of the 4 styles also could be described as b*tchy in quite a bit of the description:
            Expressive: When stressed may get sarcastic and unkind
            Driver: When stressed may grab control be overly critical
            etc etc

    2. HR Manager*

      I had a similar training and this is the one that stuck with me too (the one I now consider the best of these type of models), but the descriptors used different language. The assessment included a self-assessment with selecting words you gravitated towards, and then the peers/colleagues/clients selecting words they think represent you.

      For me, it was fascinating to see the difference in how my fellow HR colleagues viewed me vs how the employees and managers (i.e., my “internal clients”) saw me. None of my HR colleagues described me as social or ‘relationship oriented’ – I am analytical, logical and fact-driven. Clients rated me consistently more on the friendly/social and service oriented dimensions. I guess that’s a good thing, but it was fascinating to see it in spelled-out.

  22. Anon obviously*

    OP, I can totally see why you’d get traumatized by the MB. This previous experience of being judged in public for your answers to vague questions is totally galling, and would reasonably lead to you avoiding the thing forever after. And AAM’s answer to suggest that the test itself recommends it not be used in hiring might be worth slipping in at some point, very mildly. But if you have an MB freak doing the hiring, this is only going to hurt your case, as they’ll no doubt be offended. You probably have someone who’s insecure about their abilities, is glad to have found some/anything quantifiable, and is hanging on to it for dear life. Pointing out that they need to use their own judgement instead is only going to lead to your elimination, in my experience. Fortunately, this is rarely a freak you have to work with directly if you get the job.

    But in this case MB -is- going to be used to judge you (hopefully not in public). So let me suggest that -you- use it, instead of feeling like a victim. It’s fairly easy to google your way to whatever configuration is thought (by stupid HR people) to correspond to a ‘perfect’ person for the position you want. You can probably find a few free example tests out there, or you might have your original results around? But even without having the exact questions for practice, it’s very easy to influence the results in the desired direction. Do they think you should be extroverted? No problem, every question that gives you a choice between doing stuff on your own or with others should be answered in the ‘with others’ option. And so on, for every attribute desired. This is not rocket science – anyone aware of what MB is looking for can tell what most of the questions are about. They’re not vague, they’re crude. And if you’re aware of what you want to project, it’s a piece of cake to answer accordingly. If some questions are totally confusing, just answer whatever seems most likely, and you’ll just introduce enough looseness in the results that it looks legitimate.

    Good luck!!

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Ha! When I first switched from tech to tech sales, I had to take personality tests for my first few entry-level-ish positions. Having not ever done sales, I just imagined what a good (not jerky) sales person would be like, then answered accordingly. The result I most remember is being pegged as a solid extrovert, not a pretty firm introvert. I got the jobs, I moved forward in my career. And years later when I was firmly established, I was able to answer personality tests honestly [see above where all potential new sales reps were compared to the VP of Sales].

      But, yeah, those tests can *absolutely* be gamed, if you know what the testers are looking for.

    2. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      “You probably have someone who’s insecure about their abilities, is glad to have found some/anything quantifiable, and is hanging on to it for dear life.”

      20 years has gone by since that internship experience, and FINALLY I found something that best articulates how I feel about it. Couldn’t put it into words before.


  23. allreb*

    I really love and am fascinated by MBTI types…but I think there’s a tendency among folks like me (especially when we really, strongly identify with the descriptions of our own type) to feel like this is THE MOST useful and THE BEST tool and etc etc – when like all tools, it’ll serve some folks very well and some folks not at all. And I can definitely see that “But it’s GREAT! why don’t you get that?” enthusiasm being really off-putting for someone who had a non-great experience with it, and/or doesn’t find it to be that useful.

    Best of luck to you, OP – I hope your current workplace is using it in a much more reasonable way.

    1. Meyers-Briggs OP*

      Thanks for explaining why some people are such die-hard fans of it. This makes total sense even though I don’t agree with that opinion. I can see where those people are coming from.

  24. former psychologist*

    The MBTI is a load of malarkey. Don’t get me wrong, I see why it’s fun malarkey, but there’s just no there there, scientifically. I’d be pretty peeved if a group I wanted to work for made taking this test a condition of employment, just as I’d be irritated if my manager based critical decisions on my zodiac sign, and for many of the same reasons.

    Incidentally I’ve had to take other “personality tests” twice for job applications (in neither case did I make the cut). I did some poking into one of them and my best guess is the author got his doctorate at a diploma mill — there’s no record of his having written a dissertation. In the course of poking around I came upon some circuit court decision or other about use of the MMPI (a respected personality test) in employment decisions — I think the upshot was you can’t because it may identify people with certain disabilities. That made me wonder if the thing that lets employers get away with these other personality tests is precisely the fact that they don’t predict anything a psychologist would find interesting.

    1. Artemesia*

      Spot on. The research evidence for any of this stuff is very very slim. It can be fun. I used to use a quicker less complex instrument with groups and then grouped them in quadrants and we talked about whether they felt they were categorized correctly and how the characteristics of their quadrant would be an asset to a team. It does heighten the sense of how different people make different contributions i.e. the take charge, plan the work, work the plan type might in fact lead the team off a cliff without a more divergent thinker slowing things down and forcing alternatives to be discussed etc etc. The person you think is a total asshat, may in fact be someone making a different contribution. So it may be fun and it may trigger reflection — but again there is very little solid research to back up any of this stuff — certainly not enough to use it for decision making of any sort.

      The social sciences are full of models of dubious validity that nevertheless form the basis of lots of consultant practice.

  25. Formerly Bee*

    LW, I don’t like the MBTI, either. It’s inaccurate, but still popular with people who consider themselves too smart for horoscopes.

    I don’t have any advice, except to consider whether fighting this is really worth it. It might not be.

  26. Ms Enthusiasm*

    We use Strengths Finder extensively where I work. It is supposed to give you and your manager insight into what signature themes are most present in your personalty. Our company actually has coaches to help you decipher your results and keeps track how the employee population trends with the different themes. A lot of people here include their top 5 themes in their emails signatures – I guess they are really proud of them. From what I hear, eventually it might get to the point where it carries some weight in hiring decisions. Like a manager would consider someone’s top 5 themes in determining if they would be a good fit with the rest of the team.

  27. Ted Mosby*

    If you feel like the test has been too vague for you in the past, I would take a few different ones online. Some are far, far better at breaking down what the types actually mean. Statements like “I am very rational” mean almost nothing. More concrete, real life questions can help the test make sense more.

    I know you don’t like it, and this probably won’t change your mind, but it might help make the best out of an annoying situation.

    I think this website does a good job:


  28. Meyers-Briggs OP*

    Thanks everyone, including AAM, for the variety of responses. I’m really glad it wasn’t all strongly pro/anti one side.

    I didn’t mean to come off SO strongly, but I know I’m pushing back against the M-B disciples from the past, the misusers, and those who put so much emphasis on their assessments. The reason I was twitchy about the results being public is because I used to read an old Washington Post career advice columnist who said that, when properly administered, the results aren’t supposed to be shared in a group. It’s supposed to be one-on-one precisely because you don’t get other people influencing your answers or assessment or criticism. (That’s what happened during my internship experience. We all answered in a group, and people discussed and collaborated on their answers.)

    I should have prefaced my internship example as knowing it was the worst of the worst. I’m confident that was more of anomaly and more indicative of the dysfunctional workplace that it was. By the way, the result of the project reassignments was this: all the extroverts got to go out and socialize with people outside the office and work on projects that needed a lot of face to face interaction while the introverts got research projects by themselves. Even though, up to that point, there was hardly anything wrong with the status quo. A lot of the interns missed out on getting out of the office and networking because of it.

    The good news is that I’m on really good terms with HR. I feel confident in asking one of them candidly what the M-B results will be used for. When I do, I’ll make sure to email an update.

    Also the person that explained how to game the M-B test? I don’t know I didn’t figure that out on my own. I feel like a doofus. What you said made perfect sense. In the future, if I’m ever pressured to do it again, that’s what I’ll do. And in that internship experience, that’s what the, ah, suck ups did when we took it as a group. They were trying to match their answers to the boss’s to get her assessment. (They all succeeded.)

    1. Cheesecake*

      If my MBTI -colleague heard about exercise of assigning fact-2-face projects to “extroverts”, she’d jump out of the window. She herself is an introvert in a very “people facing” job. In fact even for me – clear extrovert – this is too much human interaction. My colleague is very successful and high up.

      In our company MBTI is used for sessions on team interactions and it is forbidden to use for decision making or pigeonholing anyone. Also, noone takes it that serious anyway. What we do (again, as a part of group exercise) is assigning some projects with heavy human interaction to introverts, or detail-oriented projects to “N”s just to help people “push their boundaries”.

      What you have described and experienced is just wrong. Like if i’d wear blue lenses to work to match my boss’s eye color, while mine are actually green. MBTI is a personal thing that has nothing to do with your ability to perform a job well.

    2. Anon obviously*

      Oh, dear Meyers-Briggs OP, you’re NOT a doofus! You were just a young, honest, innocent person, who was traumatized by being caught in this game by “savvier” suck-ups. Now you can go thank your HR for forcing you to revisit that whole vile experience from your now-mature perspective and to put it behind you. And you can feel secure you can now master the suck-ups’ tools, and better yet be deliriously happy you still haven’t turned into them. Isn’t life wonderful :-)?

  29. Observer*

    I’m confident that was more of anomaly and more indicative of the dysfunctional workplace that it was.

    Totally this.

    I would say that if anyone ever asks you to answer the questions on ANY individual assessment, as a group, that should be a huge red flag that someone has no clue. This is something than any halfway competent manager should understand, even if they know nothing about the particular assessment.

    The rest is just icing on the cake, although not surprising. I feel bad for any long time employees of hers.

  30. So Much Misinformation*

    No wonder you are unhappy about the idea of the MBTI being used in this process-your introduction to it was completely unethical, inaccurate and what else could I possibly say about the total abuse of a tool that has limited but helpful uses.

    First, the Myers Briggs Type Instrument is a self-assessment tool that summarizes our preferences. It does not, in any way at all, tell us anything about abilities or competencies. Therefore understanding the basics can be helpful in a limited way. It also helps to remember that on each MBTI scale there is a range we fall into-so a person with a preference for introversion can be close to the mid-line all the way up to it being a strong preference. Understanding this properly helps us understand certain things about how we feel and perhaps behave.

    Well, the absolute misuse of the MBTI is a pet peeve of mine. The totally unethical use that you encountered is something that should be stopped, but unfortunately there is no governing body that monitors that. First, your results should never have been share with anyone [including your boss] without your express permission. (Right there in the ethical use list for MBTI practitioners). Your bosses behaviour in using it was unethical, and a clear example of extremely poor leadership with a shockingly low capacity for emotional intelligence.

    Second, since it doesn’t tell us anything about competency at all and in fact practitioners are clearly told it is not to be used for a hiring decision. It is often found as one part of the hiring/promotion/development process because it offer information as to the candidates preferences.

    Given the horrible experience you had with it I can only offer one suggestion for your consideration; try not to let the completely unethical misuse by people who should never have been let near the MBTI hold you back from a job you are interested in. Complete the questionnaire as required. Also, ask the question-who will see the results, precisely how will the results be used in the decision making process, will you be provided with a copy of the MBTI report [you certainly should be] and what specific role the MBTI results play in the hiring process.

    1. Vicki*

      ^^^^ This.

      FYI, for those who may have noticed my comments interspersed throughout this discussion, I’ve been learning about the MBTI (on my own) since the mid 1990s. I took the qualifying classes to become a certified MBTI practitioner in Feb 2014.

      So Much Misinformation did not give a name, but that paragraph sounds like it could have been written by a qualified practitioner.

Comments are closed.