The MBTI is bad business

I speak to career coaches, trainers, professors and human resource professionals on a daily basis. My work as System Architect at Online Talent Manager had me working closely with research psychologists and test developers and all manner of smart people who work with psychometric instruments on a day-to-day basis. I enjoy talking to new people about personality testing, I know a lot about it and I am an enthusiastic proponent of using these tools to help improve lives in meaningful ways.

But as soon as I hear a new acquaintance say that they use the MBTI, well … a part of me dies, just a little, on the inside.hd-sad-puppy-face-images_small

It’s on par with someone saying that a specific behavior is caused by their astrological sign.

It’s just creepy.

The MBTI is not useful in a business context. At. All.

If a manager comes to you waving his MBTI results from an online survey site and demanding that this be used by everyone in the department, please send him to this page. Here are some of the best, most clearly written articles I have found that thoroughly explain why using the MBTI for hiring, promotion, recruitment or really ANYTHING AT ALL in the workplace is a bad idea.

Professor Adam Grant wrote a lovely piece in 2013 for Psychology Today called, “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die: MBTI, I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me. It’s you.” This article does a great job of explaining why the MBTI does not work as well as giving many links to further research on the subject.

Dean Burnett, writing for The Guardian, published “Nothing personal: The questionable Myers-Briggs test” This article gives real world examples of how the MBTI is used and abused in the workplace. Ugh. I get so frustrated when I read some of those personal stories. It’s like seeing stories of people who were treated with blood letting.

For factual, no-nonsense reviews of the MBTI, I would recommend articles from the Straight Dope and Skeptoid. My favorite line from the Straight Dope article: “Does your MBTI type tell your boss what kind of job you’d be best at? I wouldn’t go that far, and any boss who uses it to make such judgements is a fool.” The Skeptoid article really dives into the nuts and bolts of psychometric testing, good stuff!

Now I am going to pivot.

You might already know all of this stuff. You might be asking yourself, “How can I take what I know about the MBTI and apply it to the Competing Values Framework?”

I’m glad you asked that question, because I wrote an article about it a while back and I am going to share it with you here:

The Talent Profile is based on the Octogram test results.

My own results in the Octogram test, just to show you where the traits are in the graphic.

First off, I have to give a caveat. The correlation data I am basing the following article on was gathered from candidates who completed the Octogram (R) and a test we wrote based on the MBTI model. The following information is based on correlations from 1,278 candidate test sessions.

E or I – Extraversion and Introversion

EIAre not exactly the same as that measured by other models like the Big5, hence the strange spelling of ‘extroversion’. The extravert’s flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert’s is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. When I look at the correlation data between the MBTI model and the Competing Values Framework of the Octogram test, I see the following:

“Introversion” = Analyst, Anchor
“Extraversion” = Pioneer, Networker, and Achiever

S or N – Sensing and Intuition

SNIf you are more tuned in to your intuition and rely on that for decision making purposes, that comes out in the Pioneer and Networker work styles. Both of these are driven by ideas and feelings. Sensing is more about facts and figures and fits in with the Anchor and Analyst roles.

“Intuition” = Pioneer, Networker
“Sensing” = Anchor, Analyst

T or F – Thinking and Feeling

FTThinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.
This dichotomy has a close relationship with the upper and lower halves of the Octogram. Candidates with the majority of their strong roles in the upper half of the Octogram tend to be more personable and warm. Candidates with the majority of their scores in the lower half are convergent thinkers and do tend to try to take emotion out of decisions.

“Thinking” = Achiever, Strategist, Anchor, Analyst
“Feeling” = Pioneer, Networker, Team Player, Helper

J or P – Judging or Perceiving

JPAccording to Myers, judging types like to “have matters settled” and perceptive types prefer to “keep decisions open”. This lies along the ‘Pioneer-Anchor’ axis of the Octogram. Pioneers want flexibility and freedom, Anchors want things set down correctly and orderly on the page.

“Judging” = Anchor
“Perception” = Pioneer, Networker

What makes the MBTI impractical to use for the workplace is that it is measuring personality at a pretty deep level. It’s difficult to predict how those differences actually play out in real life, day-to-day behavior. This is why I like the Competing Values Framework, it really is measuring one slice of life (work) in a way that is easy to understand, recognize, and apply.

The Talent Profile is available on the website.

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1 comment
  • richard

    start rant
    It drives me crazy to see other sites on the internet using the MBTI to give career advice. I was just looking around, searching for other sites that give career advice, and ran across three of them that were offering to predict job success based on this model. Don’t the creators of those products feel any sense of responsibility for what they are doing? The MBTI is not appropriate for offering career advice.
    It makes my skin crawl, like seeing someone with a real disease visiting a shaman with a bottle on a stick.
    Okay, maybe that’s over the top. I should say, “Someone with a real disease taking a homoeopathic ‘medicine'”. It’s just not doing what it says on the label, it’s watered down water!
    stop rant

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