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Personality Testing in the Workplace

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††† Most industrial-organizational psychologists believe that objective personality tests are valuable tools for selecting good employees. Many large organizations use tests that are designed to measure dimensions of personality and related characteristics.

Most of these tests are not designed to predict behavior, but to help weed out employees who might be troublemakers or engage in theft and fraud.

Laws protect some federal employees from being tested before they are offered jobs, though some government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), require tests such as the MMPI-2 early in the application process. Even though statutes donít always forbid an employer from requiring pre-employment testing, many employers take the safer view and do testing after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

More often employers use a personality test to help them understand the traits of their employee and to help them see where the employee might best fit in the organizational setting. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality inventory commonly used in organizational settings in private industry, the federal government, and the U.S. military. It is also popular in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Korea, and several other foreign countries. It was developed in the United States by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers.

Built upon the personality theory of psychologist Carl Jung, the MBTI organizes personality along four scales of opposing characteristics that describe four activities: how a person is energized: a preference for drawing energy from the world of people and activities (E) versus from one's one world of ideas and emotions (I); what a person pays attention to: sensory information (S) or intuition (N); how a person makes a decision: relying more on logic and objective factors (T) or personal values (F); and a personís attitude toward life: planned and organized (J) or spontaneous and flexible (P) .

MBTI results indicate respondents' likely preferences on four dimensions based upon their placement on these scales:
Extraversion (E) OR Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) OR Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) OR Feeling (F)
Judging (J) OR Perceiving (P)
There are sixteen possible ways to combine the preferences, resulting in sixteen MBTI types: ISTJ, ISTP, ESTP, ESTJ, ISFJ, ISFP, ESFP, ESFJ, INFJ, INFP, ENFP, ENFJ, INTJ, INTP, ENTP, and ENTJ.

Organizations use the MBTI to match individuals to their strengths, improve communications among employees and between supervisors and subordinates, and assist in the resolution of conflict and the creation of training activities.

Some organizations, especially the federal government and some U.S. military agencies that administer the test in post-hiring training sessions, take the results so seriously that individuals' type classification appears on their name tags or office and desk nameplates. The rationale is that if employees and supervisors understand the "type" that they are dealing with, they will have a more productive and harmonious workplace.

David Keirsey expanded upon the MBTI by combining the Jungian personality type theory with the developmental theory of temperament, an individual's basic, natural disposition, evident from birth. Keirsey has developed a test similar to the MBTI, known as the Keirsey Temperament sorter.

You can't take the MBTI online, but you can take the Keirsey Temperament sorter. Go to

and answer the questions. You will immediately receive your score, and your designated type. After you have been "typed," you can read about your characteristics and the types of careers that you might be suited for by going to these two sites:

At the later site you can read about famous people who share your type.

Perhaps you want to encourage a close friend or spouse to take the test so you can compare results and personality types.