Asking your employees to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can open up a constructive dialogue. On the other hand, if you don’t give them enough information about the Myers-Briggs test, they might become anxious. So before you even broach the subject, ask yourself why you think the tool would be useful. The potential for enhancing internal communication, teamwork, and individual growth is significant, but only if you can convince your staff.
You’ll need to garner their support in two areas: first, you’ll need to explain the purpose of the MBTI and then you’ll need to commit yourself and the company to using the results in a way that benefits everyone. If, after a period of discussion, you determine that your staff is not motivated to take the test, then you need to reconsider your efforts. You might confidentially survey your employees, asking them about their reservations. After reviewing their comments you may discover why someone might have reservations. Once you know the source of the resistance, you can address concerns in an open and honest manner. You might also consider bringing in an MBTI expert to talk to your staff about the test and its benefits. A third party, someone outside the company, could provide just the right amount of objectivity to convince your employees of the MBTI’s benefit.
As you become familiar with the test and gauge your staff’s receptivity, use the information below to help you initiate and maintain an open line of communication:
- It’s a test but not one that anyone can fail. One of the reasons that the MBTI inspires controversy is simply because of its name. Calling a measurement tool a “test” can intimidate people. They worry, for instance, that they might fail. Assure your people that with the MBTI there are no right or wrong answers and that no one fails.
- Personalize the benefits. Once the MBTI is administered and people receive their four-letter identification (ISTP, for example, means introvert with strong sensing, thinking, and perceiving traits), you can help them recognize and make specific connections to their personality types and the way they work. For example, an introvert who prefers to do things on her own and work quietly should understand that her colleagues might misinterpret her style as uninterested versus one that is more focused and independent.
- Tell them what it’s not used for. Often, stress is caused by what we don’t know or what we fear. Critics of the MBTI claim that while the test was not set up to help companies in their hiring practices, this still occurs. Let your staff know that it is not your intention to use the Myers-Briggs either as a hiring tool or as a way to determine how well they will perform their jobs.
- Give them real examples. You don’t necessarily want to point out your team’s foibles, but you do want to give them a reason for considering the MBTI’s usefulness. Let’s say you have a particular group that’s having trouble collaborating. Everyone is smart, skillful, and can do their jobs, but when you ask them to perform as a team things fall apart. Holding this or another situation up as a reason for considering the MBTI might help them see beyond their individual roles.
- Ask questions. Asking your people for input works wonders when it comes to introducing a new concept. Ask your introverts, for example, if they ever have trouble understanding the extroverts in the office (and vice versa). Ask for people’s opinions on teamwork — if the company were to be graded, what would it get? An A, B, C?