Should businesses abandon the Myers-Briggs test?

We’re somewhat obsessed with collaboration tools and learning more about how people work together. Our 9 types of collaborators quiz, infographic and benchmark report offer a fun, easy way to learn more about how you fit alongside your colleagues – and, as a manager, how you can build a team of high-chemistry collaborators. Our newly launched C-Index is designed to help you identify the best difference-makers, influencers and collaborators in your company.

Our 9 collaborators quiz isn’t highly scientific, of course, but is meant to be more actionable than, say, “Which Frozen Character Are You?” On the opposite end of the spectrum from Buzzfeed quizzes is the Myers-Briggs, the O.G. of personality tests. Businesses have relied on Myers-Briggs for decades, and its results just kind of sound deep and serious (“You’re an INTP? I’m an ESTJ!”). The general notion is that the test can spur better collaboration via a deeper understanding of the quirks and differences between colleagues.

Knowing what Myers-Briggs type you are — and, crucially, knowing the types of your other team members — can be a great help in getting past those communication roadblocks on your projects,” says longtime business analyst Tim Walker

Plenty of people agree. “More than 10,000 companies, 2,500 colleges and universities and 200 government agencies in the United States use the test,” reports The Washington Post. “From the State Department to McKinsey & Co., it’s a rite of passage. It’s estimated that 50 million people have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test since the Educational Testing Service first added the research to its portfolio in 1962.” Whatever its faults – and we’ll get to those in a moment – it’s certainly an advancement over measuring your skull to decide whether you have what it takes to make it as a lawyer, or a cold corporation not bothering to think in terms of empathy and collaboration in the first place.

Roman Krznaric, author of How to Find Fulfilling Work, readily acknowledges the lack of scientific rigor behind Myers-Briggs, but says that the results can be a useful tool for self-reflection, at least when used in combination with other tools. For instance, your Myers-Briggs type may point out strengths you’ve ignored, helping you find alternate career routes. Even if it just helps you add a few new adjectives to your resumé… well, hey, that’s something.

Some corporations have taken their attachment to Myers-Briggs to fairly extreme levels; according to one case study, managers at Hallmark often began meetings by asking attendees to call out their “type.” Hallmark credited Myers-Briggs for increasing efficiency and improving “diversity of thought.”

Plenty of psychology experts caution companies against experiencing similarly seismic results. Instead of aiming for widespread cultural change as a result of Myers-Briggs assessments, Psychology Today contributor (and professor of leadership and organizational psychology) Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., urges tempered expectations and a more measured approach. “Perhaps the best use for the MBTI is for self-reflection,” he writes. “If used as a starting point for discussing how people vary in their personalities, and emphasizing tolerance for individual differences and taking others’ perspectives, then it can be a useful tool. However, it is important that the test administrator caution against over-interpretation of the results, and discuss the limitations of the instrument.”

One of the major criticisms of Myers-Briggs is the inconsistency in results; it’s been documented to be pretty likely that if you take the test multiple times, you’ll get varying results. This makes some sense, since it’s obviously difficult to neatly compartmentalize all of humanity into 16 categories (sidenote: those categories aren’t actually much more scientific than “Are you a Rachel or a Monica?”). Sometimes, though, the results are dramatically different, which poses some obvious challenges for organizations seeking a path to a uniquely personalized collaborative nirvana.

“When it comes to accuracy, if you put a horoscope on one end and a heart monitor on the other, the MBTI falls about halfway in between,” says organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Grant, who’s previously spoken with us about the importance of creating a culture of givers, has a list of suggestions for improving the test, starting with an abandonment of the outdated Carl Jung ideas that serve as the core of the analysis.

Myers-Briggs has another problem, although it’s a problem that almost certainly is related to its enduring appeal: essentially all of the results can be cast in a positive light. Even in our 9 collaborators infographic, there are traits that would typically be considered problematic: dinosaurs who are slow to adapt, siloists who cause bottlenecks and security concerns, skeptics who serve as an occasional thorn in your side. In Myers-Briggs, basically everyone is a winner.

“This isn’t a test designed to accurately categorize people, but a test designed to make them feel happy about taking it,” says Vox’s Joseph Stromberg in his withering recent takedown of Myers-Briggs. “This is one of the reasons why it’s persisted for so many years in the corporate world, despite being disregarded by psychologists.”

UPDATE: Inspired by some of the provocative comments below (thank you), we did a follow-up in which Jason Compton considered five of the leading alternatives to Myers-Briggs.

Adam McKibbin
Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.

136 Responses to Should businesses abandon the Myers-Briggs test?

  1. Ieuan

    I think the test is massively useful but in a controlled and limited way.

    Trying to build teams off the types is ridiculous and as bad as setting out with a goal of wanting a team with ratios defined be sex or colour. Other people knowing your type isn’t necessarily useful either as it encourages dishonesty and favouritism.

    However knowing our own tendencies can be massively empowering and helpful. Many people have a mental picture of their own behaviours that does not match reality, the MB test (if taken several times to iron our inconsistencies) can help make the real picture more clear for people and if they can understand that better they can become more effective.

    • Verlin Senior

      The usefulness of the MBTI depends on an ability not often mentioned. Versatiliy is very important. A non-versatile person will have serious difficulty working with a very different person. Versatile people will usually find a cooporative middle ground,

      • Declan

        it generates a view at a point in time of a person’s psyche.

        how many minutes are in the day?
        does your mood change between waking up, before and after lunch
        over the years have you you changed from good/ bad natured, opt/ pessimistic, relaxed/ uptight

        I think you,d need to take the test repetitively across a year/s. it’s intrusive and pigeon holing anyway. e.g. ” oh John, he´s a better team member than leader”. All that from a one off test John took when his dad was in hospital…

        Myers Briggs is a poor indicator of staff potential. it misleading

        • Wrich

          Perhaps you should actually take the test before commenting on something you don’t know about. Its not about “mood” or “leadership”.

          • PK

            I’ve long been of the opinion that tests like Myers-Brigg are misleading in that they attempt to assign a numeric score to a number of human traits, giving a false impression that something real has been measured. I even had an argument with a team building coach to the effect that I didn’t think the scores meant much, and he claimed that my skepticism was due to my personality type as measured by MBT, thus proving it all worked.

            It’s reassuring to hear that plenty of psychologists think it’s balderdash too.

        • Robert

          MBTI has its shortcomings. But these are mistaken criticisms. First, its not a test. its deliberatley called an Indicator (Myres Briggs Type Indicator). Second, I don’t know any way you could pronounce that someone would, or would not make a good leader based on their MBTI scores. Third, its not and has never claimed to be a predictor of staff potential.
          Declan’s criticisms sound like they come from someone who doesn’t know very much about the instrument

    • John C

      Your opening señtence is key.
      So too is the leadership already in place in the company/ organisation for that is where the organisation’ character is initiated .
      John C. ( veteran).

      • Allan

        A-1….. ability requires nurturing and that comes from seeing ‘the vision’ which of course comes from good direction and then ‘following the path’ which is enabled through good leadership. Those two factors build confidence in an employee so they will soon too able to see beyond the next turn in the path and help the corporation to avoid problems…. this then implies the employee has ‘skills and aptitudes’ which of course is what the MBTI measures.
        Behaviours are modified to the good and the bad by the observations of work-place habits laid down by those people who are already employed.

  2. Richard Bryce

    As an interim HR Manager with 40 years experience it frustrates me how often I have to go in to battle with people totally wedded to the MBI, 16PF and other such nonsense. These instruments lack any scientific rigour but they appeal because they are simple to administer and are easier to apply for HR departments than is skilful interviewing and background research. They give HR departments the aura of scientific rigour when they are exactly the opposite, somewhat like homeopathy is to proper medicine. It always amazes me how few (usually none) of the users and advocates of MBI have ever bothered to research it, and if they have it should trouble them to find there has been nothing published in reputable journals to support it. They just take it on face value. To me this is professional negligence.

    MBI is fun to use at parties and as an ice breaker so long as people are told it lacks any reliability as a predictor. It is criminal to use it to determine someone’s fate in the job market and work place.

    • Rupert Granville

      Couldn’t agree more. It has become a substitute for instinct, experience and intelligent interview. Worse, it is now used to ratify or mask incompetence. Genuine HR expertise is now subordinate to daft-arsed application of these quack tests…….

      • Chris

        There’s a lot of value to understanding MB testing outside of HR.

        Every sales person should know their personality type, and how they come across to others. Then they need to understand other types, and recognize cues their clients and prospects are giving them. It can mean the difference between making or loosing a sale or big account.

    • Diana

      I agree with this assessment. We have taken similar “tests” at work, and I’ve noticed that some of my teammates hold their (and others) results as gospel. Used in such a way, and in the wrong manager’s hands, the results of these unscientific tests could prove to be (and rightfully so) the basis of a discrimination lawsuit.

    • Todd

      I agree. As an Educational Psychologist, I find the prevalence of “pop” psychology distracting from so many of the advances in the field of Psychology. These things get into the public and take on a life of their own. Same goes for left brain – right brain preferences where we are supposed to be artistic if we are left brained etc. However, the science is very thin for this as well, but people take it as gospel.

    • Barry

      I took Myers-Briggs 3 times over a span of 15 years. It gave me the same type each time. I gave me a lot of insight into myself which I agree. By and large it certainly beat the “INSTINCT”, “GUT FEEL” and “EXPERIENCE” of many self serving personnel executives. No one should use the test as the way we use a measuring tape but it tells a lot more than anybody can tell you.

      • Jeremy'

        Me too! 5 tests over 15 years (3 x ENTP 2x ENFP)
        My wife of 40 years knows me better than I know myself and she says it’s a very accurate assessment.

      • Mert

        It also helped me… my and my Wife also tells me its spot on. It certainly helped me work on some of the negative traits of my personality I think. At least when I started paying attention to it my relationship with workmates greatly improved. I also landed a couple promotions. (My place of business does not use any sort of personality tests, I took this after being introduced to it by a friend)

        • Greg Olsen

          Completely agree. My results with many variations of the test over many years always yields the same result. The article above did no credible annotated take-down of the Myers-Briggs tests. Just crap pop writing.

    • Jack

      Skillful interviewing???? Now that is an absolute grandiose and distorted view of oneself and of the limitations of the interview process. Interviews are a crap shoot. They sometimes can be accurate, sometimes grossly inaccurate and sometimes somewhere in the middle. Certain people are the what you see is what you get types, and for others, for better and for worse, that is not at all the case. The only problem is that it is extremely difficult to tell when interviews reveal meaningful and accurate information and when they don’t. And the fact that you seem to believe that skillful interviewing, or interviewing techniques, can see past that is just arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and wrong.

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s stretching it to group MBTI and 16PF together. There’s much more rigour applied to 16PF etc than MBTI which is as is said here, useful only as a party game.

      • Yup, did seem like a party game after we trooped out. Years later I watched the melt down of my department and intercompany co-operation grind to nothing. Every other year thier would be a newest iteration to categories the staff.

    • Richard

      I’m very close to a recent situation where the HR department seem to be totally out of touch with reality. They are obsessed with various ‘frameworks’ – which seem to be at total odds with the main tasks that need undertaking to protect and grow this particular organisation. After 30 years working – I’m actually convinced the problem with most HR departments run much deeper than just Myers Briggs. They treat people like a commodity and then wonder why i) organisations under perform and ii) why everyone in said organisations mainly hate and/or mistrust them

      • Bel Grant

        HR are comprised of power hungry meddlesome nuisances with a self serving agenda to justify their existence, whilst contributing nothing useful to organisational growth (except acting as senior management pattsies and getting rid of anyone whose face no longer ‘fits’). Of course they don’t want a ‘test’ telling them who to employ. It implies they have no judgement, no use, no value (which, of course, they don’t).

    • Susannah K. Johnson

      I agree. It’s essentially equivalent to using someone’s sign of the zodiac for hiring and team building purposes. Sure there may be some characteristic tendencies that fit the mold but never is it always entirely correct for every person and it certainly doesn’t shape who a person is, at least not nearly as much as their life’s experiences do so whether or not any given sign’s characteristic tendencies apply to any given person is essentially unpredictable, making both of these systems of behavioral analysis rather useless when it comes to making a judgment of their character and whether or not they will mesh well with your existing team. Might as well call in a palm reader or have everyone draw a handful of fortune cookies to help advise your HR department. Any of them would probably be just as successful as any other.

    • Marc

      It is a mistake to lump the MBTI and 16PF together as ‘nonsense”. While the validity (predictive power) and reliability (lack of error) of the MBTI is widely debated, the 16PF is a rigorously constructed questionnaire which maps well onto the Big 5 theory of personality. There are many different personality questionnaires out there – some are no better than a finger in the air, some have reasonable predictive qualities for recruitment and development. HR professionals have an important role to play in ensuring that the appropriate tools are used rather than dismissing them all as hokum. Interviewers, no matter how experienced, don’t always get it right either!

    • jan mingle

      Why not look at resume, recommendations, associates, interviews? That is reality – what this person has actually done, learned, contributed. Often with these tests, the questions are not very good in that one would say it depends on the situation. People spend years in schools and life to build a record that is often ignored in favor or “looks’ or “personality.” Sometimes prejudices enter the picture; gender, race, university, major. HR needs to find out as much as possible about the individual’s record and potential. If the person was a successful learner, has no problems with others in his past, no red flags, but isn’t beautiful or has many years experience doing exactly the same job, or the identical personality inventory of a previously successful person, that does not mean she cannot succeed in that job/career.

    • Caroline Byrne

      It’s MBTI not MBI. It should never be administered for interviewing and I am shocked that you are a seasoned HR pro who dislikes this tool intensely, yet you don’t appear to understand where and when MBTI should be applied.
      It is a wonderful tool for enhancing self awareness, helping people to identify strengths based on their temperament, and the best tool available for helping people to appreciate difference so it’s wonderful in diversity training. It should never be used in isolation and people should take 16PF or DISC also to deepen self awareness.
      I find that people who seek out personality assessments tend to be achievers, who know that the key to being a great communicator begins with knowing thyself and appreciating and developing your strengths. MBTI is a sound short-cut to identifying natural strengths.
      It needs to be administered by an expert, no online result should be taken seriously. Feedback needs to be 1-1, not in groups, when there is doubt about type. The ‘doubting Thomas’ of this tool hilariously all tend to be the one type, so when I score the MBTI I can pretty much predict who will slam it down and say it’s rubbish because they question all expertise! Not a bad thing, I relish the challenge of being questioned to justify my beliefs!

      • Sister Mary

        You do realize that there is no statistical validity to the “test”, yes? It’s not “useful” if you are looking for a tool that reflects anything based in reality.

        What I find amazing is just how much stock is placed in it in the US. Outside the US it’s been my experience that it is regarded as akin to a children’s game or just an outright joke. In most of the EU, for example, any tool used by HR must have documented statistical validity to be used. The doubting Thomas’ of this tool are the ones who understand statistics and scientific validity – sadly, all too rare in the HR field and woefully clearly illustrated by the posters here who think it is anything other than fantasy.

  3. actually, a horoscope is extremely accurate. that’s one of it’s draw backs. it provides so much detailed information that is is almost useless for describing group dynamics. and that’s a key problem word, too. humans are dynamic — a calculus which horoscopes show — and to see any test as anything more than a snapshot in time of the ‘film strip’ of one’s life is in error.

    what one must consider is that there is a continuum of archetype to type and a useful tool falls at the right place on that continuum for the job at hand.

    it is not the Myers-Briggs that is a problem, but those who do not know how to apply it nor educate people on how to apply it.

    interestingly, Myers-Briggs arises out of Jung’s encounter with astrology as the categories are based on the 4 elements of alchemy. knowing this, one can apply the essence of Myers-Briggs to things other than people’s personalities. from how to cover a topic completely in writing to setting organizational goals to determining the value of actions. it is far more robust than most if any business has tapped into — but to do so requires real expertise. 🙂

  4. Ali

    What kind of Myers Briggs type posts a comment about posting comment upon the comments board related to the Myers Briggs test, anyway??

    • JT

      You are right on, my friend! “Amusement…novelty act equivalent to astrology.” These are all junk feel-good pseudo-assessments. They make us laugh at ourselves when we subliminally see our shortcomings disguised in the results. Not once has it ever made a person change for the better, or actually try to see another’s opinion, or cause someone to be better adaptive to differences within the team. It’s “101” garbage, made up by some guy with a get rich quick scheme. There are other norms and normally adaptive personalities that make a team work well. There’s also process that makes a team work well. Its just another silly game to play while you’re offsite wasting the company’s money not being productive. ….and I’ve led and/or facilitated successful teams for over 20 years. No MB letter scheme ever made me better adept at observing behavior and helping draw others together to get good results. It’s time to be real, folks, and quit playing useless games.

      • AJ

        The avoidance of hyperbole is the first step toward appearing wise. Omit the “nevers” and “evers” and “always,” lest you become guilty of making the same erorr you accuse Temperment Theory of making, which is gereralizing everyone’s experience.

        • davis kitchens

          So should I always “Omit the “nevers” and “evers” and “always”?”
          Should I never use the “nevers” and “evers” and “always”?”
          Is there ever a time I can user the “nevers” and “evers” and “always”?”

  5. Robert Park

    I took the Myers-Briggs test 1961 which was 53 years ago and found it interesting and helpful; interesting in that it revealed interests to which I was unaware and helpful in that it provided direction to my future career. The psychologist who later provided career counselling was well off the mark. I simply followed the money as I had a wife and family to support but in occupations which instinctively appealed to me. What the tests failed to reveal was the distinct tendency to function better on my own, that my IQ fell within the top 2% and so too did my view of life and that I had acute perception and sought to understand the principles behind things. Somewhere around the middle of the test it revealed that I had executive qualities. To a working class young man brought up in a dysfunctional family and being told that he was dumb and who never proceeded beyond primary education where he was a chronic truant, this came as a surprise yet, interestingly, this was the direction in which my career followed and on its conclusion I was the CEO of a public concern. At the time I took the tests I was frustrated with how my life was unfolding so it provided a some support but was it useful; well, not really, as I am certain that I would have taken the same course (or another closely aligned to it) that I had chosen from the circumstances in which I found myself at any given moment.

    During the late 1970s I was subjected to the PF13 test at the Edinburgh Business School where it was suggested that I was a Bohemian which could not be further from the truth and that my motivation was negligible (meaning probably that I was laid back) but I cannot recall more about this tests except to say that I thought the questions where infuriatingly puerile.

    • John Brooks

      Me too, dysfunctional family, told I was stupid. Took the MB test and was told I was a leader with feelings.

      Come to find out I led a platoon and such in the military.

  6. Ruth McVeigh

    Actually, I have a great deal more faith in handwriting analysis, if it is done with a proper sample and by someone who has made a study of it.

    • Kavod

      I’m sure you can tell some things by handwriting, same as by body posture, but my mother and I had identical handwriting when she was alive, even we got us mixed up. Sure didn’t have identical personalities.

      • Susannah K. Johnson

        Well the thing about handwriting analysis is that it can implicate how a person feels about the thing that they are writing. Therefore it is more like an intricately more complex and meaningful lie-detector test. It does not necessarily stay consistent across paragraphs or even sentences, or sometimes even across individual words, so building an overall personality type from this data, especially one concerning social interactivity, is nearly impossible. It’s best put to use in the field where it is most commonly found, forensics. It can be an indespensible tool for investigating suspects beleived to be serial killers (who tend to write taunting and leading messages or letters to the authorities and usually the content of those letters relates to the perpetrating of the criminal act in question, thereby making any emotional red flags reflected in the writing samples being analysed likely to be extremely significant to the case).
        Also, those who strive to write as perfectly as possible (by that i mean, try to form the letters as close to an exact copy of the manuscript as it is taught in school as they can) are less likely to produce writing samples reflecting what their personal emotional response to what they’re writing really is. This may be the reason for your mother’s and your own writing being unidentifiable from one another.

  7. There is no definitive way to identify an employee’s personality. MB is the closest that I have seen, if there were a silver bullet HR departments would shrink and we wouldn’t all need therapy (yes WE ALL need it, if you think you don’t then you need it more than most). This article does nothing to add to the discussion and frankly seems to be lazy writing with little or no thought by the author on what the point of the article is. Case in point, Adam Grant thinks the test should be improved not abandoned then lays this gem; ” starting with an abandonment of the outdated Carl Jung ideas”. There is so much wrong with this I will have limit my ire. 1. Jung’s ideas are far from outdated, they still form the basis for all of modern psychology (has this Adam Grant schmuck even read Jung, the man is a genius) 2. MB is ONLY reasonably good because it uses true science based on the ideas of Mr. Jung, you don’t get more physiologically scientific than Jung. So if Adam had his way he would abandon the Jungian part of MB, then there is nothing left. Such an obvious contradiction is evidence of how poor this article was conceived. There is no problem with MB, there is a problem with how it is used. That would be a useful article. And anyone that thinks any test (even IQ) is going to always be accurate is a fool, nothing is, it is how we use the information not the method used to collect the information.

    • Susannah K. Johnson

      Anyone who thinks there is anything the least bit scientific about psychology is deluded. Show me the lab research that measures chemicals in the brain. Show me the clinical drug trials which have been conducted on the psychotropic prescription drugs administered for depression and what-not and what those drugs do to “cure” any so called mental afflictions. We have no idea how the mind works. We don’t have any way of measuring any substance existent in the brain so without even a benchmark model of what and how much of a chemical is indicative of a healthy, normal brain’s chemical composition, how can we possibly know what and how much of any medication is required to treat an abnormal one? All we can detect or measure to a definitive degree in the brain are the electrical impulses of the neurons firing, but there’s nothing in the world of science indicating that psychotropic drugs have any positive impact on that happening, either. Just that some drugs can deaden the function (which is still not a cure, just a numbing of the senses).
      I’m not saying Psychology, as a profession, doesn’t provide a needed service for many people. But you’re lying to yourself if you think there’s anything more scientific than simply a great deal of human empathy and emotional intuitiveness on the part of the psychologist going on with it.

      • MeadowLark

        Psychology is a very broad field, whose subfields employ varying levels of scientific rigor. Neuropsychology is very biological, and has the same kind of scientific validity as any other field of biology. Many other subfields, such as cognitive or abnormal psychology, are more difficult to measure directly. Much of our understanding of these fields must be inferred rather than directly measured. However, this is hardly unique in the world of hard science. A great deal of astronomical knowledge is inferred, including needing to deduce planetary compositions based on albedo and spectrographic analysis rather than directly analyzing a chunk. You are very correct in saying that empathy and intuition are far more important in Psychology than in many other fields, but these only provide starting points and directions. The true test is the same as for any other science: accuracy of predictions based on repeatedly tested theories resulting in very similar outcomes.

  8. Liam

    Essentially, I agree most with Ieuan. I believe that, much as the article states, the MBTI is best used as tool to facilitate greater introspective self-knowledge, far moreso than anything that can be reasonably applied in a professional context.

    I have found MBTI very helpful on a personal level, for example. My own type is INFP, and contrary to the views of some, I don’t believe it is possible for an individual’s type to change. I think the expression of their natural tendencies is liable to differ as they progress through life and react to their circumstances and environment, however the underlying tendencies, principles and cognitive processes that prompt the expression of those traits – call me deterministic, but I think they are more static, or at the very least are set early in life. It may not be true of everyone, and may not apply to certain individuals (ie genetic sociopaths) but when reflecting on my own experience it is certainly true of me, and considering certain negative stereotypes pertaining to the NF temperament particularly in a business context, I think it’s reasonable to say it’s more than just Forer effect.

    The problem with applying it in an organisational or professional context is not only its lack of scientific verification but also the fact that it is very limited. Quantifying humanity beyond a certain vague accuracy is impossible. MBTI is more than just a collection of four letters as it is based on Jungian cognitive function theory. In my experience it is strikingly accurate in a very broad sense. An individual’s type is more descriptive of how their mind works and how they process information more than anything else. Two individuals of the same type may share certain superficial similarities (and at times even similar quirks and or ideologies) but at the same time are profoundly different people. Type alone cannot encompass a person’s life experiences, personal history and individual variance.

    I fully believe that were my type to have been revealed to employers at some jobs I have worked at in the past then I would have been dropped from consideration, due to what I can only describe as ‘typism’. Many employers are conservative and want hard data and guaranteed return on investment, both in products and people, where possible – I appreciate that. However, I’m of the opinion that relying disproportionately on psychometric instruments as a predictor of productivity and contributions is tantamount to a pre-emptive disqualification of a large number of people who may be of a great help to a company or contribute in unforeseen ways. People are multifaceted creatures.

  9. Abigail

    The problem is that these tests aren’t accurate if they are not administered by a professional. Most of us have taken them online, so of course the results are going to vary.

  10. Dean Hallett

    There is as much scientific evidence for the MB test as there is for Freud’s – ie not much.They’re selling into a widespread desire – ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could categorise people by personality, you know, kinda scientifically?’ but as for rigorous testing; forget it. In 100 years, when Psychologists agree on how people work, then you might be able to measure something useful; until then, Corporations, save your money and spend it on the office party – something useful to the workforce – rather than this useless BS.

  11. John Price

    MB is a load of pointless twaddle. As noted above, it has only risen to prominence because it provides departments with a quantified outcome.

    Modern day equivalent of humorism.

  12. Anything that gives different answers on multiple tests needs to be called what it is: garbage. In this case it’s garbage designed to make 7 billion people believe they’re one of 16. Anyone or company that uses this is a joke. You may has well put 16 slips of paper in a hat and make new hires draw one. Hell, make it interesting and make everyone pick a new one everyday. Then someone actually gets one close to them once in a while.

  13. I have four reactions to this article:
    1. The title, as is so often the case in our media, is overly dramatic, although the article itself is balanced.
    2. If you look at innovations over the past several centuries, many of them came from ‘non-experts’ in the particular field. Even Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel Prize for economics. I have long admired the people who have connected the dots across disciplines to gain fresh insight and understanding. Such is the case with Meyers and Briggs, who took a normative concept from Jung’s work and developed it into highly reliable (see next comment) and valid (in my opinion), practical tool based on lots of empirical work (they tested their questions and interpretations on lots of people to make sure the instrument worked for real people).
    3. Re: the comment about the MBTI’s lack of reliability over time: I have taken it at various times over the past 25 years and although my preference for some of my borderline elements varies a little from time to time, the elements for which I have the highest preference have remained consistent over all those years. I used to be certified to conduct MBTI engagements and give feedback, and this was true for others as well.
    4. I am intrigued by the author’s comment about the MBTI couching all the feedback in positive terms. I am eager to read Stromberg’s and others’ work to learn more about that, its implications, and alternatives.

  14. Mr. McKibbon writes an opinion and extrapolates information from Psychology Today which is hardly considered by psychologists to be a valid, reliable source of research, rather congruent with People magazine. Citing Roman Krznaric, Dr. Ronald Rizzio, and Stromberg is okay, however, this writer de-emphasizes what these sources actually say about the MBTI. Hopefully, he had permission to do so.

    The MBTI is the oldest and most widely researched non-diagnostic instrument used to assess eight dichotomous personality constructs related that were and still are deemed useful in determining best work/career preferences. At the time of its inception our country was heading toward war (WWII) and had implemented the draft and therefore needed a way to assess and guide the remaining work force (women) to jobs that they would be most likely to remain successful with low injury or drop out.

    The MBTI assesses the psychological construct of interest which many authors have misguided readers into thinking that interest is a choice or character trait for individuals. In fact, it is a construct with astounding magnitude to the extent that there is no one instrument that can measure it, which is the point facto that psychologists actually advise/caution about. It has bearings on worker satisfaction, which is related to contentedness, but be cautious about equating these with “happiness” because “happiness” is
    different, usually circumstantial and short-termed.

    MBTI has had changing uses over the time for various reasons. I stopped using the instrument in the 90’s because of the “rubber stamping” conclusions at the time. However, after learning that CAPT had significantly changed and researched the premises of the instrument and had changed to allow for personality changes context to context and over time, I began using it again.

    It has tremendous use in helping illuminate personality differences amongst people in task-approach, listening analysis, communication style and energy differences.

    Collaboration is an altogether different construct than interest. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here and certainly not because Mr. McKibbon’s own INTEREST in collaboration, rather than interest.

  15. tylerh

    The main reason for variability in MBTI test results, in my opinion, is that the people conducting the tests, fail to properly inform the participants about what mind set they should have when testing. People should not be answering the questions with a view to what they aspire to, or what is most efficacious in their particular environment. If they can set those types of considerations aside, their answers and results will be much more consistent.
    Also, YES, it DOES point out that ALL types have positive things to offer. OF COURSE – that is the big epiphany! Some people may not be suited to their particular work environment, but the test helps people realize that they may be much better suited to a different environment. Every race, and every nationality and every person has something valuable to contribute, if they realize it, and develop it, and apply it in the right way and in the right arena or field. If you want to start telling people that they are just plain “no good” rather than telling them what they CAN offer, or what they are best suited to, then you have no business being in this business.

  16. Philip PM

    I took the MBTI twice while working within our NHS, on both occasions administered by an MB professional, and more recently as the CEO of an NHS Trust. The first occasion was on the introduction of general management to the NHS in the mid ’80s, when my boss was interested in discovering the personality types he’d just inherited as his new group of general managers.

    The second occasion was when we decided to take my Trust board away for an ‘away day’ in 1990, and used the MBTI as much for fun as for anything more serious. I was fascinated to see that the ten folks who participated all came out very much true to type as I would have expected from knowing them and working with them.

    For example, the non-executive directors, appointed by the Health Secretary and mainly from the business sector, sat towards the ‘harder’ business end of the board, while my chairman and I were juxtaposed in the middle in a very good relationship to reflect our roles. My executive colleagues (medical, nursing, finance and HR directors) were progressively strung out towards the ‘softer’ public service end of the spectrum.

    I’m not an expert in this field, and we were certainly not intent on using the MBTI in any formal sense or on a continuing basis, but it was very interesting and enjoyable to capture this little ‘snapshot’ of our team and how we functioned. Whether the test was strictly necessary of provided any further information over what we already knew of sensed, I can’t comment. However, I’ve always kept my own results, if only to remind myself of my extrovert Welsh personality!

  17. Ruth Anne

    I have taken it myself and administered by a professional, and every time I get the same result. I have to say it is spot on and really helped me understand why I do some things I do. I also understand why I need time to myself and how I work best since I took the test, and it was a relief to consider that I am an introvert who needs that alone time to recharge, even though I enjoy people and am happy to help them. It hit spot on my spouse and all three kids (the kids had them done by a professional) and pretty much anyone else I know who took it. We took it as part of our education and counseling courses as well, so that was more confirmation to me since it was spot on for all the other students.

    As for astrology, my birth chart describes me exactly as well, so what can I say? Balderdash? Maybe, so I don’t care either way since that also helped me gain a bit of insight about myself. And yes, I veer toward science over anecdotes, but I’m flexible enough to acknowledge when something is wrong or totally correct.

    As for using it in groups, I think it can be helpful and it really helps me to know the MBTI so I can approach the person in a constructive way. I wouldn’t use that exclusively, though, since I have seen results for some people change a bit as they mature and get to know themselves better. Sometimes people don’t want to choose answers that don’t seem acceptable to them for some reason, so as they mature a bit they may become more self-aware. So yes, I really do think it’s pretty accurate, and it has helped me structure groups up to a point. I do think sometimes the challenge of working outside our comfort zones is important, so I wouldn’t structure the group so everyone is totally unchallenged. It makes a good starting point, but not the absolute guide in my view.

  18. DavidP

    MBTI is based on Jung’s theory of personality and is designed to measure the characteristics that Jung regarded as the four key dimensions of personality. However, large scale academic research into personality, using factor analysis to identify the traits that combine together to determine our personalities, and that are distinct and independent from each other, has identified five factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), and people are distributed normally along the two extremes (so most cluster around the middle), rather than their being a bi-modal distribution (as MBTI suggests) where you are either one end or the other.

    Furthermore, there are negatives associated with being at one or both extremes – you may want people to be Open to new ideas, so being at the closed end of the scale would be very negative, but someone who is constantly seeking out novelty for novelty’s sake would be real pain as well. Extremes on the neuroticism scale range from being over-emotional to being unemotional. Understanding your own personality is valuable, but I only see value in a personality inventory that is research-based (like the five factor model) rather than one designed to reflect a theory developed in the early part of the 20th century. Just as many (most?) of Freud’s theories have proven to be erroneous as we get to see how the brain actually works, I have little faith in his rebellious disciple’s theories of personality.

  19. Bob

    One should avoid, like the plague, any company that uses a personality test to understand their employees in place of actually taking the time to talk to them. People that deal with this are usually the ones that get used and abused by their employer.

  20. Howard

    The most it can do is reveal that different people approach things differently. However, at the age of 52 I had already figured that out a while ago…

  21. I took the MBTI about 10 years ago and found it amazing and very useful info for myself and for my staff. I attended the required training to qualify to administer it to others. it requires one spend time with the participant so that the results are clear and belong to the participant confidentially. If the type is shared it is done with this in mind, that being understood much can be gained in growth. by the individual and the group.

  22. col

    It is obvious to me that you have not thoroughly researched the MBTI. It’s uses go well beyond the corporate environment. If you are well trained in the instrument you will realize that it should not be used to put people in a box. Although it is the most well-researched and validated self-report instrument available, it allows for some variation in passage of time and self report accuracy. It was never intended to be a “you’re okay, I’m okay” tool. It is very helpful in understanding how you express yourself, energize yourself, gather information, make decisions and operate in the world. It also provides insight into what unhealthy tendencies you should be aware of and how you relate to others and yourself. Understanding how your shadow, etc. works can help you to avoid the self-destructive loop you tend to experience.

    In the corporate environment it should be used to help individuals understand and appreciate the differences and value of other’s types and processing. This may or may not be accepted by all but it is a start in reducing conflict.

    Obviously there are many people who abuse and generalize it’s uses. Being an advocate for the MBTI is not the same as promoting all of Jung’s theories. My experience is that psychologists have a tendency to lock on to the flavor of the month. The MBTI has stood the test of time and used in the right way is a valuable tool in many environments.

  23. Qubie

    Leave it to man’s self-importance that they actually delude themselves into believing they can quantify and classify the complexities associated wth a given huiman being. All these tests do is provide an excuse for untalented managers to subjugate their subordinates by using “broad-stroke” classifications as a means to dminish a person’s worth. THESE TEST SUCK and AMERICA REALLY SUCKS. Led by a bunch of sociopaths. If you’re not the 1%, submit to this testing… it’s your destiny. Slaves.

  24. Jessamyn

    Dear Mr. McKibbin-
    I love the Myers Briggs- it has been an amazing tool for me in deciding on my career journey. I agree that its strength is in self-reflection, but find it a very useful tool in understanding group dynamics.

    Despite my allegiance to the MBTI I was willing to take your test to discover if I was indeed a dinosaur, socialite or executive and found that your quiz referenced Google Reader – which has been defunct for quite sometime. This reference made your test and article seem unreliable and outdated. Also there was no way to receive my result, so I am left wondering who I am, in relation to your company’s list of qualities that make a person a dinosaur, socialite or executive.

    I write not to add to the noise, but to offer some feedback for improvement.


    • Adam McKibbin

      Thanks for your comment, Jessamyn. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with MBTI. It’s been very interesting to read the diverse experiences and opinions in this comment section.

      We had a glitch with our quiz tool that was preventing results from being seen; that should be resolved now. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We pruned Google Reader from the quiz while we were at it; that quiz, as you rightly suspected, was written a while ago (and certainly not intended to be a proper competitor to MBTI).

      Best wishes,

  25. MBTI is the modern equivalent to alchemy or theories of demon possession. There is zero scientific rigor and no predictability. That people can talk to each other based on MBTI is only an artifact of MBTI codifying “folk wisdom”. “Intuition” exists of course. But folk wisdom is not science, and I don’t go to a witch doctor when my child is ill.

    The idea that corporations embed such hooey in efforts to build collaboration is either laughable or terrifying. And rather revealing that too often HR means little except keeping the masses quiet.

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a day of team building (“Team is an acronym meaning ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’, and don’t forget there’s no ‘I’ in team . . .”). But why not base it on science? Because many managers are just plain incompetent. I’m not (yet) a CEO; but one of my first acts will be to fire all senior executives who ever sponsored an MBTI event.

    Senior executives are paid a lot of money — to know the difference between science and mysticism. Management doesn’t achieve anything by magic. As for the actual content of MBTI, read up on the background and scientific assessment. MBTI has zero value as science; I mean serious, based on Karl Jung and archetypes?

    • David

      There’s _everything_ wrong with a day of team building if it’s overseen by pantstains who say things like: “Team is an acronym meaning ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’, and don’t forget there’s no ‘I’ in team . . .”.

      ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team…’ – there’s an excellent suicide response to that, but I don’t think they’d allow me to post it here.

      (‘No, but there’s a ‘U’ in DELETED’ – there’s no way they’d tolerate that, is there?)

  26. Jon B

    I have taken these sorts of inventories before. They seem to me to be born of two desires: To simplify the categorization of people into a manageable number of “types”, and to exert subtle (and not so subtle, i.e. You’re a Dinosaur”) pressure on people to conform to a simplified way of being.

    I can understand that they are useful, especially for people who are not generally self-obsessed, because they help people to think about what sort of people they are, and also because is a very shallow way, they can point out the things about a person that would be obvious to anyone else, but a person may not recognize in themself.

    That employers would use such weak tools for selection and promotion of employees is not surprising to me, since we all want to be absolved of the cruelty and unfairness that others see in our arbitrary actions. So we base our decisions on “scientific” methods. Then we are absolved of responsibility. Along with that, there is the collateral benefit of feeling that we have used “science” to make our selections, which are mostly a shot in the dark otherwise, so we can be confident we have hit the target.

    I can understand this. It is like casting lots, or reading horoscopes, or wearing your lucky socks to the interview. People trust things like that. So with all of these personality inventories.

    Since you have combined basic human wickedness (to make decisions which are life-altering for other people, while absolving those who make the decisions of responsibility) with basic human superstition (trusting in a personality inventory or a lucky rabbits foot), you should have a very marketable product, So it is.

    The problem with these methods is that to the extent they are valid, they apply to the middle of the distribution. They really don’t fit outliers. So it is probably OK for selecting associates for retail sales, where you just want a pleasant person who is reasonably tidy. And no great injustice is done by a completely arbitrary selection method. And on a cold call interview, they probably do help to weed out the outliers.

    But most things which people view as significant advances or developments have been and will result from the efforts of outliers. Extreme people. For example, if you are developing electrical machines, you want someone like Tesla, who can visualize polyphase AC fields in his head. And you don’t care about his personality “type” which is a bit odd. You figure out how to deal with it. (that is called management).

    In addition to being pointless, the little tests are designed for the middle, and they tend to produce strange and inconsistent results for the people on the extremes.

    An example of how the tests are designed for the middle is the left-brain/right brain tests. It seems to me obvious that there are two correct answers to each question, and one could be described as symbolic, while the other could be described as pragmatic. Seeing the two correct answers, each with equal weight, I can direct the test to be exactly “centered” by alternating which equally correct answer I choose. Or I can be extremely right or left brained by simply choosing one type of answer or the other. It seems odd to me other people don’t see the test this way. With regard to that sort of thing, I am an outlier. I picked this because it is a simple example of what I am describing. People who are at the extremes of capabilities tend not to fit the tests.

    On a personal level, I like these extreme people. They are interesting.

    • I think if you do enough of these tests ( or take them multiple times) you end up bringing your knowledge of how you fared in the previous tests into your responses. You try to confirm what has already been said about you and start conforming to the pre-set expectations.

      I cannot believe that anyone would use these tests for anything more than reflecting on the various types that can exist, the various ways different people can react to the same situation and how importantly the same person can react to the same situation at different times.

      I coincidentally just wrote about my own experiences with these tests.

  27. Cerberos

    I took it whilst applying for a civil service post in 2010.

    I was an ambitious leader, a good team player; well balanced and non-impulsive

    I took it two years later applying for a job with another organisation.

    I lacked ambition, preferred working alone and tended to get irritated and stressed by difficult situations.

    So here I am still in my old job leading an armed response team……..(?)

  28. I was introduced to MBTI in the early 1990’s during a facilitated Strategic Planning day for a small team in a service-oriented organization. None of us were friends; we didn’t particularly enjoy working together and we were having difficulties figuring out how to move forward with less staff and new technology.

    When we received our reports and shared them with each other, the facilitator asked if we agreed with our type. My co-workers agreed with theirs; I didn’t agree with mine. I remember them trying to show me how it was right, but the more we talked the more they understood my position and stopped trying to make me accept the MBTI type from the report.

    The best part of that Strategic Planning day was the time we took to share our MBTI results. It didn’t matter whether we agreed or disagreed; we knew more about each other and how to work together. We trusted each other more. That trust allowed us to work together to solve problems and serve our customers. It even helped us figure out who should take on some of the tasks that weren’t in anyone’s job description.

    After the Strategic Planning day, I found and did what I thought was the MBTI. What I really took was the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS). The results I received from that assessment resonated so strongly for me that asked my co-workers to take it, too. They received similar results as their MBTI. We really enjoyed comparing our reports and figuring out what fit and what didn’t. Our conversations focused on what we each needed for a healthy work environment and how we could give each other what we needed.

    I studied all the other KTS temperaments, used it informally in the workplace, and finally did a certification. Now I use the KTS along with other assessment tools (such as, Everything DiSC; Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team; StrenghtsFinders; Leadership Practices Inventory) to help people improve their interpersonal communications in the workplace.

    These personality and behavioural assessment tools, and others like them, are useful as a starting point for dialogue.. Take as many of these assessments as you like to build your self-awareness; but, always ask others if they agree with their results before deciding who they are, what they need and how you should treat them.

    And if someone says they don’t believe in all these assessments, that okay, too. The important thing is to talk about how you can work together to do the ‘stuff’ you’re being paid to do.

  29. Jeremiah cole

    Myers Briggs changed my life for the better, not only in my work, but in my family life as well.

    When I first encountered MB, I was highly skeptical, as I am about most new things I encounter. (Turned out that my skepticism was a function of my MB type!) The test was administered by a psychologist who had been trained in its use, and was given to the company’s executive staff – a very talented, high-performing group of strong personalities. There were the usual kinds of different points of view among the group, and some of us didn’t like each other particularly well.

    Each of us was given his/her own results and then the psychologist explained each of the four paired MB aspects, and each of the 16 resulting “types”. She then gave us each a copy of “Please Understand Me”, Keirsey’s book on MB. Our assignment was to read the book and think about what we thought of MB and whether our “type” did or did not “fit” us. There was no pressure to accept the concept or to accept one’s type.

    I was thunderstruck. It was as if the description of my “type” (INTP) had been written specifically with me in mind: my management style, how I behaved at social functions, the way I played sports, my writing and speaking styles, my choice of friends, my skepticism, my values, even the way I DROVE.

    The next week, executive staff met to discuss MB. Out of 15 people only one didn’t think her “type” was a fit. More than half were like me in being amazed at the accuracy of the typing, the rest weren’t quite as excited, but were definite in their agreement with how they were typed. (Revealing your type was optional, but I think everone did so.)

    Almost immediately, some of the differences between individuals in work matters were seen as differences in “type”. That didn’t make the differences go away, but it did make it easier to later reach agreement. One particular difference I remember was between the Ps and the Js. Ps like me wanted certain decisions put off until the group involved knew more, while the Js felt the need to make the decisions and move on. Both sides thought the other side’s position was irresponsible, and the discussions had been somewhat heated. In light of what we learned from MB, the differences became more understandable, and each side showed more respect for the other’s position, making resolution easier.

    If I have the time later, I’ll write about my family’s experience with MB, and how it brought me and my daughter closer together.

  30. HH

    These tests are just another way to pigeonhole people, and make them targets for discrimination by bosses who think they need a particular personality type. Businesses are not psychiatrists, and shouldn’t even be ALLOWED to administer tests like this to staff.

    When asked to take such tests, I look for another job.

    • Keith

      actually its a helpful tool for understanding ways that other people perceive and process information. if an organization tries to use it without understanding that, then they might “pigeon hole” some folks. but realistically most organizations are more focused on understanding their members to achieve better performance/synergy, than they are focused on pigeon-holing people.

      to be honest the world usually doesn’t care to expend pointless energy confining individual people (you or me) for no reason. most of the time when something offends you, it really has nothing to do with you in particular. enjoy life!

  31. Wow, many interesting and diverse opinions here! As a communication / business skills skills trainer and consultant for 20 years, I’ve come across many such instruments either first hand (as a deliverer), as a candidate in the selection process, or through conversations with professionals about their experiences of them (good, bad, and ugly). I also studied psychometrics during as part of my Masters degree: and developed a healthy scepticism about the usefulness of many of them in an occupational context.

    My take is this: the empirical validity of even the most famous psychometric instruments is highly questionable: and, to compound matters, they are often delivered by professionals who aren’t qualified or experienced in ‘positioning’ them with an audience. I’ve heard some horror stories about psychologists beating people up with their ‘profile’: and doing more harm than good for their profession. I agree with many contributors in that any type of psychometric instrument should only ever be used as an awareness-building tool (self / others / human dynamics): and in safe, non-judgmental hands. There are many instruments out there which are poorly designed, used recklessly, and are about as useful as reading someone’s tea leaves to assess their personality type.

    Of course, this brings into question the integrity of the ‘science’ behind the psychometric testing industry: and, of course, the massive financial interests behind promoting the idea to the corporate world. For those who are psycho-junkies, the Emperor’s New Suit phenomenon comes to mind: and for managers / recruiters there is also a more disturbing trend of falling back on the tests to avoid taking personal responsibility for their decisions or judgement.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

  32. norm

    If a company needs a tool to discover your talents, they may have a problem on their hands bigger than the scale itself. Not only was it developed in a different era, without business in mind, but the fact that we all hold jobs for less time with generally more dissatisfaction than we used to, before these sort of tools made their way into the workplace, points to the data-driven model of employment as a poor substitute for humanist approach. Look at all the CEOs who last a short time. And those are chosen with the greatest of attention. Still, do they actually talk to the guy/gal to see their passion, before deciding he or she could be bought with enough money…which they will?

  33. Barbara Kafka

    The MB indicator was intended to help promote peace in the world by understanding the preferences you were born with and understanding that others may have different preferences, you can work with others and not think you are the one that is right.

  34. Richard

    MBTI is 20th century astrology and no more meaningful than the horoscopes published in the newspaper.

    If you administered the test to 16 people, and distributed the MB types randomly to the test subjects without bothering to actually score the tests, most of the subjects would claim that the description was accurate.

  35. Mary

    I’ve been an infj since the age of 10. I was always heartbroken hat I wasn’t infp because that’s the personality type of every author ever, and us infjs have only got frodo and Buddha.

  36. Judith Topol

    Author alleges that Carl Jung’s ideas are “outdated”…? First of all, if anyone had told Carl Jung that his Tavistock Lectures would be expanded into a corporate hiring test, he would have laughed his ass off (in my humble opinion). Meyer’s-Briggs may have originated in Jungian theory, but it was developed at an American University, and as far as I know…without the specific authorization of Carl Jung himself. For anyone interested in how their colleagues process information, it is incredibly insightful and not at all intrusive in any case. Not is it a “label” type thing. As far as its being a corporate model, hmm. Not sure about that one. Eerything becomes corrupupted when money’s involved somewhere.

  37. Jack

    I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test many times and EVERY time I come up as an INTJ. I fit the INTJ profile like a glove. However, on the site where I took it, each of the four main attributes were reported as strongly expressed, moderately expressed or mildly expressed. For SOME people such as myself, they’re all strongly expressed, but for others one or more attributes can be only mildly expressed. This explains why some people can take the test again weeks later and get a different result. This makes perfect sense because it’s unrealistic to think that EVERYONE in the entire world can be slotted into 16 different personality types. Hence, in order for the test to have any real value, it’s important to make note of how the strongly four main attributes are expressed for each person who takes it!

  38. Tim

    Personally, I’ve taken the test 5 times over 10 years, both professionally administered and through the self-options you can find online. Each has returned the same result, and in follow up reading, I agree with a majority of my associated type descriptions. It’s pretty safe to say I am closely associated with the general tendencies of an INTJ. From a personal perspective, this can certainly be used for introspective analysis of how you react in situations, but also for a personal understanding of how you are perceived by others and can lead to positive improvement in your relationships. If used in a team environment – say at a retreat with coworkers – it can have a very entertaining and positive effect on team dynamics as a fun way to illustrate that interpersonal relationships are varied and that simply recognizing the varied strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of those you interact with can lead to more positive outcomes. However, if any HR department uses this as a primary driver of who they hire – run.

  39. Adrian Green

    I’ve taken the test in different contexts – once on a business management training course and once as a psychology student during a normalisation exercise – and the results were completely different, which brought me to the conclusion that any discussion of the results was only helpful if context is taken into consideration. People react differently in different roles.

  40. karen

    A very accurate test indeed.

    I think the tests should be shared with coworkers with their permission.

    The reason: coworkers are not always understanding of each other. By knowing what the personality type the co worker fits in, they may have some more empathy, understanding and respect for their coworkers.

    For example…The quiet thinker may come across as being antisocial etc and can have hostility directed at them by coworkers for example.

    People should respect each other first off but using the test in this way, may help avoid some office conflict which unfortunately is a big deal in the workplace.

  41. Deb

    It’s simple. the best employees are fast-walkers and first-borns. In that order. Watch their walking speed and its gold. You’re welcome.

  42. Patrick

    MBTI was developed originally to help understand the nature of serious personality disorders. Most people sit pretty close to the cross-hairs on the four binary dimensions, and which side they fall may well vary with mood etc. (and obviously, in a recruitment context, deliberate attempts to conform to an assumed ‘preferred’ personality type for the job).

    Having said that, simply doing the test and going through the results can be helpful in making you think about the impact of your own and of other people’s personalities on behaviour. An awareness of the possibility and nature of psychological differences between people is no bad thing in navigating the workplace, or indeed life.

    But unless the requirements of the job are particularly extreme or the candidate has a significant psychopathology, it is unfair to use Myers Briggs in informing decisions about hiring and promotion.

  43. RSFischer

    Meyers-Briggs is a joke. Buyers of the test and takers of the test are fed a party line about how it is interlarded with questions designed to expose someone trying to “game” the test, but it’s all, to borrow a useful word from one of the commenters above, and bunch of twaddle.

    I know because I gamed the test so successfully on two different occasions when up for promotion to jobs that, according to M-B orthodoxy, called for almost completely opposite types, that on each occasion I tested as a perfect match (and won the promotion).

    The results were so striking that during my last week at this company the head of HR asked me into her office to express her amazement at both the accuracy with which my results matched what the respective jobs called for, and at the fact that one person could, over a period of about 3 years, have their personality evolve into its near complete opposite. I feigned a degree of amazement myself and offered up some half-baked “explanations” about learning on the job and about giving a lot of thought to the demands of the two jobs which maybe, in an unconscious way, influenced my choice of answers.

    Of course the real answer is that, notwithstanding those claims about it not being gameable, the test really is as simple and straightforward as it looks. Trying for a job in sales? Then how do you think you should answer “On a long bus ride, would you rather a) look out the window at the scenery, or b) talk to the person seated next to you? Right. That’s about the level of sophistication in the M-B test. Very typical of American business culture, to trust a ridiculously crude “system” instead of trusting one’s own perceptions.

  44. Vern

    Administering the test is one thing.

    Working at a company that faces the reality the tests reveal is another.

    When we tested my boss clearly was the team leader. His boss, not so much,

    But we continue the charade.

  45. john ledbury

    Any scientifically validated test has to be better than the interview. Psychologists describe the interview as ‘dogs sniffing each other’. All you can tell from an interview is whether I like this person or not. Very few jobs require the skill of ‘being interviewed’, yet every job hides behind this absurd ritual. The interview is an open invitation to every interviewer’s prejudices, acknowledged and unacknowledged.
    The best indicator of future performance is past performance, which is found from cv and references, not from whether you ‘hit it off’ with the interviewee.
    I wouldn’t use MB, but there are many scientifically crafted psychometric tests out there available to folk with BPS recognition

  46. I have enjoyed reading this article and the comments, just finished with university I have struggled with these “frameworks” that label individuals and give others an unwritten right to know your personal and work life situations.

  47. Xenophanes

    Sometime before I retired, my employer offered us the ‘opportunity’ to take the MBTI. It was completely voluntary, and they were quite ethical about it as the results were only given to the participants. My results were so close to the middle that I figured the letter results were meaningless–an answer of two different would change the letter. I, of course, interpret this as meaning that I am a very comprehensive person, able to empathize with all sorts of attitudes and viewpoints. I really don’t really register a preference on their scales.

    Now, they had a nice young woman from personnel who had some training in the test. I read over the material given and could not come up with any logical basis for the categories. I could not see that the different scales were at all contradictory, nor could I see why I had to have a preference for one or the other. Of course, I was smart enough to be able to see what many of the alternatives were trying to get at (you may have already noticed how modest I am!). Anyway, I asked the nice young woman with the training how Myers-Briggs arrived at the categories they used, and she simply did not know and so could not tell me.

    I must say that many of my colleagues thought the results were very useful. But in my estimation, the MBTI is not scientific though I agree that it may be a tool for self-reflection, to think about how we react to various people and situations. But then, so can astrology be such a tool, though it unfortunately encourages superstition.

    Oh well, it did get us away from the daily grind of turning out pensions and offered an opportunity to socialize in a different setting and to discuss the various results.

  48. N. Barnett

    I always thought “actionable” meant anything that was liable to get you into a court action.

    Do you mean “possible?” If so, say so rather than using an ambiguous word to sound as though you are erudite.

  49. Susan

    Well first off the author calling it a “test” mustn’t understand what it is. When you take and are certified to administer MBTI you are told it is NOT a test. Its a type indicator that can only be validated by the individual participating. Before you get the outcome from the questions you must first review the dimensions of type and determine which seems most like you in your daily interactions from there you determine your own type and then review how you answered the questions to self determine your type. When I received my initial type I didn’t agree but after detailed self assessment I understand that it is my type and it has helped me tailor my personal and work communications for years. I am familiar with many assessments and personality tests in my line of work and MBTI is one of the absolute best for self development and communication I have seen.

  50. Richard

    MB is tool. Any tool can be used well or not. Our brains process information and our emotional reactions to information in search of recognizing patterns that we believe make sense of our world and provide us a guide for how we think our relationships will work. MB, in the business world is just a tool to be used to help us think about whether or not there is a good or bad chance that a new hire will enhance the workplace community. This tool is never the problem. How people use the MB is the problem.

  51. John

    I’m an ENTJ who would like to see the MB types of those that voted and how they voted. My vote was “absolutely” and then reconsidered it to be the not sure category. I have never taken the test for employment because people who have not attended high school are straight write offs for those with college degrees and the authority of hiring. Took a lengthy aptitude test to discover my traits for being a skilled tradesman were only 8% similar to those who were tradesmen and a 97% likeness to lawyers. Thank god the circumstances of being uneducated decided for me to become a skilled tradesman. Later to be self employed in my trade and quite financially successful. The TJ was a total waste as an employee but pure gold as an employer. There seems to be much about this MB theory that works but in my experience Emotional Intelligence and self esteem are better for predicting potential. See Brave New World for an update on how to manage the classes.

  52. Wolf

    Ha ha ha ha! This is nothing more than an advertisement. Use our test over theres, its so flawed but ours is not. Puhlease.

  53. Graham

    Sometimes tests which do have valid evidence behind them are misunderstood because they are about likelihood rather than absolute predictions of probability. I have unfortunately, heard of an instance when the test has been (mis)sed by a personnel dept to decide who to sack.

  54. Given many, if not most, business owners and CEO score as psychopaths in any responsible evaluation (,, and and certainly anyone in financial services today would be laboring in support of psychopathy in their peers and management, the use of MB becomes ridiculous on its face. If you are hiring someone to be only a square peg in a square hole never to deviate from that role, that might be one thing (though to do so would be insane in the modern fluid, dynamic, and mobile world). If, however, you are looking for someone to eventually promote, you are looking for someone who routinely puts their own interests above all others, whose emotional relationships are shallow and easily mutable to changing self-interest, is narcissistic (over-values themselves in relation to others), greedy, favors competition over cooperation, and can rationalize cheating to get ahead. The problem with MB in that regard is that what upper management claims that are looking for as traits in that situation are the polar oppositie of what they can safely advertise they are looking for.

  55. Bradley Ross

    I have known many people whose scores on the Myers Briggs test differed radically from what they expected their scores to be. Almost all of these believed that their decisions were based on reason and logic while the test indicated that their scores were based on emotion. Most of these people believed that there was something wrong with the test, which would be logical for somebody basing their decisions on emotion. To everybody else, it had been obvious from the start that their decisions were based on emotion. A few people realized that the tests were more accurate than their opinion, and became more successful because they were able to change their behavior.

    Will Rogers once said that it wasn’t what you didn’t know that hurt you. It was what you knew but wasn’t so. The main use of Myers Briggs is to indicate what isn’t so.

    By the way, I have had different indications on different versions of the Myers Briggs test. It’s value is in gross characterizations, not in determining fine detail.

  56. Chris McCleary

    “Knowing what Myers-Briggs type you are — and, crucially, knowing the types of your other team members — can be a great help in getting past those communication roadblocks on your projects,” says longtime business analyst Tim Walker.

    Exactly! In the mid-80s I was part of a group of product development scientists in the food industry. I truly believe that we all benefited personally from understanding our Myers Briggs type and its relationship to other types in our group. To this day we jokingly catcall other group members, and we all get a good laugh. Mercifully no one in HR or any other function attempted to use (or misuse) the test as some kind of corporate strategy.

    And, by the way, several of us were one type, and we were as different as could be in almost every respect.

  57. Richard

    I have been involved with the Myers-Briggs for over 25 years. Before I retired I was a manager of a small group of management analysts. I used this to help me set up teams that would encompass the full spectrum of personality types I believed would help solve the problem at hand. Is it an invasion of personality rights? Yes! Can it help in team building? Yes. Every team needs a balance of extroverts and introverts to get the best solution. The number of each depending on how the results are to be published, whether by oral presentation or written reports. I do understand the frustration, but you need to take this test more than once and not be afraid of how it classifies you. Their are no bad personality types just different personality types. Embrace yours and find out where you are weak to enhance your self-improvement options. I even had my wife take the test so we could find out why we had so many misunderstandings. We found out why, and that helped each of us understand where the other is coming from. Key ingredient in building great team relationships. I’m 72 now and don’t care much anymore, but that is my personality type.

  58. Kathleen Howes

    40+ years in corporate training here. MBTI is useless in recruitment, but useful for teams and self-knowledge.

    Drop any pretense of “science” and present it as a way to learn more about preferences. I have also found people who dismiss it often use the “unscientific” charge to retain power by avoiding giving others information about themselves.

    Think of all the other “unscientific” information people in the workplace absorb and use: corporate reports, performance feedback that is not validated by data, gossip, and the “quick read” customer-facing persons use to assess how to advance a sale.

  59. Christy

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I am not seeing much about the actual test. For one thing, I think that most settings like those described use the abbreviated version, the Keirsey- Bates sorter. Years ago when I was first acquainted with both these tests, I did some reading, and I seem to remember there WERE validation studies done on the MBTI. However, it is a tool with specific purposes (you wouldn’t use a hammer as a screwdriver.) I imagine it would be of little use in most clinical settings. On the other hand, I have heard of people using the MMPI for hiring, which probably would mostly only rule people out, not tell you anything about their fit for the job.) It did help me with self- understanding (as many have said) and also helped quite a bit in lessening marital strife. It has also helped me facilitate relationships and effectiveness in work settings- understanding others’ frameworks. I would think its usefulness in hiring would depend on the job. One’s personality and temperament can have peripheral importance- or major. (engineer, or sales) (But I would NEVER include this information in a resume! Witness the withering critiques here!) I read an interesting discussion recently in the Atlantic about uses of “big data” in work settings, and that is probably a much better management tool- but likely not for team-building. I certainly wish this article were much better framed in what it is talking about, but then I suppose you would not elicit all the fun vituperation.

  60. Tim Savidge

    Think of these tests offering at best the illumination of a 5 watt light bulb and not a laser beam; a bit like a good interview.

    The ‘science’ behind it is interesting to a point but it is a tool that depends on the interpreter using the information skilfully and with care. Rarely this is the case so in my view the value is questionable.

    Personality type questionnaires rely upon the subject answering questions about him/herself so out conclusions are not built upon the firmest of foundations. Some of us are simply not very self aware. Secondly many of these exercises are forced-choice tests and while the results may show a learning for a particular style they do not mean the subject is incapable of applying him/herself to styles or behaviours that are not their preferred way. It also follows that just because a person has a leaning to one course of behaviour or type that it means they are very good.

    In my opinion these tests can be useful tools for encouraging self awareness but should rarely be used as part of the selection process. Tests that sum people up as a ABCD or a Blue, Green Red etc should be treated with huge caution. I agree with the comments here that the behaviour and practice of HR practitioners often border on professional negligence.

    Like many things, the root of this is money. Commercial opportunities appeared to bring psychology into the workplace and HR folk some gullible, some looking to stretch the boundaries of their professional knowledge became willing adopters. In an attempt to become recognised as a serious profession, they excluded any challengers who wished to question the validity and appropriateness of these tests. What remains, and it is shame that it has become this, is little more than witchcraft for the weak minded.

    I have no axe to grind with HR practitioners – sorry ‘professionals’ as I am one too. I am just honest enough to acknowledge the limitations and misuse that these tests offer in the workplace.

  61. Jocelyn

    The MBTI was never intended to be used to determine someone’s potential as a leader, or to create the perfect team, or to label someone for life. It is, and only is, a tool to determine one’s preference for a personality type. Just because someone prefers to re-energize by seeking solitude after a day of being around people (Introvert or I) does not mean they don’t enjoy being around people. And if someone re-energizes by being around people (Extrovert or E) they will eventually need to find a place to be alone. It’s similar to being right handed or left handed. Just because someone is left handed doesn’t mean they can’t use their right and vice versa. I am a clear Introvert (I re-energize by being alone) whose days are spent working with people, sometimes lots of people. And I love my work. When pseudo practitioners use the Myers Briggs and other assessments to make dubious claims (“You can’t marry that man, he is your opposite type!” “We can’t hire her because she is a Thinker and we’re all Feelers!”), then that is when assessments do harm. I’m certified to administer and interpret the Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessment, but I never administer it if its ultimate use is for hiring/firing decisions or other life changing events. However, for engaging a team, fostering better communication between team members, or just becoming more self aware and accepting of oneself and others, I find the MBTI assessment invaluable.

  62. Steve

    Paraphrasing George E. P. Box, “all models are wrong, some models are useful”. I found Myers-Briggs to be useful and wrong.

  63. AJ

    The central premise of the article is fallacious: MBTI is not and has never been a personality test or indicator. It has nothing to do with personality. It is about temperament, something observed regarding Human nature since the time of Socrates. Personality is irrelevant, so making his claim based on this faulty central premise is logical fallacy.

  64. midori

    It’s really an attempt to monetize Jung’s Typology, and also misunderstands it’s source; i.e. to create “Feeling” and “Judging” as types misunderstands that Jung’s “Feeling Type” IS a judging type. Forget MB and go read Jung then judge for yourself as to whether even that system has validity.

  65. Reginald Grolimund

    When I took the MBTI, I expressed the opinion that it would be more interesting to plot the changes over time of the results of repeated testing. I described this as an orbit in phase space ( A plot of each variable and it’s time derivative)
    There are 8 axes in MBTI so this would be a sixteen dimensional plot. The HR people running the course seemed to have difficulty understanding this concept, but one of them later talked to me about people flexing their type in response to varying situations

  66. Andrew Redman

    I am 79 and retired from two careers, one being senior HR. When I entered the field, the ratio was 80-20% male dominated. It took time for the profession to gain executive line acceptance and required a sound business grounding and solid people support. A generation ago, the ratio changed 180 degrees and became dominated by people who did as they were told and paid much less. People became commodities.
    I was an MBTI Administrator and taught two essential lessons. The first was to study your “areas for improvement”. This encouraged individuals to focus less on who they were but more on who they could become. Second was assisting management to understand the dynamics of their own organizational structure and bottlenecks. This very occasionally required a change in structure but did enable the players to work through the differences in colleagues style and defences.
    For me, MBTI is still a good instrument notwithstanding that one or two different psychological instruments may have evolved that are more valid today.
    I agree that interviewing too often has little value. When conducted, it should be done by three different people in three different places and with three different focusses.. The outcomes should be weighted and then evaluated. Does this happen to the interviewers? In most cases, I suggest, rarely. Retired Canadian certified CHRP.

  67. EnglishAthena

    You can come out as an extravert, and then someone says you’re actually quite shy. And the reply is “That’s the shadow side” In other words, if it comes out as the opposite of the reality, that’s ok too! I took it once many years ago. It’s nonsense.

  68. Jim

    I’ve used the results as a suggestion to pair up 6 people into three groups to work together to prepare a presentation. This seemed to work perfect as I did not know any history of the people I needed to work with.
    It also seems to me if you tell someone they have a knack or special skill for something, they’ll be more likely to prove you right providing the knack is something positive.

  69. SteveP

    I’ve taken the MBTI many times and always scored very similarly. I do think results will differ depending on circumstances or location (work/home/on holiday) for some less-strong personalities. I also used the MBTI to understand my college students better and it was helpful in identifying many who might have problems with academic life. However, as I became a more experienced educator, I could identify these without testing (it does take time).

    I think the MBTI is very useful for interpreting individuals but should not be used to predict behaviour. Of course, this is the quick-fix that corporate users are looking for – they want a sort of “team recipe” they can plug & play. Doesn’t work that way.

  70. SteveR

    Why did the designers of this site choose gray type for the body copy?
    It reduces contrast, and thus, readability.

    (Yes, I’m aware of the Reader option in my browser.)

  71. Michael

    The first problem with this article is that MBTI is not a test-it is a assessment-very important distinction. It is also not the be all and end all but a good piece of data to help produce teams that will probably work better after understanding there differences. As far as scientific reliability please show me what specifically you have found that disputes its results?

  72. I compared 9 personality assessment questionnaires and found that the MBTI is the least likely to change with adult age. All other assessment have a motivational component, which when tested using sentences with varied degrees of humor, show systematic age dependence. MBTI offers choices purely between Externalizing and Internalizing insecurity (aggression vs. fear).

  73. Simon

    The problem with all these sorts of tests is that anybody with more sense than say, a field mouse, can easily skew the result towards whatever type of personality they deem it would be useful to appear to have. It’s like the old Rorschach ink-blot tests. If your liberty was at stake, of course you’d always say “fluffy clouds” or “pretty flowers”; even if it really, really looked like a naked woman lying in a pool of blood.

  74. The MBTI instrument is not a test it as measurement of expressed PREFERENCES at a specific point in time , The problem is organizations do not understand this and tend to misuse it and completely misinterpret the results.

  75. Hold Back This Day

    IQ tests are more revealing to how someone will perform on ANY job, all things considered. Even more revealing (and accurate) than whether or not one has a college degree. Because, in the end, you can’t fix stupid, nor dance around it.

  76. Kevin

    Great article Adam.

    And it is Voodoo. The reason Myers-Briggs is so well known – marketing. There is no science behind it.

    If you want a significantly more relevant “personality trait” test is DISC. The team DISC analysis is excellent as it allows you to see where you may need to fill positions to address the short comings of a team. BTW, I don’t work or sell the system.

  77. Dan

    These tests are meaningless. HR uses these tests in part to establish controls over employees. Since I am retired, I can confess that I manipulated my test outcomes.

  78. dennis

    I wish i had one dollar for every time i had to take one of those stupid tests during my 35 year career as a government employee/manager. i also wish i had 1000 dollars for every time taking one of those tests made any difference at all to ANY of my actions or the actions of the other poor bastards that had to take it with me during meetings or offsites. i would probably have made $200 more during my career than i did based on my wishes had they come true…..

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