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Using The MBTI To Find Your Ideal Workplace: Person-Organization Fit

Marla Vannucci, Ph.D
June 28, 2013

Marla Vannucci is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Her areas of expertise include organizational consultation, training and supervision in psychology, and mentorship.    


Many tools are available to assist in identifying careers that may be a good fit based upon your interests, preferences or personality style. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular assessment tool that will pinpoint your “type” using four personality dimensions, which will help you determine which careers, work environments, relationships or activities might be most appealing to you. 

In choosing a career path, it is important to take into account not only your skills and interests, but also how you function best on a daily basis. The MBTI does not address skills and interests, but instead helps you to understand your preferences for your day-to-day experience at work, as well as in other contexts. Organizational culture and values, the interpersonal environment, and pace of the workplace are among the factors critical to consider, and may be more important than the actual job in predicting your level of satisfaction. In fact, awareness of how your personality may fit with not only the job, but also the people and the organization, may increase your attractiveness as a job candidate. 

Much research has been conducted on "Person-Organization" Fit (e.g., Chatman 1989; Kristof-Brown 2000; Adkins, Russell, & Werbel 1994; Arthur, Bell, Villado & Doverspike 2006) and its relationship to employee satisfaction and commitment (e.g., Boxx, Odom & Dunn 1991; Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman & Johnson 2005). While "Person-Job Fit", or your fit with a specific position, is typically the most important element considered by employers in hiring a new employee, your ability to know yourself and to assess how you might fit within an organization may positively impact your career choices, your satisfaction, and your desire to stay with an organization. 

The MBTI and Person-Organization Fit

The MBTI organizes people into 16 “types” based upon four dimensions of temperament or preference for engaging with the world and other people. The four dimensions are Extroverted vs. Introverted, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. Below, these dimensions are defined.

Dimension Relates to...  What it means...
Extroversion vs. Introversion How we focus our attention

Extroverts - Focused outward and on people

Introverts - Focused inward and on ideas 

Sensing vs. Intuiting How we take in information 

Sensing - Uses the senses to obtain data

Intuiting - Uses gut instincts and hunches and tries to understand the underlying meaning 

 Thinking vs. Feeling How we make decisions 

Thinking - Relies on logic and objectivity

Feeling - Relies on relational/personal values 

Judging vs. Perceiving How we organize our lives

Judging - Prefers order, control and to anticipate what will happen

Perceiving - Prefer to leave possiblities open and experiment

Many resources are available that explain which types of jobs and careers might best fit each type. There are several different ways to understand the MBTI types, including understanding preferences or style based upon each individual dimension, understanding the four components as a whole, or understanding a combination of specific factors. Some of these resources are provided below so that you may determine your own MBTI profile and explore how it might impact your work experiences. Type is not static, meaning we are able to adapt and be flexible; simply, our type reflects our preferences. Additionally, no type is better or worse than another. Most important is fit. 

Beyond identifying specific job requirements most suitable for your type, you can use type to help you determine if you will be satisfied with the day-to-day life of a particular job. 

For example, the most ideal MBTI type for a clinical psychologist is considered to be INFP (Introverted, Intuiting, Feeling, Perceiving). This is generally a person who listens and articulates ideas in his/her head before speaking, can manage ambiguity, is empathic and attuned to others’ needs, and who is comfortable with exploring without a structured plan. While the INFP may fit well with the requirements of being a clinical psychologist providing counseling or psychotherapy, the day-to-day experience for clinical psychologists differs by setting. For instance, a clinical psychologist working in private practice will also be an entrepreneur. This setting may be unsatisfying for the INFP who does not prefer the activities involved in marketing and networking, accounting, and record-keeping. The INFP clinical psychologist working in a large clinic where different professionals work as a team may struggle with a team approach to decision-making and with reliance on relationships to be effective.

Settings differ in terms of what we might find satisfying or challenging. Even within similar settings, organizations also differ in culture, structure, and processes that will determine your level of satisfaction working in those organizations. Factors that impact your level of fit with an organization include how people in the organization communicate, how decisions are made, and what is most valued by that organization. 

For example, in terms of Person-Job Fit, an Extrovert might prefer a job that involves working with customers, public speaking, and variety. Yet beyond job fit, at the organizational level, the Extrovert might prefer an organization that is collaborative, where relationships and employee well-being are highly valued, and where employees meet face to face or synchronously online to conduct meetings or make decisions. On the other hand, Introverts will prefer an organization that has clearly defined roles and responsibilities, that focuses on a few targeted products or services rather than offering a wide variety to customers, where employees work independently rather than in teams, and in which employees do not receive a lot of unnecessary communication. Thus, your type helps you determine your best fit for the whole organization, beyond the specific job.

Strategies to Assess the Organization

It is typically challenging to learn about the ins and outs of daily life in an organization before you actually join that organization. Even being aware of the organization’s “brand” and external image may not be helpful in determining what it is like to be a member of that organization. However, there are strategies that may assist you in gaining the information you need to determine Person-Organization Fit. 

If you know someone who currently works for or who has worked for the organization, these colleagues may provide valuable information about how well an organization’s internal experience matches the external branding. Keep in mind that previous employees may not be aware of the current culture, and may have biased perceptions of the organization, depending upon their reasons for leaving. Questions you might ask current or previous employees include:

(1) What does this organization value most? (e.g., people, quality product, profit, reputation, social good, relationships, etc.)

(2) How do people in the organization communicate? (face-to-face or via email, through many “spam” emails or only when sharing important information, in a straightforward manner or within an environment in which employees read between the lines, etc.)

(3) How are decisions made? (jointly and collaboratively or only by leaders, after discussion or based upon facts and data)

(4) How flexible or adaptable is the organization?

(5) How are employees rewarded?

(6) How fast or slow is the pace? How much urgency is experienced?

(7) Is the organization more focused quantity or quality? Growth and expansion, or targeted efforts?

You can also review materials published by the organization. What image are they trying to reflect? Is the language formal or informal? What values are communicated in these materials? How easy is it to learn about the organization? Does it share information freely or not? Ask others in the same industry for information about how the organization is perceived by its competitors and others in that industry. Also, consider the location of the organization and whether the location may impact the organization’s values and culture. However, be cautious about making assumptions based upon stereotypes, and instead take steps to learn more about the geographic area, whether the organization hires locally, and how that may be relevant to the culture of the organization.

Person-Organization Fit also can be applied to the graduate school environment. Graduate programs also have different cultures and values that may or may not fit well with your preferences. The MBTI can be helpful to students applying for graduate schools. Graduates and current students may be willing to share information about the culture and experience of a specific graduate program.


 Additional information about type and fit can be found at:

The Myers-Briggs Foundation

Personality Pathways

Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types (David Kiersey & Marilyn Bates)

Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job (Otto Kroeger, Janet Thuesen, & Hile Rutledge)


 

Learn More About How Understanding Your Personality And Preferences Can Help You Make Decisions About Your Graduate Education

 

About the Author:  Marla Vannucci is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Her areas of expertise include organizational consultation, training and supervision in psychology, and mentorship.    


References

Adkins, C. L., Russell, C. J., & Werbel, J. D. (1994). Judgments of fit in the selection process: The role of Work Value Congruence. Personal Psychology, 47, 605-623

Arthur, W. A., Jr., Bell, S. T., Villado, A. J., & Doverspike, D. (2006). The use of person–organization fit in employment decision making: An assessment of its criterion-related validity, Journal of Applied Psychology, 41, 786-801.

Box, W.R,. Odom, R.Y. & Dunn, M.G. (1991). The Impact of Organizational Values and Performance Management Congruency on Satisfaction and Commitment. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 44, 7-24.

Chatman, J. (1989). Improving interactional organizational research: A model of person-organization fit. Academy of Management Review, 14, 333-349. 

Kristof-Brown, A.L. (2000). Perceived applicant fit: Distinguishing between recruiters’ perceptions of person-job and person-organization fit. Personnel Psychology, 53, 643-671

Kristof-Brown, A.L., Zimmerman, R.D. and Johnson, E.C. (2005) Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person–job, person–organization, person–group, and person–supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology, 58, 281-342.