Is Your Personality The Reason Why You Stink At Working From Home?

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Ah, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Astrology for nerds. Despite being of dubious scientific validity, over 80% of Fortune 500s use some version of it to make hiring and other team-building decisions. This article purports to have determined the perfect careers for all sixteen MBTI types. Earlier this month, Fast Company even declared that there was an MBTI personality type “for entrepreneurs.”

In case you haven’t been to business school or interviewed with Bridgewater Associates, you can take versions of the test here, and on many other places scattered about the internet.

The MBTI was developed by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs, and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. Myers and Briggs were inspired by Carl Jung’s book Personality Types, though the MBTI and Jung’s personality theories have some key differences which I will not delve into here.

The test purports to gain an idea of how an individual views the world by measuring them upon four axes:

(1) Extraversion vs. Introversion,

(2) Sensing vs. Intuition,

(3) Thinking vs. Feeling, and

(4) Judging vs. Perception

The MBTI sorts you into one of sixteen different personality types, each denoted by a letter. You are not just your type – people are the products of their upbringings, social milieus, etc. and two people of the same type can present very differently.

Use the below as guidelines to see where you fall, and how your type may be challenged or benefited by a remote environment:

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Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I): This has nothing to do with how “outgoing” or “shy” you are.

Where do you get your energy?

After a large gathering, do you feel amped up and have difficulty getting to a state of relaxation, or is your battery drained?

  • Extraverts enjoy roles that involve a high level of human interaction on teams and in groups.
  • Introverts prefer working without being interrupted with few distractions, particularly of the human kind.
  • Both types can be an effective remote worker, though extraverts may have to make sure that they are getting enough contact with others to keep them engaged. They can do this via Google Hangouts, online chat options, videoconference tools, and, that old chestnut, the telephone.

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Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N): This axis refers to how you process information. Do you rely on your senses to obtain reliable and verifiable data, or do you rely on connections, theories, and speculations?

If you’re a master of data analytics you might be a sensor. If you speak more metaphorically (such as with analogies), you may be an Intuitive.

Some studies suggest that as much as 70% of the population are sensors.

  • Sensors prefer present and historical (i.e. formerly present) information.
  • Intuitives are about the future, as opposed to current and past data. They are masters of theorizing, speculating and innovating.
  • A sensor may be a bit more resistant to remote work environments as sensors prefer tradition, i.e. results based on historical data. Sensors may resist flexible work policies if they aren’t introduced to the data supporting their effectiveness.

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Thinking vs. Feeling: This axis refers to how you make your decisions.

Thinkers have feelings – they aren’t Spock – but override them with logic when making decisions.

Feeling types are the opposite – they weigh emotional factors over logic in their decision-making.

  • Thinkers may prefer the efficiency of a remote office – no more time wasted on commuting or water-cooler gossip.
  • Feelers may find a flexible work environment appealing because it may give them the freedom to pursue personal passion projects or tend to family caregiving responsibilities.
  • Thinkers and Feelers will use different arguments to support their views on a remote workplace. A Feeler may ignore logic and data in favor of the “community” or “corporate culture” that a traditional work environment may foster.

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Judging vs. Perception: This axis refers to how you plan your life, not how “judgmental” or “perceptive” you are.

How do you view structure – limiting, or enabling?

Do you prefer final answers, or decisions that can be easily changed?

  • Perceivers are the “keep-your-options-open” kids. They are improvisers, not organizers. Think jazz solo, not Bach. Unpredictable situations bring out the best in them so long as they retain a degree of control (e.g., a career in corporate law, where you never know whether your boss will keep you in the office all night or weekend, would not be an ideal place for a ‘P’). They enjoy exploring possibilities before committing to a course of action. Rules are guidelines for perceiver-types.
  • Judgers are the organizers. They prefer detailed plans and firm decisions. Decisions mean closure. Judgers prefer specificity and careful instruction, and are more likely to follow rules – even minor ones – carefully.
  • A successful remote environment may rely on the success of Judgers in implementing processes, structures, and objective performance and behavioral standards. Judgers should set expectations for remote employees: for example, log on at 9AM and log off at 6PM, or no bedroom furniture in the background on conference calls. Without these, a Judger may feel left out on the breeze in a remote work environment. A Perceiver, on the other hand, may take too much advantage of her freedoms.

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Socrates told us to know thyself. While the MBTI is an imperfect oracle — like, don’t dump your boyfriend because the MBTI says you two might be a challenging match — it might offer you a start at determining what it may take for you to succeed in your company’s remote work setup, what challenges you may need to manage, or, whether telecommuting is right for you.

And, if you must know, I am an ENTP. No more than 7% of women test “NT” on the MBTI for whatever reason, but that’s a subject for another post (and, perhaps, another blog).

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