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3 Reasons Why You Should Consider Using the MBTI

Kurt Kraiger, Principle Psychologist


Like thousands of companies across the U.S., you may already be using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI.  If you are, you know that it is a personality-based questionnaire that classifies people into one of 16 “types” based on their preferences for perceiving information and making decisions.  The 16 types are often the basis of classic pickup lines such as “Are you an ESFP, or just happy to see me?”

Even if you are not using the MBTI, you have probably heard of it and you may be thinking of adapting it for use in your organization to select managers, improve communication, drive change.  But should you?  There are three good reasons to use the MBTI in your organization:

  • You’ve used it in the past;
  • Somebody else is using it;
  • Somebody (probably a sales person) told you to use it.

 

There, that’s out, and it feels good.

Notice some of the reasons that aren’t on the list:  It’s theoretically sound; it predicts performance; it improves team or organizationally functioning.  They aren’t on the list, because they simply aren’t true.

“But It Describes Me Perfectly…”

This is another reason HR managers often give for liking the MBTI.  Even if that’s true (I won’t dispute it), how does your profile ringing true improve business processes, help you make better hiring decisions, improve interpersonal communication?   And while I won’t dispute that your MBTI sounds a lot like you, I would point out that there is a long line of psychological research documenting something called the Barnum Effect.  The Barnum Effect, confirmed by research, is that many people will find personal meaning in a series of general statements that could apply to anyone.  For example, would you say this is generally true of you?

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. At times you have serious doubts whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.

Most people would agree that is characteristic of them, but it is not drawn from a personality test, but pulled randomly from an astrology book found at the grocery store. An astrology book.  You may know that the MBTI is based on a very old theory of personality by Carl Jung.  Jung was very interested in astrology and it is believed he tried to incorporate astrological concepts into his psychological theories.

But the point here is that I can show 100 people their MBTI profiles and 95 will feel the profile accurately describes them.  But we know from extensive psychological research that I could have shown them randomly generated profiles and have the same hit rate!

“But the MBTI Reseller Said It Is a Valid Test…”

Are you sure?  Validity has a lot of different meanings, but fundamentally refers to whether the test measures what it says it does, or predicts meaningful outcomes. The Myers-Briggs Test Manual itself is very cautious about how it characterizes the validity of the MBTI.  Essentially, all MBTI scores do are predict scores on the DISC.  That’s it.  There is almost no evidence that MBTI types correlate with or predict anything!  Here is how one writer, the chair of the psychology department at Marietta College put it:

“Finally, there is no evidence to show a positive relation between MBTI type and success within an occupation. That is, there is nothing to show that ESFPs are better or worse salespeople than INTJs are. Nor is there any data to suggest that specific types are more satisfied within specific occupations than are other types, or that they stay longer in one occupation than do others.”

“But I Don’t Know What Else to Use…”

Fortunately, you have come to the right place. jobZology® uses psychologically-sound measures, validated by science, to assess people and describe organizations, and help them figure out whether they fit.  Our Talent Match Assessments (Values, Interests, and Personality) are based on decades of real science and predict career satisfaction, job satisfaction, organizational tenure, and job performance. For example, see this article by the Association for Psychology Science.

There are many other valid psychological assessments out there that avoid pseudo-science and actually work. So, even if you don’t adopt our tools, I hope you take a minute to question why you really think you should be using an assessment tool

  • Based on an outdated theory, that
  • Pigeonholes people into a complex array of types, that
  • Doesn’t really predict anything at all.

 

Just sayin’.

 

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