Myers-Briggs Personality Types and Coping with Coworkers

Do you have any coworkers that you just can’t relate to? Maybe Jim in Marketing, you know the one with a diamond stud in his ear, who plays solitaire while gabbing away for hours on the speakerphone? Or Janice, the DBA you try to avoid at all costs because of her propensity to start an argument over the most trivial of details, “Did you say detach! You better have meant backup and restore, buster! There will be no detaching around here, period.” Or how about Curt, who handles all the Flash animations, but can’t take constructive criticism about his work?

I was surprised and relieved to find insight into why people act the way they do when I stumbled onto the Myers-Briggs personality Type Indicators (MBTI). The MBTI are sixteen categories of personality types driven by psychological preferences, and knowing and understanding a persons MBTI can help you relate to why they act/react the way they do. When you see what drives a person, you can empathize with their position, and you can avoid their trigger points.

Your MBTI is a generalization, a best-fit, and is analogous to handedness – i.e. even if you are right-handed, you can learn to switch hit, much like if your natural tendency is to be quiet during meetings you can learn to take a more active role. When you are under stress, however, the tendency is to fall back on your psychological preference for coping.

My type is ISTP. Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving, and although there is only about 5.4% of the population who fit in this category, my guess is that a large percentage of programmers are also ISTP.

A person with the ISTP type is an experiencer who values honesty, prefers action to conversation, is a bit impulsive at times, and covets their allotment of me-time. ISTPs are tool users who take pride in wielding the best, most honed tools of their trade. Many ISTPs are surgeons, engineers, and military personnel. They tend to lead the charge from the front of the pack, but are also comfortable taking orders. From Team Technology, “ISTPs direct their energy toward the inner world of thoughts (and, maybe, emotions). They analyze situations and come up with explanations of how things work. They prefer dealing with tangible problems and proven experience - they often enjoy solving organizational problems that need to be thought through.”

Remember Jim in Marketing? The guy with the diamond stud who can blab on and on to a until whoever is listening finally agrees with him, possibly out of being hypnotized by his voice? Well, your good buddy Jim just might be an ENTP; an extroverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiver. ENTPs are born leaders who almost can’t help but take control. They are very charismatic, and have a good understanding of the global picture and strategy. ENTPs love to take on challenges, but sometimes take on too many, and/or delegate the boring work to subordinates. ENTPs will win over clients, charm the suits, and will be a great power player if they are on your team.

What about Janice, the DBA who knows everything about the software and isn’t shy about asserting it? Janice might be an INTJ; an introverted, intuitive, thinking, judger. INTJs are Masters of the Universe – their quest is to understand their subject completely. An INTJ may not tolerate other people who make casual mistakes about details; calling something a Functional Specification when it is actually a Technical Specification will make an INTJ blurt out the correction in spite of being rude. INTJs strengths are in their domain knowledge – no one will know or understand more about the subject and all the myriad details than the INTJ.

So Curt, the guy who you told his blinking flash widget may be giving children epileptic seizures, and he took it so personally that he hasn’t said more than a grunted hello to you ever since, what is his type? Who knows? Curt probably just has the emotional IQ of a 10 year old. MBIT doesn’t explain everything, after all. I’d recommend just staying away from him; he’ll hang himself sooner or later and move on to a different job.

If you agree there is value in understanding what makes your coworkers tick, I encourage you to suggest a "Team Building" exercise where everyone takes 15 minutes to fill out an online form to find out what their type is. Later, you can all meet for a beer after work and have a good, friendly chuckle about each team member’s quirks. Even if you don’t want to take it that far, I suggest taking a look at the links below to see if you recognize your coworkers types; and certainly take the test yourself to find out more about you!


Hmm this is me:

You're a realist who applies expediency and reasoning as you manage and adapt to are aware of what is going on in the environment and are able to respond quickly to the actual facts, making sure the odds are in your favor...

You're straight-forward, pragmatic, honest people who prefer action to have a good understanding of the way things work, and are not tend to make logical and private decisions, stating things the way you see 'em...

(ehh not all that logical sometimes)

don't like to be tied down and don't like working in a structure or need to anticipate immediate practical needs in situations and to present a logical straightforward plan for meeting those needs...

Curious and observant... convinced only by hard, reliable facts...veritable storehouses of information...realist able to capitalize well on available resources... quiet and reserved...appear cool and aloof and are inclined toward shyness, except with good friends...

(thats me)

You operate on learn best when you can observe first-hand in a one-on-one situation...prefer to learn thrive on excitement and action...probably like outdoors and sports....good trouble lead through setting an'd prefer to managed loosely at work so bossman isn't breathing down your neck.

(pretty close, though not too much into sports. Like working out on my own though)

It's important to pursue your interests.. you will do what it takes to make time or money for your leisure-time pursuits (like pay for a Storm Palace subscription?) like to have the latest and finest equipment for whatever your hobby probably get turned on just reading the Trivial Pursuit cards just to learn the information....

Love? Responsive yet realistic, huh? You seek partners who'll give you your freedom (especially for hobbies and interests) or will at least participate in 'em with're attentive to the little things that your partner will like to surprise them with gifts and stuff... you'd rather show your feelings through actions than express them with words....

When scorned by a love, you don't share it with the world... you're usually not vindictive when the relationship is don't give up easily on the relationship unless you're convinced by the evidence.

Things to be careful about: difficult to share your reactions...look for the shortcut or the easy way...slack off occassionally....develop a step- by-step plan...don't keep important things to might take in so much information that you feel overwhelmed by may be hesitant to make decisions....this makes you appear undirected...don't move on to new tasks before your other ones bear fruit...

I tried to get my husband MrNick to do it and he says "both!" for each side of the list of answers for the quick test. He says he is THAT good .. hehe

True computer geek

Anyone with hexapersonality type must be the uber programmer.

For a more full-blown test, have him try this one - that should narrow it down some.

Was your type ISTP?

Thanks for the Link

Thanks Rusty. I have made a point of taking these every few years and have found the results pretty much in line:

Extroverted - 1
Intuitive - 50
Thinking - 75
Judging - 1

Depending no my mood I fluctuate between E/I and J/P, but the others are solid and only got more so while I was doing my undergrade... in Engineering.

I'm ISFJ I think..


(edited: I did it again tomake sure! I am ISFJ)