Managing the workplace requires a great deal of interpersonal communication skills to ensure smooth communication among workers that can often differ on a range of personality dimensions. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is certainly not the only possible way to approach the problem, but it has proven to be useful in a variety of corporate settings and is repeatedly used to help uncover potential conflicts and find solutions. In the situation that arose in Irene and Wayne’s working relationship, it can help unearth the reasons for the current misunderstanding and find a way to turn this into a cooperative partnership.
The fact that they are both of the Thinking (T) type can be helpful in the first place. This means that they both tend to search facts and rely on logic when making a decision, as opposed to Feeling (F) type that uses feelings to arrive at a course of action. However, they are different in their way of perceiving or understanding reality. Irene likely feels that only information that is verifiable in a concrete and objective way can be relied upon; she may be unwilling to make decisions based on ambiguous information and intuition, preferring to stick to what she knows best. This can make her risk-averse. She probably prefers to move in small incremental steps, building on what she knows rather than experiment. For Wayne, however, initiative based on intuitive feeling on what is right is the norm. Based on his personality type, he can be more prone to bold actions and more focused on the future, expecting Irene to tackle a broad strategic agenda in her actions.
Realizing these differences is an important step towards effective cooperation as a team. First, Wayne can try to make the agenda he discusses with Irene more explicit and translate his intuitive decision-making into the language of facts and data. Perhaps he does have to give a more detailed direction or at least discuss it with Irene to arrive at a greater level of detail before she can start acting. Irene, on the contrary, should realize that in a managerial position things will not be always black and white; if she is unclear about facts, she should either do a greater effort to dig deeper into the fact base or try to develop the abilities to make decisions based on ambiguous information.
Since differences between MBTI types are so prevalent, I had a number of cases in my work where these differences interfered with team dynamics. For example, in one of my teams there was a significant difference between extroverts and introverts. The two extroverts tended to dominate the discussion and were always the first to respond to issues raised while introverts tended to sit back deliberating upon their answers. Quite often, by the time they were ready to answer, the conversation had already shifted to a different topic. As a result, although these three people were quite competent, they were underutilized in our team problem solving sessions. What we tried to do was to make sure we give everyone ample time to think about issues by distributing the agenda ahead of team meetings, making the meetings themselves more structured, and finally, taking an official poll of opinion at the end of each discussion. In this way, our introverted team members were pushed to take a more active role in the process which ultimately benefited all of us.
Myers, I.B., Myers, P.B. 1980, 1995, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type, Davies-Black Publishing, Mountain View, CA.