Millennial Women

What’s in a number?: Navigating different personality types at work

Has anyone else gotten swept up in the personality test craze lately? Here, over the last six months, it seems like every leadership or team-building program we’ve been to has involved some discussion of the Enneagram test, 16 Personalities or the Myers-Briggs, just to name a few. As an aside, Melanie, Elise and I all took the Enneagram test this past winter. (Fun fact, we’re all 9’s!)

These tests can be helpful in a variety of ways. Some identify your “default” tendencies—the ways you process information or what motivates you to action. Some help explain how you relate to others. This information can be a great help as you seek to improve the ways in which you work. Just as one example, as a 9, I’m more susceptible to workplace distractions than others might be, so one of the ways I have learned to refocus is to go to a quiet area to work.

However, there are a lot of people in this world, and a lot of personalities! Personality tests can also be useful in understanding that not everyone operates and works as we do. Again, as a 9, I often like to hear different viewpoints before determining how I feel on a particular issue or strategy call. However, if I have a client or colleague who appreciates a more immediate or definitive response, I may have to alter my communication strategy with respect to that person in order to optimize our working relationship. Ideally, if a team of people all knows how the other team members approach their work and are willing to be as accommodating as possible, the team grows stronger.

But here’s where personality types fail: just because you might be the same (or a different) number as someone else, that doesn’t mean that you are exactly the same (or, if different, have nothing in common). They are imperfect tests, and no two people are identical. Just because the three of us are all 9’s, it doesn’t mean we have the same opinions all the time, or approach things in exactly the same way. So while knowing your “type” is useful for knowing your high-level tendencies for approaching work and working with others, let’s not forget that everyone is their own individual and works and interacts with others in a unique way.

Have you taken a personality test lately? If so, which one?

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