The Limitations for Coaching and Development of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other Preference-Based Personality Questionnaires

MBTI and Other Personality Questionnaires – Employee Selection and Development

Psychometric assessment has become standard practice for most global organizations and companies with a keen interest in thorough employee selection and development. Today psychometric assessment is used by more than 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA and by over 75% of the Times Top 100 companies in the UK.

Never before has the appropriate selection of effective psychometric assessment tools been more important.

Broadly speaking psychometric assessment can be grouped into two categories:

  • aptitude or ability tests
  • personality questionnaires

Aptitude tests are mainly used for employee selection purposes, and they measure a prospective employee’s skills and potential in various domains of functioning such as verbal, numerical, abstract, mechanical, and spatial reasoning.

Personality questionnaires have the challenging task of defining and “measuring” the more dynamic and interpersonal aspects of human functioning and behaviour. This has resulted in the development of numerous personality questionnaires all with very different takes on what constitutes noteworthy personality differences and typologies. There are reportedly over 2,500 personality questionnaires in the market today, which reveals both the complexity and potential problems related to the measurement and definition of personality.

Despite these complexities personality questionnaires are widely used for the dual purpose of employee selection and employeedevelopment (e.g. personality-based coaching and team-building).

MBTI and other Personality Questionnaires in the Workplace

In the workplace certain personality questionnaires have become more widely used than others (e.g. Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DISC, 15FQ+, OPQ etc.). Results from these questionnaires aim to describe a person’s dominant and enduring preferences, characteristics and attitudes across a range of contexts. This type of information is useful in the employee selection process where specific personal qualities, work styles and preferences need to be identified in order to suitably position or team up people. The usefulness of knowing personality preferences is also testified to by the wide use of personality questionnaires like the MBTI and 15FQ+ in career choice assessment.

So, in certain areas of organizational functioning a preference-based personality assessment (or PPQ) is needed and suitable.

But have you ever wondered how effective and suitable these popular personality questionnaires really are in the development and coaching of your employees? Have you ever critically examined the fundamental assumptions that PPQ’s (e.g. MBTI) make about human functioning, and about stimulating change and growth in your employees?

A critical consideration of these fundamental assumptions may sound academic and high-brow, but it will help your organization make an informed decision regarding the most appropriate and effective psychometric tools for employee development and coaching.

Preference-based Personality Questionnaires (PPQ’s) and Change

Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created.

– Albert Einstein

When it comes to employee development and coaching the key word is obvious – change. How do we coach and mentor employees towards positive, lasting and deep-level change? In other words, how do we not only solve problems with employee engagement and performance, but ultimately change the frameworks in which obstacles to higher effectiveness have arisen in the first place?

One of the fundamental assumptions of most PPQ’s is that identifying and describing a person’s dominant preferences will in itself stimulate change. It is proposed by PPQ’s that knowing your preferences allows you to capitalize on their strengths, while adapting them to the demands of the situation. In the MBTI, for instance, personality preferences are seen as the fundamental framework for improvement and change.

Consider this excerpt from the Myers Briggs Foundation website regarding the use of the MBTI and personality type for everyday life:

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