what’s the ideal personality type for a manager?

A reader writes:

I consistently test one specific personality type on the Myers-Briggs personality test (it’s INTJ). I am great at planning and developing long-term, big idea strategies for my organization, but I really struggle making personal connections with staff. It kills me when hourly staff show up five minutes late for work, which I know is not a big deal to anyone else. I make some decisions without asking for input, which bothers some of my staff, who are used to making group decisions on everything. And I can only handle a few minutes of small talk before looking for my exit. So yeah, I fit the profile pretty well.

I am curious what personality type you would choose if you were designing the perfect manager for a small business.

I answered this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. SnowWhiteClaw*

    I was under the impression that Myers-Briggs scores are inaccurate and inconsistent.

    It’s good this person has an honest view of traits they need to work on! I don’t think these have anything to do with being an INTJ though.

    Sometimes the test tells me I’m an ENTJ, sometimes I’m an INFP. I don’t think it’s very accurate or meaningful.

    1. ArchivesGremlin*

      They all are, not just Myers-Briggs. There’s a good article on Scientific America by Angus Chen on October 10, 2018 about how they’re not accurate. They’re fun to think about it but they’re horribly inaccurate and don’t do much.

      1. Researchalatorlady*

        Alison, I’m not sure if you meant to throw the baby out with the bathwater by saying “personality tests aren’t scientifically sound”, but there is some pretty solid evidence for the Five-Factor Model, which captures openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, etc., and a variety of personality tests with proven psychometric properties (reliability and validity) to measure these factors. These tests are generally restricted for sale to registered psychologists or those who can prove they have graduate level education and appropriate training to administer and interpret these tests.

        1. Prof*

          Yes! Are personality tests a perfect predictor of leadership effectiveness for any one individual? No. Are there plenty of reasonable criticisms of personality tests (self-reported, essentialist, etc.)? Absolutely. Is there nonetheless some pretty sound evidence about what traits are associated with leadership effectiveness on average? Yes. For a meta-analytic example, see DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, and Humphrey (2011).

          I’m glad word is finally getting around about the problems with the MBTI, particularly for hiring and promotions, but I hate that sensationalist headlines have led people to declare that all personality assessments are meaningless.

          1. JSPA*

            People “on average” are very different from people who are mindfully addressing their weak points, though.

            The average deaf person obviously couldn’t write Beethoven’s sixth through ninth symphonies, but one deaf person–that being Beethoven–did exactly that.

            Furthermore, any test used to screen people for being “natural” leaders likely will promote a certain set of attitudes (not to mention, certain social backgrounds).

            People with no doubts and no self doubts can make charismatic leaders, but an organization full of them is often very efficient at sailing full speed onto the reef.

            Much better for an organization, over time, to find the exact leadership they need in each job–with an eye towards diversity of approach and attitude– than pasting in, “the strongest leader, by the numbers” in every position.

          2. Researchalatorlady*

            Yes! Saying “personality tests aren’t scientifically sound” doesn’t leave room for the assumption, or presumption, that *of course* there is legitimate personality assessment. I don’t suppose Alison would like it if we wrote off something in her field as invalid (coaching, for example) because pop-media sources were weak in substance.

        2. Lucy*

          Came here to say this!! There is real, legit personality research going on, it’s not all hogwash.

        3. Anon Lawyer*

          There are 100% five-factor tests being sold to workplaces and non-PhD consultants. Of course there’s legitimate personality research going on, but that doesn’t mean any of it is transferrable to the workplace in a non-pseudo science way the you’re likely to run into.

        4. Tomalak*

          Thank you, Researchalatorlady. The Big Five are internally consistent (in the sense that they get very similar results each time when you test them on the same people) and are strong predictors of a lot of things, both in and outside the workplace. Many personality tests are unscientific, but the Big Five/OCEAN model most definitely is. Alison is right about Myers-Briggs but wrong about all personality tests.

      2. ShanShan*

        I heard Myers-Briggs scores described as “horoscopes for nerds,” and I think that’s pretty fair.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      Yeah, it is widely believed to be pseudoscience. I heard an interesting episode of the podcast Hidden Brain (“What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?”) that discussed how it was developed and it’s been a while since I heard it but I remember concluding that it basically isn’t based on anything with any validity and doesn’t measure anything — it’s basically astrology for people who don’t like astrology.

      1. CTT*

        The podcast “Science-Ish” also had a good episode on this – the conclusion was that personality tests are unreliable (but a huge moneymaker). And it involved using the movie Inside Out as a jumping off point for the discussion, which was fun.

      2. Tuesday*

        I see the astrology comparison a lot, but I think that comparison only works if you don’t think that you can learn anything about people by asking them questions about themselves. If you ask me whether I tend prefer staying home reading a book on a Friday or going out to a big loud party, my answer tells you something about me that my astrological sign doesn’t. Does it reveal secrets about me that even I’m not aware of? Does it mean that I’m never the person who wants to go to the big loud party? No. But like Alison says, they can give interesting insights. They shouldn’t be take too seriously, but they can be interesting, particularly if your results tend to be stable. I think the LW is just using the type to help describe herself, not saying that she must be the way she is because of the personality test.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Right, but I still find that kind of info deeply flawed because the view of personality is so static. Would I rather stay in to read a book or go out with friends? Well the honest answer is entirely contextual and has very little to do with some innate personality type.

          How tired am I? Who’s all gonna be at the party and how comfortable am I with those folks? When’s the last time I went out for the night? What kind of party is it? What books am I currently reading and how excited am I about them? Am I tight on cash? Do I need to be anywhere early the next day? Etc etc. These are the actual questions I ask myself when considering evening plans, vs going “Gee I’m an extrovert so I better head on out”. This is why I personally find personality tests to be pretty useless for anything other than insight into the mood I was in when I took the test.

          I mean of course we all have certain preferences we lean towards, but most human behavior is decided by a huge variety of complicated things that includes personality and preferences, but isn’t limited to that. I have no issue with anyone who finds meaning for themselves personally in Meyer-Briggs or whatever. But I know way too many people who like to sort others into boxes based off this stuff and then treat you accordingly, and that attitude just infuriated me precisely because of the imperfection of the system that I mention above.

          1. Tuesday*

            I think we pretty much agree. I think the tests can get at the preferences we lean towards and that that can be interesting. For me those preferences can be pretty stable (if I answer what my general inclination is in most situations). But I agree that context matters a lot and so do people’s decisions about how they will behave, regardless of their preference (e.g., a person might prefer to head home rather than attend a networking event, but that doesn’t mean that’s what they’ll always do, because doing a good job might mean going against their preferences sometimes — or maybe even a lot of times). And I totally agree that using them to decide how you’re going to treat someone is way, way off base!

          2. UKDancer*

            Yes, this is why I hate doing MBTI because my answer is always “it depends.” I can’t say whether I prefer to work on my own or discuss with others because it depends who they are and what we’re working on doing and when we have to do it. I can’t tell you which I’d prefer unless I know what we’re doing and why, then I can work out the best way to do it.

        2. r*

          True, but someone who is invested in astrology is also telling you a lot about themselves because typically, the reason they’re invested is that they identify with their types. Someone who finds astrology meaningful saying they’re a Pisces sun, Leo moon is giving you information of a similar type to someone who is invested in MB giving you their type. Basically, it can be interesting to see what people think of themselves in a schematic way and also the things they choose to identify themselves can be illuminating (even if, with astrology and often MBTI, often comes with a really off-putting side of determinism, which I do genuinely hate)

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            “astrology and often MBTI, often comes with a really off-putting side of determinism”

            You’ve perfectly encapsulated what I dislike about both! I’m going to remember that phrasing. It works better when I can state my objections calmly, rather than just jump up and down on a chair yelling noooooooo!

            1. PJ*


              And when companies use them in their hiring process it makes me Hulk out. Even the “new and improved” AI-based ones that are “untrickable and ultra accurate!” have so many issues when it comes to hiring decisions.

        3. TardyTardis*

          I ended up neutral on three of the axes for M-B because for so many things, ‘it depends’. I’m not up for a big party if I had to do all the cleaning and prep for it, and know I’ll have to clean up the mess after. Or if I didn’t sleep well the night before. I enjoy quiet time, but not all of the time.

    3. Littorally*

      They’re definitely that, and they’re also entirely reliant on self-reporting, so that even if the test itself were reasonably accurate, the results would only be as good as your pre-existing understanding of yourself.

    4. Sleepless*

      I think this letter is a good example of the limitations of MBTI to predict a person’s work strengths. I’m an INTJ and my strengths and weaknesses are nothing like the above. I’m a micro problem solver, not a strategist. I like people and I’m pretty good with them, I’m even good at small talk, but it tires me out.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’s not designed to indicate work strengths – in fact, in the ethics part of my training to do it, it’s specifically stated do not use it for this ever.

      2. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        Yup, also an INTJ and I, like you am good at micro problems, and also enjoy being around people

    5. Lady Heather*

      If you like an in-depth review of the MBTI, Dr Todd Grande did one on YouTube, and how it compares to other instruments.

    6. EchoGirl*

      I like the concept (and other things like it) and the popularity it’s gained in the sense that I’m glad people are starting to realize that people are different and need different things — it’s better than a model that assumes everyone is starting from the same place. The issue is when it starts being treated as prescriptive rather than one tool among many to help you understand yourself and other people. Also, sometimes I think the questions are limiting and sometimes don’t measure the whole big picture (I consistently get the same result in Myers-Briggs, but based on how a lot of it was explained to me and sources I’ve found explaining what the various letters mean, there’s one element (F vs. T) that I think is wrong, or at least a lot closer to 50/50 than the test usually calls it — I’ve noticed since that the questions I suspect are for that calculation tend to be more like “are you an F or not” than actually measuring “T” characteristics, but maybe that’s just me.) I’m with Alison on “personality tests…can give you interesting insights into yourself, but they’re not destiny”.

  2. mcfizzle*

    I too am INTJ. Fits me to a “T”, both the good and bad. Alison is right; it’s more about knowing yourself so you can improve on your weaknesses but more about knowing what job(s) need to be done.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      When I was an engineering student, we all had to take the Meyer’s Briggs and then were paired up with opposing types. A full 90% of the class was INTJ. I was ESTJ (same as Hermione Granger).Unsurprisingly, I did well as the team spokesperson, and went on to be a project manager while they went on to be individual contributors. I thought I’d be good at management because I was more outgoing and did not find communication exhausting.
      Surprisingly, I hated it, and after 5 years transitioned back to an individual contributor roll, which I adore. Even though I was “good” at managing people, I found it exhausting and a poor fit for my overall likes/dislikes about my work environment and my broader interest areas.

      I think, just like with astrology signs, sometimes your MBTI matches your ‘true self’ and sometimes it…. doesn’t. And sometimes it provides useful insight, but it never provides the whole picture. So, I think its a good thing for everyone to take and kind of sit with for a bit, maybe identify some strengths and weaknesses. And if you don’t like managing people, don’t! Thats ok! But like Alison said, don’t let any one data point determine your destiny.

  3. Elaine*

    OP, MBTI doesn’t assess personality, it assesses your preferences in certain areas. Except for the introvert/extrovert piece, you can do or approach things differently even if you have a very strong preference in a specific area. It really helps to understand how you prefer to approach things so you can see where it works in your favor and where it doesn’t. Then consider ways you could work around it in situations where your preferred method doesn’t work as well.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      This. It can highlight areas you might not have thought of before, or ways you can use what you prefer.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This. I consistently test as a raging INTJ, but it’s helped me to recognize preferences that I have that are not conducive to being a good manager and plan accordingly. I’m not perfect, and I would happily get through a whole day without having to interact with anyone, but that’s not what I get paid to do, whether I prefer something or not.

    3. JC*

      My boyfriend and i took the test last night and honestly described both of us and our careers fairly accurately. It gives an insight into how peoples minds work and things to work on, plus how to communicate better. I think having this in a managers toolkit could be beneficial to learn communication and work style preferences.
      I was also once given a full astrological reading based on my exact date place and time of birth and that was highly accurate, it was creepy (a friend put it together, it is not something I would ever purposely do myself as I think astrology is junk science).

      1. YankeeGal*

        Thank you. I was hesitant to weigh in because of all the criticism (from ‘T’ types, ha ha). I really have found it useful in understanding the preferences of people I work with — from who typically is more okay with a sudden change in direction (P’s versus J’s) to who typically finds it easier to let difficult customers’ comments ‘roll off their back’ (T’s versus F’s) to who usually prefers step-by-step instructions over being left to figure things out on their own (S’s versus N’s). Of course, not all who score highly on a particular characteristic will always act a particular way, of course it depends on context, AND it’s also been helpful with more quickly understanding what types of things will often be more upsetting to someone who is different from me.

    4. allathian*

      Oh, I don’t know. Plenty of introverts fake it at work, but they’re often peopled out by the end of the day and by preference don’t socialize much in their private lives. I’m a chatty introvert, for example.

  4. Donkey Hotey*

    At the risk of being booted: Meyers Briggs is astrology for people with Linked In profiles.

    I get that a lot of people put a lot of stock into it, and advertising for a specific IEIEO would be a guaranteed non-application for me, even if I liked the look of the company and matched what they were looking for.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Eh, people who behave this way tend to behave this way, right? I’ve never taken any type of test and said, nope, that’s not me. I don’t really care what you label me, but I think there is truth that people who get XYZ tests results tend to act ABC way in certain situations, have certain interests, skills, etc. I would not agree with having it as a job requirement, though.

      Here we do StrengthFinders tests for some current employees, and I do think it’s interesting that a group of 10 people in the same job may only have a couple strengths overlapping with each other. We can all do the job well, but we’re going to do it in a way unique to us. There are multiple ways to manage effectively. I test as an INTJ, and I can still be a good project manager, even if people think I could be friendlier.

      1. Littorally*

        I have definitely taken tests like that and gotten results I’ve disagreed with. People just aren’t simple enough to be categorized with a bunch of multiple-choice questions.

        1. Tuesday*

          But when you want to learn about someone, don’t you find it helpful to ask them questions about themselves? If I’m getting to know someone, knowing whether they prefer loud parties or quiet evenings at home tells me a lot more than knowing that they’re a libra. It doesn’t say everything about a person, but the astrology comparison always seems too extreme to me.

          1. Surly*

            In the tests, though, that’s a binary question — loud parties *or* quiet evenings at home. Most people are more nuanced than that. If I go to a loud party, I have a blast and then spend the next couple of nights at home to balance it out. And either way, it’s not going to tell you anything about whether I can manage a project team.

            1. UKDancer*

              That’s the problem I have. It depends who is at the party, whether the food will be any good and whether I’m in a social mood. Also what’s on the TV, whether I’ve just been to the butcher and bought the good steak and feel like cooking and whether I’m too skint to stand my round.

              It’s not an absolute question as it really depends what else is going on in life. I couldn’t tell you which I prefer because it can vary wildly.

            2. HoHumDrum*

              Yeah those questions make me feel like I’m stuck in a bad John Hughes movie, like “are you a nerd or a jock??”

            3. AnotherAlison*

              I think you all are overthinking it, or I’m just more binary. If the question is would I rather go to a party or have a quiet evening at home, I’m going to pick the evening at home. I like the occasional party, too, but they’re asking your general preference. . .not, “Well, sometimes, if all my friends are there and I haven’t been out for a while, and the weather is nice, I guess a party is fun, too.” Some people are more ambiverts and probably do struggle with this question, but I’m definitely an introvert. Here at my work, it would tell you that I’m going to be annoyed a lot because the dominant manager personality is highly extroverted, and I will get tired of being talked over. It tells something about the overall fit of people in roles, relative to the other people on the team.

          2. Littorally*

            That’s to my point about limiting things, though. Loud parties or quiet nights at home? Where are all the other options – the people who prefer going out to a sedate classical concert or staying in to play D&D with a half-dozen people? Where are the modifiers — the person who likes parties because they spend 40 hours a week sitting alone in an office with spreadsheets, or the person who prefers quiet nights at home because they’re spending those same 40 hours in a fast-paced, highly interactive environment?

            If you want to get to know someone, you ask open-ended questions, not binary yes/nos.

            1. Tuesday*

              I agree, but I don’t think the point of these measures is to really get to know someone — it’s just to get an idea of their general tendencies and preferences. Everyone is unique, but most people will have a preference for loud parties or quiet evenings most of the time, all things considered. But I agree that the information you glean is going to be limited.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Old job required us to do StrengthFinders and to put our categories on our email signatures. So I read all the category descriptions, picked out four that would be good to advertise myself, and answered the questions so I would get the chosen descriptors.
          They required me to play their silly game, so I played the game.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Ha! This is totally what I would do! Tailor your answers to what the employer wants you to be.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I find it can be helpful. Old boss that always crumbled to client unfounded complaints and threw people under the bus had his top strength as harmony and a bunch of other relationship ones in his top 5. Mostly, I just see people’s placards and think, yup, that’s totally that guy, and it’s not usually a positive thought.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            I tested with all relationship ones as my bottom 5 and I was so ashamed to show the results to my team. If you read my results it looks like I’m a total tyrant harpie. But, I swear, I’m nice and people like me? Lol. I felt like in particular StrengthFinders had so many multiple choices where I was like “Um, neither?” Whereas my MBTI fit me really well (ESTJ). Just like an astrology sign, all broken personality tests are right occasionally and wrong usually.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              If you read mine I am basically a lazy contrarian sociopath who thrives on change but also wants to have everything predictable and organized.
              Oh well. Guess I will stick to being an INTJ Aquarius.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              I took SF once and got all 5 in the “strategic” domain, and when I took it for this job 4 were in strategic and 1 in relationship. Only it was the worst one in the relationship domain–significance. I’m just over here all alone, reading books, and telling people why they’re wrong.

              1. Not A Girl Boss*

                Hahah you and I should start an “everyone else is wrong” club. OK OK I went and pulled up the results because it was so bad.
                Top were restorative (problem solving), individualization, responsibility, significance, command. Bottom was adaptibility, connectedness, and includer.

                So basically I run around solving problems all by myself while yelling at people? In particular I found it astounding that I scored low on empathy, when my extremely high empathy level is actually a huge problem in my life. So many of the empathy questions were “would you rather not go out, or go out but invite everyone ever so no one feels left out?” and I guess my desire to not interact with huge groups of people outweighs my empathy?

                1. micklethwaite*

                  Argh, I’m a big wobbly bag of empathy but I’d also pick ‘not go out’ because I get overwhelmed going out in large groups!

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        We did one of the tests where they assign you a color (can’t remember the name) as an ice breaker with a group that mixed data analysts, nurses, health educators, and program managers. All the data folks ended up one color and the health educators and nurses another which ended up in a friendly #TeamColor vs #TeamOtherColor rivalry and inside jokes

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Ah, yes. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it’s more or less a recasting/re-grouping of the some of the components of the MBTI. So if I recall correctly, the Reds are the ENTs, the Greens are the ISFs, the Blues are the ISTs, and the Yellows are the ENFs, roughly speaking.

          1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            We had to do that in a negotiation CLE I did! I ended up having high in one section (I think Gold???) but my second highest score was in the opposite quadrant.

            1. Lexi*

              We sid one of those for our marketing department and everyone was pretty comfortable with the categories. It had blue for people who focused on relationships, gold for people who preferred rules/precedent, orange for those with a bias towards action-now and green for analysis. There was only one person who everyone said “she’s not a blue”. It turned out to be helpful on a lot of projects.

    2. anon73*

      I have no idea what IEIEO means (and yes I realize it’s backwards), but now I have “Old McDonald” in my head.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      I have the same fights with astrology people as I do with Meyers-Briggs people so yeah, this tracks.

      For the record, if you are into something for yourself and it gives you meaning for your own self-assessment that’s wonderful and I’m for it. But just don’t keep insisting that you can tell me how I feel about things because of the time I was born or answers on a quiz.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I don’t mind astrology folks because that is based more socially. But I don’t like labeling people at work in a way that could hinder them or unjustifiably promote them because they took a vague 30 min personality test.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          I just got out of an astrology heavy social situation where people would routinely tell me I’m confused about my own likes and preferences because they don’t match my star sign’s supposed likes and preferences, so I’m feeling hot about astrology these days lol.

          But yes, totally agree that it’s one thing to be into something in your free time, it’s a whole other thing to bring it into work.

      2. Forrest*

        If you’ve ever discussed Myers-Briggs with people who’ve been trained in it, then your second paragraph is exactly what it’s for. They’re very specific that the answers on the questionnaire are less important than what you feel the most affinity to, and it’s the process of understanding the different preferences and thinking about how they apply to you that’s valuable, not your scores.

    4. Massmatt*

      I wish we had “like” buttons here!

      You are not alone in your feeling about MB, or other personality type tests. I think the commentariat has been pretty negative overall when it’s come up, with of course some exceptions.

      This LW seems to be on the right path looking for areas to improve, the MB stuff is just a distraction IMO.

    5. Fitz*

      I’m inclined to agree. And for what it’s worth, I enjoy reading the occasional horoscope. I’m also an “INTJ,” but I can very easily manage interpersonal interactions like the ones described in the letter. (I’m not a butts-in-seat person at all though… was not aware that this was a stereotype).

    6. Trolly*

      Oh my goodness, this comment makes no sense. Personality tests are based on something at least – astrology is is 100% wackadoodle. Groups of stars in constellations are essentially arbitrary – they appear near each other, but that’s just from our perspective. They’re also in no way close enough to us to influence anything about us. So many other issues too – there should be 13 birth star signs; since the constellations have been assigned, the sky has shifted so they don’t even line up with the months anymore. I love star gazing and astronomy, so understand the very romantic desire to have our destiny determined by the stars, but alas – not true. For people interested in astrology, I really recommend reading the myths that go behind the constellations and also reading about cosmology. These two things together will really scratch your itch on the romance of the stars/deeper meaning.

      I’ve found Myers Brigg and other personality tests to be very informative and pretty accurate, if people answer them thoughtfully. People who dismiss them as bunk probably aren’t very thoughtful in their responses, so then don’t get good results.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        It’s funny you say that because I would argue that if you’re trying to answer the questions thoughtfully it demonstrates the flaws in the system. How I think or act about any given thing varies tremendously depending on circumstances and context. Whenever I’ve taken a myer-Briggs test I’ve always found it difficult to answer anything because how do you respond to a statement like “I am interested in people” without any other info? Which people? How do you define “interested in”? What does being “interested in people” look like to you?

        It’s fine if some people find these things helpful, but I have to disagree with the notion that they are universally useful if only you put thought in.

      2. Steve*

        But the thing is that most personality tests *aren’t* really based on anything. The MB test was developed by people with no training in psychology and fails most measures of scientific validity. The APA states that it has “little credibility.”

      3. JSPA*

        There are occasional reports of season-of-birth correlations for various traits. Unless it’s all publication bias (which it certainly could be–and the replication is spotty), the hand-waving arguments are, “biologically, something-yadda-yadda-sunlight–vitamin D or melatonin or maternal hormones” and “psychologically, developmental stage when first encountering snow and cold, or new growth of spring, or people’s attitudes during that season.”

        While astrological “theory”–if we can even call it that!–is indeed bunkum, scientifically speaking; and in particular, the concept of “retrograde” is a tracking error caused by the pre-copernican assumption that the earth was the center of the universe, rather than a body circling the sun; it’s not impossible for there to be loose seasonal variations that are (even more loosely) captured by “what stars are overhead.” And furthermore, for said correlation to hold for multiple human generations. (Presuming, that is, we include a reversal for the southern hemisphere, and with stronger effects based on latitude.)

        All of which is a long way to say that the comparison is apt. A possible-but-debatable, mild statistical correlation may exist, but turning that into any sort of defining description is nonsensical, in a rational schema.

        Any self-analysis setup can have value as a tool. (Some people like to try on every horoscope on for “fit.”) But the value lies in the application of self-analysis within a framework, rather than the framework itself. Mistaking that for science, however, is an exercise in faith.

        Faith is fine; people can have faiths, new or old. Furthermore, using the guidance of your faith as a hiring tool isn’t held to be illegal, so long as you’re not discriminating against those of other faiths. However, forcing people to engage with the tenets of your faith seems like it should be illegal, both in hiring and promotion, and I’m surprised nobody’s tried pushing back on that basis.

      4. astro nerd*

        Although astrology is currently very far out of favor as a learned study, to describe the designation of zodiacal signs as “arbitrary” is incorrect. Western astrology (following the Greeks in the Hellenistic era) is based on a tropical, or seasonal zodiac, the division of the ecliptic (360 degrees) into 12 equal 30 degree “signs” which originally correlated with constellations so that they could easily be spotted by night time sky gazers. The whole idea that astrology is about the “signs” and constellations is entirely a 20th century invention, for ancient astrologers the diurnal rotation of the earth and the relationship to the seven visible planets is much more important.

        From the Babylonians through to the Renaissance astronomia and astrologia were synonymous, and in the west the study of the planets (in the original Greek the word means “wanderer”) against the backdrop of the fixed stars was a way to track weather patterns, make medical diagnoses, and predict all sorts of things. The predominance of psychological astrology and personality has a one to one correlation with the rise of psychology in the 20th century and is entirely inconsistent with the historical practice of astrology, which stems from civilizations far more interested in trying to figure out when they would die, whether they would have children, and would they recover from illness.

        There are modern astrologers using traditional methods, but the moment you hear people using sign-based astrology to bash character types you know you’re talking to someone who is not educated in either social etiquette *or* astrology.

      5. Avasarala*

        Well the four humours go back to antiquity, so I would argue that “personality types” are only relevant because cultures and societies have decided they are, and judged people and fictional characters accordingly. I doubt Shakespeare characters track with Chinese 12-zodiac-animal personality stereotypes. Conversely maybe people nowadays will grow up identifying with a Hogwarts house instead of a star sign.

        1. astro nerd*

          While it’s true that the four humours go back to antiquity it is not true that they were always used to describe character or personality in the way that we moderns understand it. The humours are directly related to the tropical (seasonal) zodiac to describe someone’s “temperament” based on the season they were born in and the signs and planets associated with that season (when the Sun crosses that portion of the ecliptic). Based on those calculations conclusions were drawn about which illnesses someone might be most likely to fall prey to. By Shakespeare’s time astrology was shifting largely due to the influence of the renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino, who successfully argued for a broader based character type more aligned with how we commonly think of temperaments today.

          Your point about how different cultures tell stories about humanity is a salient one, however, and for my money one of the most important things to understand about astrology. I have argued many times that astrology is a story telling technology (which it perhaps has in common with Myers-Briggs). As a story telling technology its worth lies in the way it helps people tell stories about their lives. Down thread there’s a series of comments made by people identifying as INTJ’s who all agree they don’t have much interest in this sort of story telling. I would argue that this is, in itself, a story that gives their lives meaning. They prioritize facts and truth and rigorous analysis and like to identify as people who do this and like to find others who do the same. At the end of the day understanding this about themselves helps them navigate the world in a way that makes sense to them.

          Stories are great. That’s what we’re all here for on this blog, after all. Stories that help us make sense of the world and our place in it. Personality tests and astrology are simply tools to help us do that, but we will be remiss if we mistake the tools for the thing itself. Our stories ought to serve us and those around us. Ani Di Franco puts it very well: “any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”

    7. thestik*

      You are not alone.

      When I first joined my team a few years ago, someone suggested having us do MBTI. I pushed back immediately citing the Barnum Effect. The idea got tossed, and somehow we ended up doing Strengths Finder (which was a more interesting form of professional horoscope and had the advantage of being novel to me so I couldn’t initially object to it). This type of activity eventually fell by the wayside when we got a new director, and I was low key excited. This meant I had more room to focus on a major systems integration.

    8. Richard*

      I compare Meyers Briggs to Astrology in my teacher training course, along with “learning styles” and other inconsistent bunk. It’s always valuable to think about different preferences and inclinations and potential blind spots, but putting these big labels on people based on amorphous feelings is counterproductive at best.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This comes up every week. That’s how Inc pays their writers. Alison gives us 20-plus posts a week here of free content.

    2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I clicked on the link and it said I had 4 remaining free articles for the month – maybe you’ve used up yours?

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        At least one of the publications Allison writes for changed the number of freebies you get before you hit the paywall, so I think that might be why we’re getting so many new comments on it.

        If you get 4 freebies per month and Allison writes a weekly column, there’d probably be 4 columns in a month, you could read all of them as freebies, and you’d not notice the paywall. But if they drop that to 2 or 1 freebies and you don’t realize it, you’ll hit the paywall early in the month and be confused as to why you suddenly can’t read a column you’ve been reading all along. So I get why people are confused.

      2. Hail the Commentariat*

        I used to get sucked into the (actually very worthwhile) clickbait on the other sites after reading Alison’s link. I quickly found out that was what was using up my free article limit. When I do exceed it, I go back to the comments there to extrapolate the answer.

    3. BigBrain*

      Removed. Please don’t post ways to get around paywalls here since they’re how I get paid for my work. – Alison

      1. YankeeGal*

        Yeah, that’s really not cool. I am happy to pay for about a dozen online subscriptions to support journalists and enjoy excellent content.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I got a message saying this was my last free article before I needed to pay, but I can only see the question, and not Alison’s answer. Is that an error with the site or have I got a corrupted cookie somewhere?

    1. What's in a name?*

      IMO it’s not worth knowing.

      Each letter stands for a characteristic. Such as leader or follower would have an L or F in a specific spot. (an example, I don’t think those words are part of Myer-Briggs).

      To be clear, the words would not make a sentence.

    2. anon73*

      I think it’s all a bunch of hooey myself, but this is what they mean…

      It indicates your personality preferences in four dimensions: Where you focus your attention – Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) The way you take in information – Sensing (S) or INtuition (N) How you make decisions – Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) How you deal with the world – Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

      1. ...*

        Its all bunk you’re correct haha. Fun to talk about though sometimes. Mine are always different.What EVEN is the difference between judging and perceiving. Isn’t a judgement your perception of something? Lol hoooboy

  5. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Pretty much all personality tests are bunk really. Humans are too diverse to put into neat boxes!

    What personality makes a good manager? Not a complete selfish butthole. It’s easier to define the list of qualities that make a bad manager. Just take a look at the stories on this site!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Now I’m imagining a personality test where you are scored on a Human vs Butthole scale.
      You just scored a +12 Human and a -5 Butthole. Congratulations! You are qualified to be a manager!

      1. Nynaeve*

        This could revolutionize the workplace and the world of politics! Now someone just needs to make this test and validate it…

    2. RedPony*

      Personality tests are very accurate and useful in the context they are meant for: therapy.
      Those tests where meant to help in a patient/psychologist relationship to help both parties umderstand how the patient tics and what influences their behavior and decision processes. Then a therapy is tailored to the needs of the patient and help them understand themselves, help them see possible distractions and focus on their therapy. They are not meant to assess a persons potential or give indication what they can and can’t do, but they can ineed help to keep an open eye on potentially harmful tendencies.
      That means: if a personality test labels you with low empathy it doesn’t mean you’ll be a bad manager or therapist or whatsoever, it just means you should be careful not to let your less empathic side dismiss rightful grieves of people and you should be careful at assesing situations where empathy is needed. So while a person might score very low on the empathy-scale, how good or bad they deal in their job still only depends on how they handle themselves. They ain’t all bogus, just far too often misused or overinterpreted. I myself had first contact with personality tests during my therapy and those tests helped me greatly with my self-assessment and improvement. However my psychologist warned me explicitely not to read too much into their outcomes and not to make lifechanging decisions based on those results outside of therapy and me planning strategies to deal with situations I found hard to deal with. He warned me that those results are not me, and don’t determine what I can and can’t do. They’re just indicators for the way my subconscious is working and what might influence me.

    3. Researchalatorlady*

      No, there’s a difference between pop-media quizzes used by managers, and tests with documented psychometric properties sold to restricted users with graduate degrees, as per the replies above.

    4. thestik*

      This does make me wonder how this would go if tests for the Big Five were distributed. The neuroticism results alone would cause a frenzy.

  6. BlueBelle*

    I am in leadership development. The best leaders are 1. self-aware (their strengths and weaknesses and their preferred communication style), 2. empathetic, and 3. adaptable.
    It is more about understanding how your direct reports will perceive communication, feed back and actions, and How they like to receive communication and feedback and being able to adapt your style to what they need. The more you can adapt to give them the things they need the more you can build trust, build a solid working team, and create good work.
    It is also important for you to communicate to them what you need. “I like to receive a weekly update on Project X in the format of 5 high level bullet points and 5 upcoming actions and 5 roadblocks you are encountering or might encounter.”

  7. AnonMedix*

    Although I know there are severe limitations to Myers-Briggs, I’ve found knowing what type I resemble has been a huge help.
    Unfortunately, that type is ENFP-the flibbertygibbit of they MBTI world and not something I’d trumpet around the workplace!
    However, I am a surgeon who is constantly amazed how hard I have to struggle against my disorganization. I have a terrible time giving negative feedback too.
    I think Alison is right- MBTI can assist in knowing how each type could use strengths and weaknesses to be a good manager and to understand what can be bails down a blackboard for one type isn’t a problem for another.

    Btw I think ENFJ would be the best all round manager!(sudden swerve at the end.)

    1. Tau*

      I think there’s a big difference between something being useful _for understanding yourself_ and it actually having a solid, scientific basis or being broadly applicable. Basically anything that gets you thinking about how you tick can be helpful! Like, I had a huge epiphany a while back when I realised that under a specific Hogwarts sorting system I’m a Hufflepuff Secondary and it explains my continual feelings that I haven’t earned success if I feel I haven’t worked hard enough at it. This was majorly helpful in reframing how I approach certain things, but I’m not going to stand there and argue that Hogwarts Houses should be used for any serious purpose.

      On the flip side, I’ve been coming out ?N?? on MBTI tests, and especially the I/E and P/J distinctions are cases where any “natural” preference of mine is so badly buried by disability-related deficits and coping mechanisms that I haven’t found them in any way useful for helping me understand myself.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I’ve taken the ‘real’ test 3 times, and I come up 50/50 on I/E and P/J every time, I use E/I NT P/J if I have to use it.

        I don’t actually believe / trust it, but the explanation I was given was that S/N and F/T are ‘core’, stable tendencies, and I/E, P/J fluctuate with mood, age, etc. There’s some pages that will talk about just the 4 ‘core’ options. I have to admit, I am very NT , but it’s such a broad set of characterizations that I don’t find it very useful.

        My experience is you find in it what you bring to it.

    2. Nynaeve*

      I am an ENFP *and* a Gemini, so apparently the flibbertiest of gibbets. Maybe it is balanced out by also being Year of the Dog? ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯

    3. Forrest*

      When I did my MBTI training, there were six of us in the group, which turned into 3 Is and 3Es. I was one of the Es and eventually settled on ENFJ, and was put in the other group with the other two, who were both ENFPs. It was kind of hilarious how *infuriating* I found them both with their flappy “Oh, let’s have a fascinating and random chat and never actually GET ON WITH THE DAMN TASK.”

      1. AnonMedix*

        I kind of think that’s the perfect illustration of how MBTI is bunkum, but not bunkum…?

        I find it hard to settle on a plan because all the possibilities of the world exist – that works well for me as a surgeon because I explore other ideas and it drives me loopy to accept things just because « it is known ». But at the same time I have to respect that a decision needs to ultimately be made.
        Also, out of the 12 of us who were tested in my group – 8 were ESFJ and a couple of ISTJ and something else. I was the lone Intuitive. That was weird. I used that to ensure I rein in my ‘flappiness ‘ (lol) at work to fit in better. So in that respect, MBTI really helped understand how not to wind up colleagues.
        Also, I’m Taurus with bull rising. ;-)

  8. Akcipitrokulo*

    So I’m qualified to administer the mbti.


    Or any other role.

    Your type shows you your preferences. What you find easier. How you prefer to work.

    Knowing it, and the differences in approach, can help you understand how other people work differently – but also that their approaches as every bit as valid.

    It isn’t about saying someone who likes to plan out and have organised timelines is a better (role) than someone who likes to keep their options open in order to ensure they have all info before being locked in – or vice versa – it’s about recognising both approaches have their steengths and risks, both are valid, and that the first one isn’t uptight and second isn’t lax.

    Preferences are NOT skills.

    1. tangerineRose*

      “Your type shows you your preferences” and “it’s about recognising both approaches have their steengths and risks, both are valid, and that the first one isn’t uptight and second isn’t lax.” So much these!!!

      1. Foxgloves*

        This! My dad is in very senior leadership- he gets everyone in his senior leadership team to do MBTI testing, and then points out to them that it isn’t about anything other than explaining that not everyone works in the same way that you do, and you need to understand that “different” doesn’t mean “worse”!

  9. Judge Crater*

    I am very INTJ (FWIW my wife is INTP), and have been a manager and a director.

    My weaknesses in those roles were also staff related, but not those of the original poster. Having assumed both roles with no training, I made assumptions that people would deal with and react to things the same way I would. And I HATED giving negative feedback. So while I could function it management roles they really don’t come naturally to me.

    While my management career was lucrative, I later moved to a SME/Individual Contributor role at another company that suits my temperament much better.

    For the comments about Meyers Briggs being workplace astrology, I’m very willing to accept that, but I have found it a useful framework to look at personality types. In an exercise at my current company we took a Meyers Briggs-like test, and it showed a huge split in type between our system designer/architects on one hand and the business analysts/program managers who dealt with our clients.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yeah, but did you really not already know that your designers had different personalities on average than your business analysts? If people want to use the Meyers-Briggs for their personal development that’s fine, but when I’ve done it in the workplace it’s really only ever told me things that were extremely obvious because when I work with someone, I experience their personality.

    2. Argh!*

      I have found that the “golden rule” does not apply at all! We have to treat people the way that works best for them for the circumstance at hand, and not what we would wish for ourselves.

  10. MrsFillmore*

    Fellow INTJ and manager here! First, it’s clear from comments that there are some very valid critiques of Myers-Briggs and personality tests writ large. I agree with that, yet have also found that for me personally, taking MBTI and talking about the results as part of a larger 1-1 management coaching program was very beneficial to improving myself as a manager.

    A couple things specific to people who test as INTJ that I see in myself: 1) often approach problems in an analytical way and get energy/enjoyment from doing so, 2) tendency to problem-solve and create very full plans mentally.

    For #1, this can be an asset for a manager in a way that Alison Green alludes to in her response. If you think about managing people as figuring out what works best based on each person’s personality type and needs, then appropriate differentiation for direct reports becomes in itself an analytical exercise and challenge that can be more enjoyable.

    On #2, I do internal action planning all the time in my head, in both work and personal aspects of my life. When this was pointed out to me, I began to clearly see it: at times the plan was so clear to me in my head that I genuinely forgot that I hadn’t committed it to paper or told others about “the plan.” I need to constantly remind myself both to share plans in a way that is accessible to the team, and to avoid planning firmly without creating points for others to weigh in and improve.

    Good luck to the original question writer! And to others considering Myers-Briggs, I make a plug that it *can* still be a useful reflection tool, despite valid methodological criticisms.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Fellow INTJ here and boy I can relate to #2.
      I “see” the whole interlocking plan in my head. Committing it to paper or explaining it to others… not so much!

      Me: “The project is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”
      Others: “So what do we do?”
      Me: “Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.”
      Others: “How?”
      Me: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ha! Yeah, I’m an INTJ PM and I feel like I should live and die by the tools. . .schedules, cost reports, forecasts, etc., and yet I tend to intuit the project instead and generally have good results. The data might say we’re good or bad, but I go off my own professional experience and “feeling”. I’d say it’s experience more than an INTJ, but some of my similarly experienced ISTJ pals here at work get really, really hung up on the numbers and can’t budge from a position that the numbers don’t support.

  11. Sleepy*

    Meyers-Briggs is complete bunk in terms of accurately predicting how a certain person will do at a certain job, as many people have stated above.

    *However*, some people find it useful as a tool for self-reflection, and it sounds like that’s how OP is using it, the same as other people may find journaling about their leadership style helpful. Journaling isn’t “scientific” either, but that doesn’t mean that a thoughtful person can’t use it for self-discovery. OP is very self-aware about their own personality and the traits that may hold them back as a manager, which is more than you can say for a lot of people, and if the Meyers-Briggs helped them get there, I think that’s great.

    However, while personality traits are stable, behaviors are not, and focusing too much on our innate characteristics can prevent us from working to change the actual behaviors that others see. OP may hate small talk, but rather than focusing on that trait, it may be more useful for them to search for a repertoire of small-talk questions they find more bearable to use.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree – we did MBTI as part of a development workshop and were not given our actual types until after all the exercises were complete. I found it to be a valuable self-reflection tool and I am pretty much dead-on for my INTJ designation. (I apologized to my boss when I read the “weaknesses” section of the summary sheet because that was hilariously accurate BUT also made me more aware of unproductive behaviors.)

      I think where people go wrong with MBTI is treating like some immutable characteristic or as an excuse for behaving poorly. There is no trait set or personality that is good for all management positions. I have one team that is best service by an outgoing person, whether that person comes out E or I on the scale, and I have another that would just like to be left alone to do their work in peace until they need clarification or help and would be irritated no end by an outgoing boss who wanted to constantly interact or bond with them.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I’m fascinated by the MBTI (an INTJ, and finding out about this explained so much!), but if you read many books about it, the writers tend to make it clear that this doesn’t predict how well a person will do in a job, and it’s not an excuse for bad behavior. It’s more about understanding yourself and others.

  12. Anonforthis*

    I love this question, and am a fellow INTJ! I think these assessments are useful in terms of understanding yourself. To be honest tho, every personality type has strengths and weaknesses in different situations. It’s more about a person’s ability to compensate for weaknesses in certain situations. All of the points Allison makes can be learned – even as an introvert! They are like muscles that can be built and then strengthened. I now manage a team of 30 successfully. Good luck!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Very true. Even introverts can learn to perform public speaking and be influencers in the public sphere.
      Whether they like or prefer doing it is another matter.

      All Myers-Briggs does is show you tendencies that may or may not be useful to understand about yourself or others you work with. I find it good for team building, but useless for hiring decisions.

      1. allathian*

        Some even pretty extreme introverts are great public speakers, but they absolutely loathe networking events where they have to interact with multiple strangers one-on-one.

        I’m a chatty introvert, and a two-day networking event leaves me completely exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, they’re useful and I learn a lot by attending them, but hoo boy are they exhausting!

        Many introverts are very observant of other people because they’re usually happy to let the other person do most of the talking. It’s no coincidence that lots of actors are introverts.

  13. Grey Coder*

    I wanted to reinforce the last point in the column, that personality typing can help someone understand that other people might have different preferences (and those differences aren’t Bad or Wrong).

    At ExJob we had a Myers-Briggs day where we did a lot of comparing and contrasting of approaches. I personally didn’t get much out of it (other that finding out I was not the only person to organize my shopping list by aisle), but afterwards my colleague Fergus said something like “I never realised that other people might not think the same way I do!” (Fergus was known for being difficult to work with and turning every conversation into an argument.) I can’t say there was a miraculous change in his behaviour, but it may have helped a bit.

    1. Quill*

      There are people who… don’t have a specific route they take around the store in order to get things?

      (I don’t do it by aisle but that’s because I don’t always go to the same store… and also I never remember where the things I buy infrequently are other than “somewhere in the middle.”)

      1. Frank Doyle*

        I would imagine that most people go around the store in the same pattern (if they have a lot of stuff to get, and are not just jumping in to get one or two things) however not everyone organizes their shopping list by aisle.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            As an INFP, my list is in the order I thought of it (best case it might be roughly by the weekday I’m imagining I’ll cook it). There’s a fair bit of doubling back in the store, but it doesn’t much bother me. I couldn’t organize it by aisle, because I’d need to a) know which store I’ll be shopping in and b) remember how their aisles are laid out, and shopping trips just aren’t worth that much mental energy for me

            1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

              I’m an INFP and I absolutely organize my list by aisle! My theory is that there’s a positive correlation between how seriously you take food/cooking and how organized your list is. n = 2 so make of that what you will.

              1. Vichyssuave*

                My mother organized her shopping lists by aisle and by store and we had to learn the “rules” if we wanted to add items to her list. She cooked, but never really liked it and certainly wasn’t very good at it (sorry mom!) until I took over, as a child who grew up glued to PBS cooking shows and then the food network.

                I still adore cooking and food is a huge part of my life. My lists are always in the order I think of what I want, and now that my preferred store has an app, I suppose it is ordered by aisle, but only because the app does it for me. Really, I’ve become even more lax in my list making.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          There is no way I would remember which isle is which, but I go counterclockwise in the store, check what isle is coming up and if I need something from it.
          My app organizes the shopping list by the type of a product.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        My ESFP spouse (who married me, an INTJ) was surprised to learn that he parks in the wrong place at Walmart. I have a specific place I always park and specific reason for doing it. He just randomly goes up the closest aisle, gets mad that there are no spots up front, and then parks further away than my strategic spot. We still get along pretty well for people who don’t think the same way.

      1. Grey Coder*

        I honestly can’t remember! I don’t think it was INTJ though, because that’s what I was and I don’t think we were in the same group.

  14. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I test now as an INFJ. My career started as an INTJ, and I’m guessing I’ll move into INFP sometime this decade. I’m not the exact same person I was a decade ago, nor do I plan to be the same a decade from now–that’s what growth is, isn’t it?

    I’ll buy that an ESFP leader is likely to have a different style, preferences and techniques than an INTJ, but different is as far as I’ll go. Like Gusteau’s motto in Ratatouille, Anyone can manage, and I mean it in the same context that it’s used in the finale.

  15. RedPony*

    I found personality tests highly interesting to get to know myself better and help me work on stuff I’d wanted to improve but thy seem completely useless for anybody besides the person who did them and their therapist/life coach.
    Those traits measured don’t decide or determine an oitcome. They only help the person themself to find out what influences them and why their impulses lead them and in which direction.
    They are no prediction whatsoever how good or bad a person can handle things.

  16. blepkitty*

    I really wish my manager would realize that her ideas aren’t all “The One True Outlook Held By All Right-Minded People.” Or that there’s more than one way to eat a Reese’s. OP, you’re definitely on the right track by recognizing that not everyone thinks 5 minutes is a big deal!

  17. staceyizme*

    Types from tests such as MBFT, DISC and others are interesting, but they don’t really tell you how someone will function in a specific role. People can learn to become self-aware, open and accepting of input, good at facilitating hard conversations and almost any other skill. Managers are also as diverse as it is possible to imagine and someone who might be a “fit” in one context would be a “fail” in another. Typology is just a mirror and if someone finds meaning and relevance in the system’s designation- great! But it’s not predictive of whether anyone is a “good” manager (or marriage partner or any other role).

  18. BigBrain*

    I am LOLing at all the INTJs here. The rarest type seems to all gather here.

    The tests aren’t accurate, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it.

    1. AGD*

      In my experience, people who test as INTJ a) like categorising to begin with, and b) feel super flattered by the MBTI results and go around identifying that way.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m not sure it’s flattering, but after a lifetime of not quite fitting in out there in the wild, it’s an “aha” moment to see that your particular brand of weirdness has a name. When you find another one online, it’s nice to connect. I mean, I had someone say to me IRL last week, “I thought you didn’t like anyone, but now I see. . .” The rest of y’all probably don’t have people straight up tell you with no shame that they thought you were a B.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes. Particularly as a woman who is an INTJ, it’s nice to learn that there are a few people out there that are like you and don’t think you’re a complete weirdo for not conforming to societal expectations for women.

          Also, INTJs prefer asynchronous forums like comment sections and discussion boards, so it’s not unusual to find more of us here than in the wild. If you polled a social club or something, the ENFPs would probably be out in force.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “it’s an “aha” moment to see that your particular brand of weirdness has a name” This!

          Also, Alison’s answers are clear, thorough, well thought out, and good, so naturally we INTJ’s want to read them.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      That’s what I was laughing about, too — every time we discuss MBTI in here, it is revealed that the place is full up with INTJs. I wonder what kind of place is full of INFPs? Maybe the knitting groups? Or cat groups? I’m INFP, just trying to spitball where I might find a group where we’re as predominant is INTJs are in here Lol.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Growing up I was taught that introverts were the largest group. Now extroverts are??? I wonder what happened. Was the first study wrong? Did we change? What’s up here?

  19. Ann O'Nemity*

    I wouldn’t feel like the results of these types of tests put you in a box that you can’t get out of. Like, “I’m an ‘I’ so I’m not going to be able to relate to people or be a good manager.”

    I always thought the most useful purpose for these tests is to start conversations. I’ve taken various personality tests with various teams over the years, and I always liked the part when we compared results, laughed over which results fit and which didn’t, and talked about how we could improve working together.

  20. njn*

    My federal government agency (I’m now retired) was very big on using Myers-Briggs, not as a hiring or promotion tool, but as an training tool for new managers. The idea was to help managers keep in mind that their employees would likely respond differently to the very same approach, and that they might need to adjust their managerial style depending on whom they were dealing with. In a nutshell, the training spent several hours hammering home the message “People are different! You’ll need to deal with it!”

    It was a pretty good rule for general life too.

    1. miss chevious*

      Yeah, this is how I’ve seen Myers-Briggs and the other personality tests used in the places I’ve worked — not as determinative, but as a reminder to note and consider the way other prefer to work and respond. As someone who fits squarely into the ENTJ personality type, that is a very valuable reminder for me as a manager. :) But I certainly wouldn’t use any of these tests as a qualifier or a predicter of performance.

    2. Forrest*

      Yeah, we did it as part of establishing ourselves as a new team when I first came on board in a new organisation. A few things that really stuck with me. One was our manager saying, ‘I know that if I have to give Ann negative feedback, I need to emphasise everything she’s doing well, how pleased I am with her work, praise her for a few particularly good projects, and then I can say, “There’s just the TINIEST thing—” If I tried that with Natasha, she’d bite my head off and say, “Cut to the chase Richard, what am I doing wrong?”‘ Both Ann and Natasha cracked up. I found that super useful for thinking about my own practice in giving feedback, and how you adapt to different people’s needs.

      I also use the basic idea of MBTI a lot when I was doing leadership training– the idea that you’ll probably have a preference for doing something one way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it the other way, but you’ll just find it a bit more stressful, tiring, effort, secondguess yourself more and so on. You still DO it, you just accept that it’s a bit harder. That consistently brought up some really good discussions.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      That’s kind of how I’ve seen the tests used — as a demonstration that not everyone thinks the same, that different modes of thought and ways of being have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s good to appreciate others for their strengths and to self-reflect about one’s own tendencies, as well.

  21. NotAManager*

    What you described is me to a T, which is why I have no interest in being a manager, those things would drive me up a wall, or to drink. I actually hate even having a manager, I handle things on my own very well, without much or any input from anyone else. Small talk is the bane of my existence, so working from home has been a silver lining in the grey Covid cloud.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha I would never want to be a manager, but coming from opposite reasons. I don’t care if anyone is late, and I don’t want it to be my job to care. I like to be an individual contributor or part of a group effort, either way, but I don’t want to be responsible for others’ performance levels. I like to chat and have small talk and camaraderie, but only when it seems natural and fun, and not with the added pressure of needing to do it to increase my managerial effectiveness.

  22. achoos*

    Is it too snarky to say, “I want a manager who doesn’t believe in pseudoscience or a fixed mindset”?
    I think AAM’s answer was getting at that diplomatically, but I still shudder. Personality tests can *possibly* be useful to give you insights into yourself but should never be used as an excuse. If you’re not naturally drawn to some skill set, then you study and grow those skills.

    1. Forrest*

      MBTI’s pretty much the opposite of a fixed mindset: the whole point is that it’s a development tool for identifying your strengths and weaknesses and finding new strategies to deal with them.

      1. Achoos*

        And yet, people say things like, I’m ESFJ, I’m not good at X and you shouldn’t expect me to do it.

        Oh, I also had an acquaintance who’s boss assigned tasks based on their MBTI “strengths.” Ugh.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s unfortunate – our workshop facilitators were pretty clear that they were identifying preferences and not set-in-stone traits and that tasks should not be assigned based on the test. That sort messaging has been on every official version of the questionnaire/results I’ve taken, actually.

          The employer who sponsored it also reiterated that and explicitly told us that no one should ever say something like, “You wouldn’t like this/can’t do this because you’re [MBTI type]” to a direct report or use their own as an excuse not to take work their boss assigned them.

        2. Forrest*

          Yeah, but the thing about the MBTI is that it is 100% proprietary, copyrighted and tightly controlled by OPP. It’s not something where you can endless debate what the “real” MBTI is and what’s a pale imitation: OPP own the whole damn thing and they are absolutely clear that it’s a development tool, that it should never be used for hiring or promotional purposes, and that there’s no such thing as “can’t do something because of your type”. So yeah, people might try and use it as an excuse for poor professional standards or bad management, but there is an actual, official extremely IP-d definition of what MBTI is, and that’s not it.

          1. thestik*

            If MBTI is proprietary, why hasn’t 16 Personalities been shut down yet? Their assessment toes the line of ouright plagiarism of MBTI and even uses MBTI acronyms.

            1. Forrest*

              I don’t know! But they were super hardcore about their intellectual property when I did the training. Maybe it’s hosted outside the reach of their IP rights or something?

          2. Steve*

            That may be what they say *now*, but the whole genesis of the test was “ What if I could design a questionnaire that would help fit people to the jobs that were best suited for them?”

            And it has been used extensively by the government and corporations to match people to specific jobs.

            (Link to follow)

            1. Forrest*

              I mean, sure: all social sciences started out as ways for power to impose its required narrative on workers or subjugated people. I don’t think there’s an exception to that rule!

  23. Box of Kittens*

    I have never managed people and honestly never hope to, but I am just piping in to say that I’m fully aware of the problems with personality typing and am still a complete personality typing junkie. As long as you recognize the limitations of it, it can be a fun and useful tool. We did the DISC at work a year ago and it helped me understand some folks’ communication styles that I didn’t before. Since learned more about the Enneagram I’ve also become better at communicating with my mom and other type 2 friends. I do sometimes feel like I boxed myself in a bit before I learned about all the issues with the MBTI, but I think that’s more a me-loving-labels-and-order problem than anything else.
    (Signed ISTJ, Ennea 5w6, Hufflepuff.)

    1. Personality Profile*

      I was waiting for someone to say something about the Enneagram!
      Same type of thing here… just learning how to use the identifications makes a huge difference. Learn how to shore up your own and other’s weaknesses and lean into the strengths.
      INTP 9w1

  24. Properlike*

    I am consistently an INTJ with extrovert tendencies and find it accurate *to me.* In terms of management… there is a book called MOTHERSTYLES that I read once, baffled that I could not relate to all those crafty, hands-on, kid-centric moms in my group. And this book gives a run down of potential parenting styles according to your MBPT that may actually be relevant in managerial capacities.

    For instance: I *hate* managing the day-to-day minutiae of people (kids), but I am totally on board with training and educating and goal-setting. The book helped illustrate my natural strengths and areas that might be problematic.

  25. RussianInTexas*

    I just took the Strenghtfinder since it was mentioned above, and two of my strengths directly contradict one another. So there is that.

  26. LTL*

    I love MBTI, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about it and Carl Jung’s cognitive functions (which Myers and Briggs built on). Most people like me will tell you that the tests are rubbish. If you truly want to know your type, you have spend a lot of time studying on the theory and be self-aware enough to apply it. And we’ll also tell you that determining career based on your type is rubbish. It’s much more complex than that.

  27. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    We did the DISC at one place I worked, it lead to bullying and exclusion if you got the “wrong” type (ex: you don’t fit in here.) And if you got whatever the DISC version was of an INTJ you were labeled a “nerd” and shunned.

    It was not pleasant.

  28. Juniantara*

    I think the other factor here is that there isn’t *one* perfect personality for management – there are lots of personality traits that would be a huge advantage in managing one group and a huge disadvantage for another. For instance, an air traffic controller manager would need to be able to make instant decisions, gain instant obedience and be able to laser focus in a crisis. However, a corporate strategy manager would need to be able to build consensus, encourage alternate ideas, and delay locking in to a course of action until the possibilities had been reviewed.
    Of course, they would still have some base traits (ability to synthesize information, basic people skills). But I think it’s a mistake to think that all management jobs need a similar outlook and approach.

  29. Leela*

    I haven’t read the comments here but one thing I wish was addressed more, having worked in HR:

    Across the board, poorly-trained, poorly-supported managers are always bad managers. Regardless of their temperament or intentions, managers who get thrust into a role and told to “just ask questions” are always bad managers. They don’t know what to do and if they don’t have the ability to cull the team or have tough discussions as needed because higher ups just say so, or if they have unreasonable deadlines but aren’t allowed to add more staff, they’re always going to be bad. Giving them the ability to simply ask questions as they come up is non-training. Using staff members as guinea pigs so a new manager can learn by doing, without having been properly trained, is always going to be a poor experience for those being managed.

    You can still find bad managers who are well-trained and well-supported by their organization but it’s a bare minimum to have quality management at your business. This seems to just..not be a thing anywhere, though. Most managers are not given job shadowing or comprehensive management training before they start (or if they are, it’s really light and not very relevant. It might say “delegate work!” and then not delve into specifics about how you might do that if you have a team full of new staff members who are all not trained on what they’re supposed to be doing with a fast approaching deadline).

    1. LPUK*

      I had the good fortune to work for the Mars Organization and they placed a great deal importance and provided extensive training on line management. When I joined, I came straight in at managerial level and had already had direct reports in other roles, but I learned so much in my first couple of years. I was also fortunate to have a manager ho modelled great line management for e. Although we were in a sales function, his first questions were always about my people – what was a wipirking with the PN on, what was their potential etc.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Thank you, thank you.

      When all is said and done a boss still has to lead people. MB does not even come close to talking about how different management styles are necessary for different situations. If the building is on fire I am not going to speak to the group the way I do on an ordinary day. IRL, when the WTC tragedy happened, I spoke in a very different manner than I have ever done in my life. (We were ordered NOT to leave work. I told them to just do the best they could and don’t let the big bosses see you standing still and talking. I have never said that. Ever. But I knew we were going to do near zero work that day. And we did. One of my cohorts from another department was talking in a very nasty way at my group. I went to my boss and DEMANDED he be told not to come near my people. I had never done this before nor since. He was extremely gross/very upsetting and I can’t repeat it here.)

      I guess one would have to work with MB until it became second nature. But in leadership, decisions have to be made and things have to move along. I don’t see this being an efficient way to figure out how to lead people. It just feels super encumbered. And in the end, the person STILL needs management training from some where.

      Sadly for OP, clock watching is one of hotter buttons around here. It just seems more to the point to say, if a person is a clock watching boss then that person needs to get ready to lose good people. That is how that cookie crumbles.

  30. Argh!*

    INTP here. I test 50/50 on the first three if I answer as I actually do respond, rather than what my preference would be.

    My super power as a “P” is that I am good in a crisis and roll with the punches. I’m on the extreme end of that one, and learning my “type” such as it is helped me to manage the many “J” types I encounter daily. If someone says I wasn’t complete enough in my instructions, I believe them. I used to think “you dummy. I told you what the result was supposed to be!” They don’t want a picture of an end-result.

    I *do* want a picture of an end result and I want the steps to be left up to me. It’s like pulling teeth to get that out of my current manager. I have asked numerous times, “What exactly do you want?” or “What pieces have to be there for me to know when I’m finished?” It’s like I’m speaking in Hungarian.

    1. Minocho*

      I waffle between INTP and ENTP on tests. I waffle when I read the descriptions too!

      Geometry was the worst math because I had to show the steps. :) Your description of aiming for the end result and going rather than mapping everything out meticulously step by step speaks so loudly to me.

  31. TootsNYC*

    In addition to being someone who is willing to hard tough conversations, a good manager will be someone who makes it easier for OTHER people to start those hard conversations.

  32. Former Employee*

    Myers and Briggs a mother and daughter who had no training in psychology, testing, or anything related to those fields. They were two women who were fascinated by Jung and his theories. And that’s how they came up with the test – it’s based on their interpretation of Jung’s theories turned into test form.

    I think companies would do better if they used a test that could weed out the sociopaths from their pool of prospective employees.

  33. Tomalak*

    Thank you, Researchalatorlady. The Big Five are internally consistent (in the sense that they get very similar results each time when you test them on the same people) and are strong predictors of a lot of things, both in and outside the workplace. Many personality tests are unscientific, but the Big Five/OCEAN model most definitely is. Alison is right about Myers-Briggs but wrong about all personality tests.

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