It’s Not Me, It’s You: Dealing with Different Personality Types in the Workplace

According to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment—or, to be more accurate, a free version I found on a questionable website—I am an INFP, or Idealist.

Among other things, INFP’s are laid-back, non-confrontational, highly intuitive, focused on making the world a better place and talented writers. Hey, I didn’t make this up—it’s science. They may also have problems working in a group setting due to “control issues,” but let’s focus on the positive.

These INFP personality traits have certainly come into play at various jobs I’ve had. For example, when I waitressed at a pizzeria and the woman who worked in the kitchen told me—upon receiving my ticket for a customer’s order—that she wasn’t making me “$#&%”, my non-confrontational nature led me to walk away (and fight back tears near the coleslaw grater).

When I spent a summer working as a reporter for a local newspaper and one of the staff writers began quoting lines from old stories I had written before admitting he had “Googled me,” it was my INFP’s strong sense of intuition that led me to believe this gentleman was creepy.

And when I took a job in Ireland peddling sandwiches from a cooler strapped to my back, I did so in order to make the world a better place.

What can I say—it’s just the INFP in me.

In the June issue of units, Christopher Reed and Susan Sherfield explain why the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be a very effective tool in helping people understand how personality type is reflected in their behaviors, and how those behaviors impact other people in the workplace.

The test—which consists of a series of multiple-choice questions that force the respondent to choose between two very different answers based on preferences, not situational behaviors—forces employees to think about the behaviors, preferences and psychological type of both themselves and their colleagues. By doing so, apartment industry professionals can make positive choices that will improve the quality of their interactions and relationships.

So, think about the co-worker who really drives you crazy. I certainly can’t relate to this problem, but for everyone else out there, a face has quickly come to mind. Now think about what irritates you most about them. If this person eats your expensive Greek yogurt every day or sprays it while saying it, it’s difficult to attribute this to an inherent personality trait. But for the most part, personality type is the root of the issue.

This is not to say that you, as an Idealist, are going to become best friends with a Guardian (an aggressive person in need of concrete facts) after taking the personality assessment, but perhaps you’ll be more flexible in how you interact with one another at work.

Unfortunately, this level of understanding was not possible with the woman at the pizzeria, as her personality is one even the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung would have a hard time diagnosing—though I can think of a few words that describe her just perfectly.

For more on personality type in the workforce, check out the article, “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You” in the June issue of units, which mails June. 8. Christopher Reed and Susan Sherfield will lead a discussion on this topic on Thursday, June 23, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the 2011 NAA Education Conference & Exposition at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Convention Center in Las Vegas.