Monday, 5 March 2012


Sorting through some papers, I found something I'd forgotten about; the results to a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I'd taken part in a year or two back as part of a group exercise.

Screw your brains in...

What the heck is a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

The MBTI is a psychometric test based on some of the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung to do with personality types.   It is designed to help identify patterns and common traits in how you perceive the world and experience life.  The test looks at four opposing traits (although you should note that these words describe specific traits within the test, and not necessarily what we might use them for in everyday talk.  So 'Introvert' doesn't mean a shy person, rather a person who likes to direct their energy towards thinking over action.  There is also no 'right' or 'wrong' option in this test.  You probably use all of these traits at some point, but you will prefer to use some more of the time.)  Very approximately, the pairs go like this:

        Extraversion (E) - (I) Introversion    Looks at how you prefer to direct your energy and resources

           Sensing (S) - (N) Intuition   Looks at how you gather information about the world

Thinking (T) - (F) Feeling   Looks at how you make decisions 

Judgement (J) - (P) Perception    Looks at how you interact with the world

On top of that these four traits interact with each other, so they really only make sense when combined.  Normally the test will show a direction of preference in each of the pairs - so you may be more (E) than (I) for more of the time, even if only slightly more.  This ends up working out at 16 possible 'Types' a person could be, although naturally there is a little overlap between them.   You can see them all listed and described HERE.

What I like about the MBTI is that there's no 'better' outcome, just a mix of strengths and weaknesses for everybody.   If you can learn to play to your strengths and regulate your weaknesses then every outcome has value, whether you're an INTJ, an ESTP or an ISFJ.  But equally every outcome can "go bad" when the person uses their powers for evil.  So a talented perfectionist, if not monitored, can become too stressed about the details and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Charmers can become manipulators due to their ability to appeal to people, and those who value honesty can hurt others who are more sensitive to criticism than they are by being overly blunt.  It's all about working out what you have to offer as an individual and what you need to be aware of in order to function at your best in the world and alongside other people.

OK, so what are you?

According to the test I'm an ENFP (although the 'E' is very mild, so I have INFP traits too - about half and half.  Trust me to be awkward!).  I read several descriptions through to check it and although no one ever fits precisely into any box it all seems to match up well.  The clincher came when I flicked through to look at a linking page which uses your MBTI Type to look at how you prefer to approach work.  I've been struggling recently in a job that I find boring in every aspect, and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out if it was just me being a whinger or if I genuinely was not a good fit for that position.  The problems I identified on my own are the following:
  • I like doing time-limited projects.  Even if they involve repetition, I prefer to have a defined beginning, middle, and end to the work I do, and then be able to go do something else.  If I don't have some kind of variety I get bored.  Currently the tasks I'm performing simply sustain the system indefinitely rather than giving me a timeline to work to.
  • I like problem-solving; to be shown a need or breakage and work out a way to fix it.  My current job requires no creativity or use of my brain, just the ability to follow pre-written instructions. 
  • I like to be enthusiastic about my work, even if that's in a negative way.  I can be annoyed with my job and still stay interested as long as I'm enthusiastically annoyed!  If I'm not interested in my work I find it hard to focus, which means I make silly mistakes or lose quality which only serves to frustrate me further as I'm proud of having a decent work ethic. 
  • I sit out on the reception, separate from the rest of the open plan office, and although I'm one of two receptionists and don't like an over-abundance of noise when I'm working I do miss the personal interaction and the energy of having other people in the room. 
  • I like to feel trusted, and prove myself worthy of trust.  Most of the office works on flexi-time, where as long as you work your 7 hrs there is some choice as to when you can arrive or leave.  However, as I have to open and close the reception I must observe a 9-5 schedule.   I know it's nothing personal, but when compared with everyone else I can't help but feel the restrictions of it.  There were also threats about a uniform for the receptionists a month or so back - that is to say, they weren't really threats and I'm sure the managers meant it as a sign of pride in our workplace, but I vehemently refused the suggestion.  When I analysed my reaction later I realised that the reason I hated the idea of a uniform so much was because it made me feel that I was seen as inadequate or incompetent in the way I present myself, and that my individuality was being encroached upon.  I'm not the world's snappiest dresser but I do observe the company dress code and it was as if I was being told I wasn't good enough.

To my surprise, when I looked up my MBTI results with reference to work, here's a snippet of what I got:
  • Project-oriented 
  • Bright and capable 
  • Warmly, genuinely interested in people; great empathy and people skills 
  • Dislike performing routine tasks 
  • Need approval and appreciation from others.  Can take neutral criticism as personal disapproval or an attack on their value system.
  • Creative and energetic 
  • Resists being controlled by others 
  • Can work logically and rationally - use their intuition to understand the goal and work backwards towards it 
  • Usually able to grasp difficult concepts and theories.  Can turn their hand to most things and achieve good results, but tend not to find happiness in 'mainstream' success.
ENFPs are lucky in that they're good a quite a lot of different things.  An ENFP can generally achieve a good degree of success at anything which has interested them.  However, ENFPs get bored rather easily and are not naturally good at following things through to completion.  Accordingly, they should avoid jobs which require performing a lot of detailed, routine-oriented tasks.  They will do best in professions which allow them to creatively generate new ideas and deal closely with people.  They will not be happy in positions which are confining and regimented.

When I read it, I laughed.  I don't think it's unfair to say that I feel more than a little vindicated right now!

I also don't mean this to bad-mouth my workplace (which is why I'm not naming it!)  It's an excellent company that performs a very worthy function, and the people are great which makes up for a lot.  However the 6 month contract job I initially had there, despite the mundane moments which every job has, did give me variety, problem-solving, personal interaction and I was on flexi-time which allowed me an amount of self-regulation, which I appreciated.  When that contract ended and the receptionist job came up I would have been silly to turn it down (ironically in my interview my now-manager's one concern was that I would get bored), but although I'm sure that it's a perfect job for someone, that someone isn't me.  This certainly explains a lot.

NB: If you want to have a go at an MBTI, google something like 'free MBTI test' (I say free because you have to pay for the official one, but there are lots of similar ones out there and you'll quickly be able to tell which are better than others).   Nobody ever fits exactly into a box, so in the quest for accuracy the more times you try the MBTI and get the same result, the better a fit that result is for you.

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