Overview of Personality Assessment Tools
Organization development professionals, marriage and family counselors, and psychologists all use a variety of assessment tools to determine how individuals process information.
How they relate to one another, how they handle conflict, behave in a team, make decisions, deal with change, and communicate.
One of the oldest known personality typing systems is the Enneagram, which is thought by some to have roots in the geometry of the Pythagoreans (4000 years ago), moving through culture and time to Plato, to esoteric Judaism (where it appears as the Tree of Life in the Cabalistic symbolism of ninefoldness), and Islamic Sufi traditions. George Gurdjieff, a Russian teacher of esoteric knowledge and a contemporary of Freud, came upon it in Afghanistan on the East-West crossroads, and later used the Enneagram to explain the laws involved in the creation and unfolding of all the aspects of the universe. Details of the Enneagram will be covered later in this article.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (460-377 BC) systematically described the four temperaments as “humors” or moods. Each was based on one of the four elements of fire, air, water, and earth and was believed to be responsible for a different type of behavior. Roman physician Claudius Galen (129-216 BC) adopted the method, but it fell out of use during the Middle Ages. Perhaps because the famous European philosopher Immanual Kant described humors in his 1798 book Anthropologie we still use terms that describe them today: an excess of blood made a person sanguine, too much yellow bile choleric, too much black bile melancholic, and an excess of phlegm of course made one phlegmatic.
Even though the “humors” fell out of use, the concept of temperaments has remained important through today.
Perhaps the most popular personality assessment tool in use today is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® which is grounded in the theories and writings of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
Jung’s theory of personality type postulates that what appears to be random behavior in people is actually the result of the differences in the way people prefer to use their mental capacities. He observed that people are generally engaged in one of two mental functions:
• Taking in information, which he called perceiving, or
• Organizing information and coming to conclusions, which he called judging
Within each of these mental functions, Jung observed that people preferred to perform that function in one of two ways, thus he termed them preferences.
He also noted that, although everyone takes in information and makes decisions, some people prefer to do more of the first (perceiving) and others prefer to do more of the second (judging).
Finally, Jung observed that: “Each person seems to be energized more by either the external world (extraversion) or the internal world (introversion).” What Jung called a person’s psychological type consists of their preference in each of these categories.
During the 1940s, two American women, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs set out to find a way for people to identify their psychological types so they could use Jung’s ideas in everyday life.
Their assessment tool, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is a written instrument that “indicates” a person’s likely psychological type. Psychological type describes the different ways people:
• prefer to take in information,
• prefer to make decisions,
• are energized by the outside world or by the inner world, and
• prefer to keep things open or to move towards closure.
Combinations of these four preferences result in a person’s psychological personality type. The theory of psychological type says that people with different preferences naturally have different interests, perspectives, behaviors, and motivations. Awareness of preferences helps people understand and value others who think and act quite differently.
All preferences are equally valuable and each type brings an important perspective to human interactions. For this reason, a mixture of types tends to lead to the most effective work in groups. Type indicates a person’s preference but not necessarily ability or character. It should therefore never be used as the sole criteria for important choices like careers, partners, jobs, or schools.
Falsification of Type
Sometimes people are not able to use their natural preferences because of the influence of parents, spouses, the job environment, or the pervading culture. This “falsification” of type can lead to stress, conflict with others, and frustration, particularly when the person is unaware of or not accepting of his or her natural type.
Understanding Your Type
Some worry that “being typed” has the potential to fence them in. Most psychologists, though, believe that an understanding of your own type frees you in several ways. It gives you confidence in your own direction of development — the areas in which you can excel with the most ease and pleasure. It can also reduce the guilt many people feel at not being able to do everything in life equally well.
As Isabel Myers put it, “For most people, really understanding their own type in particular, and other people’s types in general, is a releasing experience rather than a restricting one. It sets one free to recognize one’s own natural bent and to trust one’s own potential for growth and excellence, with no obligation to copy anyone else, however admirable that person may be in his or her own different way.”
Finally, acknowledging your own preferences opens the possibility of finding constructive values instead of conflicts in the differences you encounter with someone whose preferences are opposite yours.
Source: People Types and Tiger Stripes, written by Gordon Lawrence and published by CAPT at http://www.capt.org.
Myers Briggs Sixteen Types at a Glance
As described above, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator instrument allows qualified testers to give people access to their Jungian type. The framework is built upon the four pairs of preferences resulting in the following sixteen types:
For ISTJs the dominant quality in their lives is an abiding sense of responsibility for doing what needs to be done in the here-and-now. Their realism, organizing abilities, and command of the facts lead to their completing tasks thoroughly and with great attention to detail. Logical pragmatists at heart, ISTJs make decisions based on their experience and with an eye to efficiency in all things. ISTJs are intensely committed to people and to the organizations of which they are a part; they take their work seriously and believe others should do so as well.
For ISFJs the dominant quality in their lives is an abiding respect and sense of personal responsibility for doing what needs to be done in the here-and-now. Actions that are of practical help to others are of particular importance to ISFJs. Their realism, organizing abilities, and command of the facts lead to their thorough attention in completing tasks. ISFJs bring an aura of quiet warmth, caring, and dependability to all that they do; they take their work seriously and believe others should do so as well.
For INFJs the dominant quality in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities, ideas, and symbols. Knowing by way of insight is paramount for INFJs, and they often manifest a deep concern for people and relationships as well. INFJs often have deep interests in creative expression as well as issues of spirituality and human development. While the energy and attention of INFJs are naturally drawn to the inner world of ideas and insights, what people often first encounter with INFJs is their drive for closure and for the application of their ideas to people’s concerns.
For INTJs the dominant force in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities, symbols, abstractions, images, and thoughts. Insight in conjunction with logical analysis is the essence of their approach to the world; they think systemically. Ideas are the substance of life for INTJs and they have a driving need to understand, to know, and to demonstrate competence in their areas of interest. INTJs inherently trust their insights, and with their task-orientation will work intensely to make their visions into realities.
For ISTPs the driving force in their lives is to understand how things and phenomena in the real world work so they can make the best and most effective use of them. ISTPs are logical and realistic people, and they are natural troubleshooters. When not actively solving a problem, ISTPs are quiet and analytical observers of their environment, and they naturally look for the underlying sense to any facts they have gathered. ISTPs do often pursue variety and even excitement in their hands-on experiences. Although they do have a spontaneous, even playful side, what people often first encounter with them is their detached pragmatism.
For ISFPs the dominant quality in their lives is a deep-felt caring for living things, combined with a quietly playful and sometimes adventurous approach to life and all its experiences. ISFPs typically show their caring in very practical ways, since they often prefer action to words. Their warmth and concern are generally not expressed openly, and what people often first encounter with ISFPs is their quiet adaptability, realism, and “free spirit” spontaneity.
For INFPs the dominant quality in their lives is a deep-felt caring and idealism about people. They experience this intense caring most often in their relationships with others, but they may also experience it around ideas, projects, or any involvement they see as important. INFPs are often skilled communicators, and they are naturally drawn to ideas that embody a concern for human potential. INFPs live in the inner world of values and ideals, but what people often first encounter with the INFP in the outer world is their adaptability and concern for possibilities.
For INTPs the driving force in their lives is to understand whatever phenomenon is the focus of their attention. They want to make sense of the world — as a concept — and they often enjoy opportunities to be creative. INTPs are logical, analytical, and detached in their approach to the world; they naturally question and critique ideas and events as they strive for understanding. INTPs usually have little need to control the outer world, or to bring order to it, and they often appear very flexible and adaptable in their lifestyle.
For ESTPs the dominant quality in their lives is their enthusiastic attention to the outer world of hands-on and real-life experiences. ESTPs are excited by continuous involvement in new activities and in the pursuit of new challenges. ESTPs tend to be logical and analytical in their approach to life, and they have an acute sense of how objects, events, and people in the world work. ESTPs are typically energetic and adaptable realists, who prefer to experience and accept life rather than to judge or organize it.
For ESFPs the dominant quality in their lives is their enthusiastic attention to the outer world of hands-on and real-life experiences. ESFPs are excited by continuous involvement in new activities and new relationships. ESFPs also have a deep concern for people, and they show their caring in warm and pragmatic gestures of helping. ESFPs are typically energetic and adaptable realists, who
prefer to experience and accept life rather than to judge or organize it.
For ENFPs the dominant quality in their lives is their attention to the outer world of possibilities; they are excited by continuous involvement in anything new, whether it be new ideas, new people, or new activities. Though ENFPs thrive on what is possible and what is new, they also experience a deep concern for people as well. Thus, they are especially interested in possibilities for people. ENFPs are typically energetic, enthusiastic people who lead spontaneous and adaptable lives.
For ENTPs the driving quality in their lives is their attention to the outer world of possibilities; they are excited by continuous involvement in anything new, whether it be new ideas, new people, or new activities. They look for patterns and meaning in the world, and they often have a deep need to analyze, to understand, and to know the nature of things. ENTPs are typically energetic, enthusiastic people who lead spontaneous and adaptable lives.
For ESTJs the driving force in their lives is their need to analyze and bring into logical order the outer world of events, people, and things. ESTJs like to organize anything that comes into their domain, and they will work energetically to complete tasks so they can quickly move from one to the next. Sensing orients their thinking to current facts and realities, and thus gives their thinking a pragmatic quality. ESTJs take their responsibilities seriously and believe others should do so as well.
For ESFJs the dominant quality in their lives is an active and intense caring about people and a strong desire to bring harmony into their relationships. ESFJs bring an aura of warmth to all that they do, and they naturally move into action to help others, to organize the world around them, and to get things done. Sensing orients their feeling to current facts and realities, and thus gives their feeling a hands-on pragmatic quality. ESFJs take their work seriously and believe others should as well.
For ENFJs the dominant quality in their lives is an active and intense caring about people and a strong desire to bring harmony into their relationships. ENFJs are openly expressive and empathic people who bring an aura of warmth to all that they do. Intuition orients their feeling to the new and to the possible, thus ENFJs often enjoy working to manifest a humanitarian vision, or helping others develop their potential. ENFJs naturally and conscientiously move into action to care for others, to organize the world around them, and to get things done.
For ENTJs the driving force in their lives is their need to analyze and bring into logical order the outer world of events, people, and things. ENTJs are natural leaders who build conceptual models that serve as plans for strategic action. Intuition orients their thinking to the future, and gives their thinking an abstract quality. ENTJs will actively pursue and direct others in the pursuit of goals they have set, and they prefer a world that is structured and organized.
Source: Charles Martin, Ph.D. at http://www.capt.org.
To learn more about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, please visit www.myersbriggs.org.
Personality Type and Business Decision Making
Clearly, concerns are raised when employers, insurers, or government agencies use a person’s type to make or inform critical business decisions. A recent story published at www.AMNews.com describes how Michigan-based American Physicians Assurance Corp. is trying to gather personality type information from their physician applicants as part of its underwriting process.
The article claims that, “Doctors also are being asked to respond to what they believe is appropriate job behavior to be successful. For example, is it “unimportant, important or critical” to “being competitive, winning”? They are asked to check off their “ideal supervisor or workplace” by answering whether they “need, like or dislike” a “workplace governed by rules, tradition, protocol” or whether “the boss is a hands-off manager, a resource.”
Since communication skills can play an important part in predicting the odds that a particular physician may be sued for medical malpractice, experts say they wouldn’t be surprised to see more insurers turn to alternatives like this in the current tough medical liability market. Physicians have already seen rates increase, underwriting criteria tighten, and numerous medical liability carriers flee the market.
As noted above, a popular – and perhaps oldest – personality testing tool is the Enneagram. See http://www.enneagraminstitute.com.
According to the Enneagram Institute, there are many practical applications for using their testing tool to offer guidance on business decisions. As you embark on you career in the business of medicine you might find it a helpful tool when deciding to join a practice or start your own.
The Enneagram tool creates a framework that clarifies the self-balancing components that are part of any complex process, like making important business decisions. Its proponents claim that whenever you wish to understand any business process more clearly (and why any course of action does or does not work), the Enneagram is a helpful guide.
Although the full assessment tool must be ordered and paid for online, the Enneagram Institute offers an abridged version of their assessment tool. Follow the link here http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/dis_sample_36.asp and assess your personality type. Below we offer a brief explanation of each type so you can see how you scored…
The rational, orderly type. Principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. Ones are concerned with maintaining quality and high standards. They focus on details and like to improve and streamline procedures. They are often good at coaching others on how to improve themselves, be more efficient, and do things correctly. Well-organized and orderly, they can also be overly critical of themselves and others. They dislike waste and sloppiness, but can deteriorate into micromanagement and constant, demoralizing criticism. At their best, they have good judgment, make wise decisions, and model ethical and responsible behavior.
The helpful, interpersonal type. Generous, appreciative, people-pleasing, and possessive. Twos are sensitive to the needs of others and seek to be of service. They appreciate the talents of others and act as confidants and guides, good at networking people and services. However, they typically have trouble saying no to requests and tend to become stressed by trying to help others too much. They dislike impersonal rules and work situations and can deteriorate into favoritism and time-wasting personal over-involvements. At their best, they are empathetic and generous and help build team interpersonal connections.
The adaptable, ambitious type. Focused, excelling, driven, and image-conscious. Threes know how to work efficiently to get the job done according to customer expectations. Often attractive, charming, and energetic, they are conscious of the image they project of themselves as well as of their team and company. They like getting recognition and are attracted to success and positions of prestige. They can be competitive and workaholic, driven by the need for status and personal advancement, deteriorating into cutting corners to stay ahead. At their best, they are accomplished and admirable, often seen as inspiring role models by others.
The introspective, artistic type. Expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental. Fours deliver personalized service and/or develop distinctive products known for their refinement and sense of style. They can be uncompromising in their pursuit of the right effect, word, or design and of gauging the personal impact of a product. They dislike tasks that they feel are not creative or give them room for their personal imprint. They may be hypersensitive to criticism and can deteriorate into moodiness and erratic work habits. At their best, they bring intuition and creativity into the workplace and enrich it with their sense of depth, style, and appreciation of the personal dimension.
The perceptive, provocative type. Curious, innovative, secretive, and eccentric. Fives are tireless learners and experimenters, especially in specialized or technical matters. They like to understand in detail, spend time on research, and follow their curiosity wherever it leads. They are highly analytical and preoccupied with discovery, not paying attention to project time constraints and relationships. They can deteriorate into arrogance and non-communication, intellectual bickering and oneupsmanship. At their best, Fives are visionary pioneers, bringing strikingly new ideas and profound depth to their work.
The engaging, loyal type. Likable, responsible, anxious, and suspicious. Sixes are diligent and reliable workers. They build alliances and partnerships that help orient their co-workers and get things done. They are able to assess the motivations and relative merits of others and scan the business environment for potential problems. They dislike taking risks and want consensus and predictability. They can be indecisive and have difficulty taking responsibility or action without group authority and can deteriorate into evasiveness and blaming others. At their best, Sixes are self-reliant, independent, and courageous, often calling a group back to its root values.
The accomplished, upbeat type. Spontaneous, versatile, impulsive, and scattered. Sevens thrive on change, variety, excitement, and innovation. Often articulate and humorous, they are able to get others to support their ideas. They are in touch with the latest trends and are constantly looking for new possibilities and options. They are natural multi-taskers but can also get overextended and lack follow-through. They can deteriorate into endless talk and distractions, scattering their energy and talents and leaving many projects unfinished. At their best, Sevens focus on worthwhile goals and become highly productive and accomplished.
The powerful, decisive type. Self-confident, commanding, willful, and confrontational. Eights have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and the willpower to make it happen. They make difficult decisions and see serious problems simply as challenges to be met, obstacles to be overcome. They want to be in control and find it difficult to delegate tasks or share leadership. They champion people, protecting and empowering them, but also can deteriorate into intimidation to get their way, making unnecessary enemies both within and outside the organization. At their best, they are magnanimous and generous, using their strength to improve others’ lives.
The easygoing, accommodating type. Receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent. Nines create harmony among group members by emphasizing the positive so that conflicts and tensions can be eased. They are supportive and inclusive and work with everyone, humbly allowing others to shine. They dislike conflict and division in the team and try to create harmony and stability. But, they may accommodate others and avoid self-assertion too much, becoming secretly angry as a result. They can deteriorate into ineffectual “make-work,” stubborn passivity, and serious neglect. At their best, they are able to negotiate differences and bring people together in a stable but dynamic way.
Source: The Enneagram Institute at http://www.enneagraminstitute.com.
Other Personality Testing Tools
UC Berkeley psychologist Oliver D. Stone PhD teamed with Atof, Inc. to produce and score the following online personality test. It’s free and takes about 20 minutes to complete. See http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/.
Another recent temperament typing / personality assessment method was developed by psychologist David M. Keirsey, who developed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter in 1987. See http://www.keirsey.com.
About the Author:
Wesley D. Millican, MBA, CEO and Physician Talent Officer of CareerPhysician Advisors, LP, and CareerPhysician, LLC, provides comprehensive talent solutions for academic children’s hospitals, colleges of medicine and academic medical centers across the nation. He possesses a longstanding passion for career development of all young physicians and serves as a go to career resource for training program directors and their residents and fellows. In continuing his commitment to the “future of medicine”, Mr. Millican speaks nationally at residency and fellowship programs. His Launch Your Career® Series is a proven resource for today’s residents and fellows and has served as a go to resource for program directors over the last 15 years.