Readers sound off on the merits of Myers-Briggs

More than 50 million people have taken some form of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator… and at least a few of those people read our 2014 post on the subject, “Should businesses abandon the Myers-Briggs test?” That question ignited a fierce and provocative debate in the comments section—a debate that shows little sign of slowing. We’ve now crossed the threshold of the 100th comment, making Myers-Briggs the most commented-upon topic on our blog. I thought that was good cause for highlighting some of the responses as we encourage the discussion to continue.

42% of respondents have told us that Myers-Briggs is absolutely NOT useful for business. 34% say it absolutely IS useful for business.

Here are some highlights from readers on both sides of the divide.

Give Myers-Briggs a break

Reader “leuan” kicked off the whole section with a sentiment that’s been echoed numerous times since: Myers-Briggs is a tool, and like most tools, it’s best showcased in the hands of someone who’s trained to use it, and doesn’t try using it for projects it isn’t designed or equipped to handle. A blowtorch’s inefficiency at kiwi-slicing is not, after all, an indictment of the torch.

“Trying to build teams off the types is ridiculous,” says leuan. “…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.”

“Myers Briggs changed my life for the better, not only in my work, but in my family life as well,” said Jeremiah Cole, noting that the test helped him gain an understanding of his coworkers and even inspired a closer relationship with his daughter. A more ringing endorsement may not be possible.

Some who questioned the relevance of Myers-Briggs in the workplace were quick to note its potential on a personal level. “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,” said Liam. Other readers gave accounts of Myers-Briggs demonstrating potential and career opportunities that may have otherwise gone neglected.

“It’s best used for personal feedback, and should never be used for employment screening, or even probably career advice,” said Mark Stephenson.

Break it off with Myers-Briggs

While a lot of the praise of Myers-Briggs’ continued usefulness was qualified, the MB detractors pulled no punches.

“MBTI is the modern equivalent to alchemy or theories of demon possession,” wrote John Morris. “There is zero scientific rigor and no predictability.”

“It’s just another silly game to play while you’re offsite wasting the company’s money not being productive,” says reader JT. “…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.”

“The problem with these methods is that to the extent they are valid, they apply to the middle of the distribution,” says Jon B. “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.”

How HR feels about Myers-Briggs

HR departments sometimes leverage Myers-Briggs or other tests and assessments… and judging by the comments, a lot of employees aren’t very happy about it. In fact, people on both sides of the debate pointed angry fingers at their colleagues in HR.

“After 30 years working, I’m actually convinced the problem with most HR departments run much deeper than just Myers-Briggs,” wrote a reader named Richard. “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.”

On the other hand…

“Of course they don’t want a ‘test’ telling them who to employ,” says Bel Grant. “It implies they have no judgement, no use, no value (which, of course, they don’t).”

Some HR professionals weighed in and, perhaps as you’d expect, the merits of Myers-Briggs are as hotly debated in those circles as anywhere else.

“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,” wrote Richard Bryce. “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 skillful 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.”

What do you think?

Read the original post along with the comments (this is really just the tip of an iceberg; exploring the entire iceberg will take some time, but it’s an insightful iceberg)… and of course feel free chime in yourself!

For more on self-assessment tools and personality tests, check out 5 leading alternatives to Myers-Briggs.

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.