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03.02.2022 Company culture

Personality Types: Pigeonholing and Useful Indicators

Personality Types: Pigeonholing and Useful Indicators

Nobody likes to be pigeonholed. But in order to understand the sheer endless diversity of human character traits, this can sometimes be useful. For example, in relation to the personality types of your team members.

Personality types categorise people based on their characteristics. From this, numerous facets of their life and work can be derived. Examples include their way of working, their ability to work in a team, flexibility, leadership aptitude, and much more valuable knowledge for people, teams and leaders. In this article, we’ll discuss the following facets of personality types and their use:

But, before we dive in, let’s start by saying the following: There are no “good” or “bad” personality types, and neither personality tests nor the categorisation into personality types are meant to judge or discredit people in any way.

What does personality mean?

By definition, the term personality encompasses a person’s individual characteristics, patterns of thought and behaviour, beliefs, and motives. In short: the totality of their thinking and feeling. The personality of individuals determines how they deal with other people, as well as how they handle everyday situations at work or in their private lives. Whether it’s conflicts, setbacks, or highlights. This is sometimes also referred to as a person’s temperament.

Many of these are relatively stable psychological characteristics. However, the interplay of these characteristics isn’t really set in stone. Personality is strongly and constantly influenced by life experiences as well as family, occupational, genetic, and social factors. It can change completely as it adapts to a wide variety of life circumstances.

Nevertheless, characteristics can be identified in every human being, which each person possesses in varying degrees and which make it possible to categorise personalities, at least fundamentally. From this knowledge, the so-called personality types can be further derived.

What is a personality type?

A personality type is a kind of simplified model of typical ways of acting and thinking based on the different characteristics of a person. Due to the infinite variety of human characteristics, however, it is impossible to really capture all individual human traits with these pre-defined personality types.

In order to better understand the inner life of human beings, doctors and philosophers have been trying to classify their characteristics and traits into categories (called “profiling”) since 400 BC. Since then, numerous personality types have been defined.

Profiling is used today in a wide variety of situations—not only to hunt criminals in high-profile Hollywood productions. Profiling is also used in everyday life on practically every person, whether while surfing, shopping, or communicating via WhatsApp. In this instance, profiling is used to target group-oriented marketing campaigns and efforts.

Which personality types are there?

Many personality types have been identified, classified, and named. The naming can be based, for example, on core competencies, animals, or the most prominent trait of a person or their neuroses. The exact naming of the different personality types depends on the methodology used for classification. In essence, however, about 4-5 main categories can be distinguished. Let’s have a look at the best-known ones.

The simplest form of profiling dates back to the 1950s and initially comprised just two types: Type A and Type B. This was the basis of a medical study on stress-related coronary heart disease in working people. Further research was then carried out on types C and D, which were intended to investigate connections between personality and cancer.

Although no correlation between personality type and increased susceptibility to such diseases has been proven to date, knowledge of the personality type of those affected has proved quite helpful in developing suitable therapeutic approaches in some cases. This is probably one of the reasons why all four personality types have persisted to this day.

Personality type A: Higher, faster, forward!

Characteristic type A behaviour is that of an unstoppable workaholic Alpha animal. Employees with this personality type are characterised by great ambition, impulsiveness, impatience, competitive thinking, constant (self-imposed) time pressure, aggressive rushing ahead, and sometimes hasty decisions. They are not always the best when it comes to showing empathy. This can also in some cases lead them to becoming more of a loner.

Personality type B: In tranquillity lies strength

Type B personality is considered to be the complete opposite of the A-type. Team members of this personality type are mostly relaxed, peaceful, cooperative, emotionally stable, empathetic, and hardly susceptible to stress. They rarely act rashly, make well-considered decisions, and are mostly well-liked for their predominantly warm, cordial nature. One of their greatest strengths is their determination and aptitude in dealing with less pleasant situations. They are also said to be more satisfied with their lives.

Personality type C: Must … be … perfect!

Personality type C refers to very conscientious, perfectionist people. Team members of this type are striving, but also depend on stability and routines that no one should break. Type C personalities are considered reserved, orderly, helpful and very deliberate (even in emergency situations). The latter may be due to the fact that some of them are very good at blocking out their emotions. This habit can also have a downside, however, because in the long run it can lead to emotional blockages or even depression. Decision-making is also less of their strength, as they are said to have a rather doubtful nature.

Personality type D: I wonder if that’s going to happen…

A Type D personality describes predominantly insecure, passive individuals who can be realistic to pessimistic in disposition. They often avoid social interactions for fear of rejection (often making them involuntary loners). They regularly appear sad and anxious and refuse any kind of responsibility. They also rarely reveal emotions and may even frequently appear aloof, which can make them more vulnerable to stress and its health consequences. They usually shy away from decisions because they often feel powerless. But all this does not have to be negative. Their realism and their critical view can be very helpful for the planning and implementation of projects.

However, it must be said about all personality types, including personality types ABCD described above, that people who are assigned to them rarely correspond completely to all the traits linked to the type. It is rather the case that they combine character traits from all typifications and are assigned to them merely on the basis of their most dominant characteristics. And it’s also not the case that certain deficits cannot be remedied with appropriate training.

That’s why it’s strongly recommended not to rely only on this somewhat stereotypical classification.

Why it’s useful to explore personality types

After all the theory, it’s time to look at the practice and why it is useful for recruiters to get an overview of team members’ personality types. The personality of team members has an important influence on the following components of human resource management.

Team building and collaboration

An appreciative work culture is more important than ever. And the best way to work is to know how to best address individuals and in which teams they work best. This avoids misunderstandings, increases productivity, and improves the company culture as a whole.

Human resource development

Hand on heart: At first glance, would you rather see a Type A or a Type D personality in a leadership role? Both would need some training, but the A-type person would probably grow into it faster and therefore seems the smarter choice.

But that doesn’t mean that a Type D personality is fundamentally unqualified for the role. They can be some of the best and most talented people in a variety of roles (such as back-end developers), but possibly not in a leadership role. But at the end of the day, it just depends on the individual case.

Nevertheless, identifying the personality type (but also the individual characteristics of a team member) can in principle serve as a helpful basis for decision-making to stimulate more targeted personnel development.

Healthcare

Cooperation is a marathon, not a sprint. As mentioned, the above categorisation was used in medical studies and it has been proven that certain behaviours can significantly increase susceptibility to serious illness. Knowing these risks and preventing them with appropriate care measures and perhaps even employee benefits (e.g. massages, rest areas, health days) increases well-being, satisfaction, and ultimately employee retention in the team.

If the individual personality types are properly understood and utilised, these people can all lead successful, balanced, and passionate lives. This can foster long and fruitful cooperation between companies and their employees and, last but not least, mutual success.

On the other hand, if the personality types are not recognised nor properly nurtured, it can be very stressful for the employees and have a very unfavourable impact on their personal and professional development.

young team members putting their peace-sign-making fingers together showing a star,
Photo by THIS IS ZUN on Pexels

How do you determine different personality types?

Recruiters and HR managers have three options to find out different personality types. Either they ask candidates to complete a suitable personality test before the first interview, they include specific interview questions about personality in the interview, or they request that a test be carried out after recruitment.

Caution:
This request will not get everyone’s approval. In principle, such a test may only be conducted on a voluntary basis. Under no circumstances may it be used as a prerequisite for the candidate’s advancement within an application process.

And what personality tests are there? We present the most common three below.

Big Five Personality Test (OCEAN)

Profiling usually begins very roughly. For example, see types A and B or introverted/extroverted personalities (as according to C.G. Jung). Both include only two dimensions. However, with some research, one quickly gains multidimensionality.

The “Big Five” personality test (also called the OCEAN model) is strongly oriented towards the world of work. It originated in the 1930s and is often considered the universal standard model. This personality test categorises people according to the following five main dimensions:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

From the almost infinite variety of combinations of traits, five relatively simply depicted personality types for employees can be derived: the Forward (Type I), the Collegial (Type II), the Organised (Type III), the Collaborative (Type IV), and the Enthusiastic (Type V). These personality types are also very helpful in building a productive and stable team.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs personality indicator is a further development of Jung’s type theory from 1944 and brings with it a rare diversity with a total of 16 different personality types. It includes four dimensions that reflect quite different personality types in variable combinations:

  • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
  • Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
  • Feeling (F) or Thinking (T)
  • Judging/Deciding (J) or Perception/Observing (P).

The letters that stand for certain ways of thinking/acting and to which respondents are more inclined are put together in the above order. Here is an example.

A more extraverted person (E) who acts more instinctively (N), sometimes perhaps a little emotionally driven (F), and who values planning and order (J), results in the personality type ENFJ.

Employees of this type are considered outgoing, enthusiastic, expressive (E), imaginative and future-oriented (N), and act empathically and caringly (F) as well as consistently, organised, and controlled (J).

DISC Personality Test

The DISC personality type model dates from 1928, while the personality test dates back from 1979. It divides people into four personality types, depending on their basic behavioural tendencies:

  • Dominance
  • Initiative
  • Steadiness
  • Conscientiousness

The model was developed on the basis of observations of boys and girls with behavioural problems and is particularly suitable for quick, rough profiling. Although the DISC model is considered outdated, it is still very popular because it makes it relatively easy to understand what a person’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs are.

In order to better classify their temperament, colours are often assigned to the four personality types. In this case, dominant personalities are considered red types, initiative ones yellow, steady ones green, and conscientious ones blue.

zoom of a persons eye area painted vertically in red, yellow, green, and blue
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels

Should you use personality types in recruiting?

Personality tests and character types can be very useful to manage team cohesion, company-employee relations, but also talent acquisition in a more focused and targeted way. They are definitely interesting to explore and may provide a better mutual understanding between you and your team members. But they don’t measure everything.

At the end of the day, personality types are nothing more than models that cannot represent every facet of a human being. Nor are they completely accurate descriptions of a person. They are also often based on subjective (applicant) statements that are not always honestly motivated, but can also be arbitrarily embellished.

Personality types can therefore only serve as rough indicators of how a person could work in your team and company based on their personality traits. Our conclusion is therefore:

Don’t get bogged down in analysing personality types. Instead, rather get to know your team members actively and personally to evaluate their personality. After all, who wants to work with an employer who only pigeonholes you from the start?

Do you and your team still want to use personality tests and types? Then conducting a personality test and discussing divergent traits at a team event to get to know each other can be a fun and interesting way to gain a more holistic understanding of each other.

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