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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (herein referred to as MBTI) was developed to assess a person's skills and attitude in relation to their personality. The MBTI is a self-report questionnaire designed to quantify non-psychopathological personality types as postulated in Jung's psychodynamic type theory (Myers & McCaulley cited in Boyle, 1995: 1). Furthermore, Isabel Briggs Myers (1986), the MBTI is concerned with determining the valuable differences in people that result from the manner they judge and react to situations and circumstances.
The MBTI has eight characteristics wherein the individual will be assessed based on a combination of four out of these eight scales. These preferences will yield 16 possibilities that are important in order to secure that the individual will be put in a position or situation wherein he/she will be able to maximize his abilities. The first part of this essay is attributed to discussing the key concepts and practices governing MBTI, particularly the researcher's preferences and understanding of MBTI.
The succeeding portion of this essay discusses the reliability and validity of using MBTI in fields such as human resource management, business, health care and education. Also, the relevant literature that are directed towards looking at the application and effectiveness of MBTI, and how these methods are carried out in order to secure the validity and reliability of MBTI are also presented in this essay. Finally, this essay concludes with the author's reflection and experience as a deputy ward manager and how MBTI contributed to maximize the author's role and responsibilities.
Background on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
For the past decades, the MBTI has been used as the primary mechanism for personality assessment, specifically because it based on the classic concepts of personality theory. MBTI is the preferred method of personality assessment, especially in the field of employment because it does not only enlighten the organization on the skills of their employees but more importantly, it informs the employees on their personality type and equip them with the necessary skills to capitalize on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
MBTI used opposites (also termed preferences) in order to explain the dimensions of personality and overall, there are eight (8) preferences from which the assessment or findings can be derived. In order to make the understanding of these preferences easier and to see their respective differences, Myers and Briggs used the concept of opposites and put two of these preferences in contrast with each other, thus leading to a set of four opposites. The opposite ways of finding out (perception) are sensing and intuition while the opposite ways of deciding (judgment) are thinking and feeling (Briggs-Myer, 1986). Seeing (S) is based on the five senses, while intuition (N) is reflective of possibilities and relationships that are beyond the reach of the senses. Meanwhile, thinking (T) predicts the logical result of any particular action while feeling (F) takes into account anything that matters or is of value to the person or to other people (Briggs-Myers, 1986).
The other set of opposites or preferences include interaction with the inner or the outer world. Here, extroversion (E) involves the outer world of people and things while introversion (I) is concerned with the inner world of concepts and ideals (Briggs-Myers, 1986). Judgment attitude or perceptive attitudes toward the outer world are the final set of preferences for MBIT. Judgment (J) relies on the process and life under a planned and orderly way, while perception (P) is grounded on dealing with the outside world in a flexible and spontaneous way.
Developed from the combination of the four sets of opposites, sixteen personality types were created and which serves as the prime basis of assessment for the MBTI. These 16 types are briefly presented below as they have been defined by Briggs-Myers (1986:7-8):
ISTJ- characterized by being practical, orderly, realistic and dependable, while being serious, quiet and thorough. People with this personality are also organized that responsible.
ISFJ- characterized to work devotedly to meet obligations and are seen to lend stability to any project or group.
ISTP-described to live their lives more with sensing and are often quiet, reserved and analyzes life with detached curiosity.
ISFP- People of this type are modest about their abilities and tend to avoid disagreements and are more of followers than leaders.
ESTP- described to enjoy whatever comes along and are engaged in mechanical activities
ESFP- These are the outgoing, easygoing and friendly type and are fond of having a good time and playing sports. These individuals work best in situations that require common sense and practical application.
ESTJ- In terms of judging, these are practical individuals with a natural head for business. These individuals also like to organize and run things well.
ESFJ-described as warm-hearted, talkative and born cooperators. These individuals work best with encouragement and praise; they are also born cooperators because their main interest is to directly affect people's lives.
INFJ-characterized by perseverance, originality and put their best effort into their work and are respected for their firm principles
INTJ-individuals with fine abilities to organize a job with or without help, these are skeptical, critical but are often stubborn.
INFP-these people care about learning and tend to carry on too much responsibility but still manage to get things done. They are friendly but are more concerned with their jobs than being sociable.
INTP-These people are quiet and impersonal who enjoy theoretical and scientific activities because they are logical and interested in ideas with minimal interest on parties and small talk.
ENFP-these people are high spirited and imaginative. They come up with quick solutions for any difficulty and are willing to lend a hand to anyone with a problem.
ENTP-characterized to be good at many things, and are often outspoken and resourceful in solving new and challenging problems but may neglect routine assignments.
ENFJ-described as responsive and responsible. These individuals often have the urge to think about what others think and want which makes them sociable, popular and sympathetic.
ENTJ-These people are frank, decisive and are born leaders in activities, their only weakness is that these individuals tend to be more confident than their experiences.
From the brief description of the 16 personality types that are engrained in MBIT, it can be deduced that personality is often equated with introversion or extroversion. The ability to interact and deal with other people often sets the ground for individuals to make necessary judgments and perception of activities and events. Feeling and thinking are also largely dependent on the level of interaction an individual has over his/her environment and fellow individuals.
In the context of organizations, the function of these personality types is to guide managers to get a better understanding of individual skills and abilities which is important in determining if employees will be able to perform optimally in a particular position. To add to this, the MBIT serve as a tool to enable firms to identify and develop leadership style, specifically for extraverted individuals. Another function of these personality types is that it gives managers sufficient knowledge on which combination of personalities will work best towards achieving organizational goals.
For instance, in training and team building activities, it is best to create a group with balanced members with regard to physical and cognitive abilities. This means that in teams, there should be leaders and followers; there should be those who possess technical abilities and those who are more creative and imaginative. Another observation is that these personality types are flexible depending on the ability of the individual to react to environmental triggers. Hence these types should not limit organizations from posing a challenge to their employees to learn and explore their abilities.
Functions of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: the key to organizational transformation
This section presents a coherent discussion on the direct application of MBTI on various organizations and fields. For example, Huitt (1992) saw the relationship of personality types on decision making, problem solving and leadership since problem solving is an important process wherein individuals perceive and resolve gaps between present situations and desired goals as well as how to overcome potential obstacles.
The MBTI enables organizations whether in the field of business, health or education to solve problems efficiently and achieve communal goals by assigning the right person who possess the right skills to do the job. To be more specific, when solving problems, individuals preferring extraversion will want to talk through their ideas in order to clarify them while introverts prefer to take time and think alone, both types have their own strengths and preferences and it is up the organization to weigh the pros and cons and determine which type will deliver the best results.
In another study, Bennis (1997) differentiated the role of a manger from a leader, and MBTI scores often play a fundamental role in setting these demarcations. For instance, managers are often administrators while leaders are innovators, which mean that INTJ and INFP are two types who make good managers while INFJ types often make good leaders. Another key trait that Bennis (1997) raised is that managers often focus of systems and structures while the leader is more concerned with people. Furthermore, leaders are often driven by long-term goals while managers are centered on short-term concerns. Finally, managers are often classified as soldiers who follow instructions while leaders are often their own person. These specific personalities cannot be ascertained without the aid of mechanisms for measurement like MBTI, and in order for organizations to have great leaders and even better managers they are expected to manifest thorough understanding and implementation of MBTI manuals.
Since MBTI is deeply entwined with leadership and organizational management, it would suffice to say that MBTI an important element in pushing for organizational development. Knowledge of personality preferences enhances an individual's understanding of development and decision making (cited in Coetzee et al, 2006). Organizational leaders should be able to display emotionally intelligent behavior and propel employees to manifest optimal performance that will eventually transgress to the whole organization. The MBTI also provides sufficient basis for organizations through their managers to promote self-management among their employees and encourage resilience by giving proper training activities.
Relevant research on the validity and reliability of MBTI
In examining the validity and reliability of MBTI, Boyle (1995) focused on the scoring dimension because MBTI can be scored either in terms of preference or continuous scores. In terms of MBTI test-retest reliability, as well as stability, McCaulley (cited in Boyle, 1995) indicated that current forms of MBTI indicate significant degrees of stability with higher number of items that offer enduring examinations of personality disposition. Boyle (1995) further stated that in order to guarantee stability of the test scores, estimates should be in the 0.8-0.9 range.
With regard to the validity of MBTI, Carlson (cited in Boyle,1995) stated that literature on MBTI reflects successful efforts to apply it in various settings ranging from educational, clinical, counseling, business or even research. Although despite the wide range of MBTI application, psychometric limitations raises still arise especially on the validity of the instrument and the use of continuous scores. Boyle (1995) said that another question on the validity of MBTI lies on the undue reliance on exploratory factor analysis of the MBTI and the exclusion of confirmatory methods that resulted in theory conflation.
In the case that the validity of MBTI scores are often questioned, the suggested solution in order to overcome such critique were made by Myers (1962:77) who stated that there should be affording hypotheses for further testing and verification rather than infallible expectations of all behaviors. It should also be noted that MBTI assessments are also questioned for being based on "surface traits" that are discontinuous are less powerful (Boyle, 1995).
Overall, despite the numerous critiques made on the validity of MBTI methods, it is still an effective tool to assess the right combination of personality traits that will suit a particular job or task. Another identifiable aspect that should be integrated in the assessment of MBTI is that mood of the respondent during the test which will greatly influence the responses and hence the findings of the test. McCaulley (1981:339) even stated that social desirability response have influence on the scores for EI and JP. The suggestion to increase validity of MBTI is to develop higher levels of control for the mood of the individuals when answering the test.
In another research, McCrae and Costa (1989) said that the reason why the validity of MBTI is often questioned is due to the fact that scholars have focused on individual indices rather than looking at the full typology. Overall, MBTI tests are valid in the sense that it is able to assess specific dimensions of personality that will guide managers and institutions to elicit positive performance on individual employees, students and staff. Furthermore, in terms of validity, as it has been mentioned in this essay, MBTI is meant to provide organizations with a basic idea on the personality of their employees and it is still up to their discretion on whether they will rely on this assessment in assigning tasks and responsibilities that will maximize these personal characteristics.
McCrae and Costa (1989) states further that MBTI tests satisfy face validity because of the use of normative information on continuous scores that will make comparison easier. For example, subjects are classified into four-letter code types wherein men are often clustered in the ISTJ and ESTJ while women are more dispersed in the different categories. Finally, the 16 types in MBTI represent unique configurations of attitudes and preferences and there should be strong evidence of differences between these types in order to make successful and meaningful judgment on the predictive validity of the tests pertaining to the performance of the respondents.
In general, the author's general impression of the findings of the various scholarly works that examined the validity and reliability of MBTI in bridging the gap between personality and performance, it can be said that MBTI as shown in these studies are reliable. Again, the impetus of organizations for using MBTI is to set a basis and profile employee personality and assign them in positions that would maximize these traits and yield optimal performance. Besides, there are a lot of novel techniques that can be applied in order to promote higher levels of reliability for MBTI such as conducting repeated tests, often in the form of pre-tests and post-tests. Pre-tests and post-tests supply the necessary information to verify if the MBTI scores are consistent and that the respondent is not trying to manipulate it in any way.
Moreover, the use of MBTI encompasses numerous dimensions of organizational performance such as leadership, job satisfaction as well as training and development. There may be gaps in the application and findings from MBTI scores by these personality questionnaires still deliver necessary results in providing organizations with sufficient psychometric basis for evaluating employees' abilities to respond to specific situation that will require intuition, thinking, and judging. The necessity of hiring reasonable and competent employees and managers lie largely on how fit they are to do the job as well as how interested they are to the responsibilities and skills required of the position. Under these conditions, MBTI scores provide employers and managers alike with the adequate information to make efficient hiring and job assignments.
Lastly, the MBTI is reliable in personality assessment for the sole reason that it promotes individual and organizational development by increasing job satisfaction and developing managerial potential. The MBTI also sets the foundation for improving communication and improving interactive skills between and among the management and the employees particularly in the domain of career counseling and training programs. Again, in spite of numerous critiques that question the validity and reliability of MBTI, the benefits it gives organizations and individuals alike still clearly outweigh its alleged weaknesses.
Most personality assessment has been based on questionnaires with scales designed for specific and practical applications to measure constructs that are derived from personality theory (Goldberg cited in McCrae and Costa, 1989). As a Deputy Ward Manager, the researcher has been exposed to MBTI for a long time and has seen countless benefits it offers in improving the delivery of products and services. The use of MBTI also equips employees to clearly determine their roles and functions and work together to avoid role redundancy.
Again, from the personal experience of the author, her personality type is classified as ESTJ, which is defined by Myers-Briggs (1986) as practical realists, matter of fact with a natural head for business or mechanics. Individuals that are ESTJ are also equipped with the superior skills in organizing and running activities. Moreover, ESTJ types tend to run things well, especially they remember to consider other people's feeling and points of view when making their decisions (Myers-Briggs, 1986). Indeed, the author's personality directly transgresses to her professional behavior especially in managing employees under her authority.
The specific role and function designated to the author are in line with the findings of the her MBTI scores especially in terms of providing solid support to the ward manager in working towards improving clinical practice and securing the effective implementation of clinical standards. Being classified to be an ESTJ type, it is natural for the author to run and organize business activities. These are manifested in the positive work relationship between the author and the individual staff especially in terms of encouraging continuous personal and professional development.
The usefulness of being effectively assessed in the MBTI is that it gives employees, like the author, to enjoy doing and being satisfied with their jobs. By providing leadership and guidance to the nursing team, it is also the duty of the author to make sure that the team is working hand-in-hand in delivering quality services to the patients. To add to this, the innate ability of the author to interact well with people is helpful whenever the job would require her to assist with staff recruitment and take charge of the ward if the Ward Manager is not around.
The usefulness of being ESTJ and the use of MBTI in general, is that it enables individuals to develop an overall vision and strategy on how to perform their jobs effectively and contribute to the improvement and performance of the organization. Regarding the challenges encountered by the researcher on MBTI, personally as an individual hired through the aid of MBTI, and as a Deputy Ward Manager who is often tasked with assessing job applicants based on their scores in the MBTI.
The main challenge of effective MBTI is that it cannot push for organizational change and improvement if its assessment will not be taken seriously by all of the employees and managers. This is the main reason why MBTI personality types of employees and managers should jibe in order to yield optimal results and long term organizational success. Generally, the author's personal experience regarding the use of personality tests, specifically MBTI, has been pleasant and it has been an effective tool to create avenues for better leadership and optimal performance.