Does Understanding your Personality Type Improve Business Relationships?

While they wax and wane in popularity, personality tests give insights into how different personalities work together as a team. Some organizations make the tests part of hiring and promoting leaders, although skeptics may question their value. If you’ve ever wondered what a personality test can tell you about yourself, or if know of an organization that swears by their tests and are curious to learn more, it may be time to explore some of the most popular tests available.


The grandmother of all personality tests, this theory originated with the work of pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, transformed Jung’s ideas into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that has become popular at colleges, summer camps and workplaces. They hoped the tests could help people “ understand their strengths, their preferred working styles” and promote “appreciation for communication styles and task approach[es] between leaders, team members and colleagues – enabling them to work better together.”

As with other personality tests, to understand where you rank, employees fill in questionnaires and agree or disagree with statements. While there are no right or wrong answers, the test looks for a person’s preferences in four categories: introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving.

Combining these four categories, people can be categorized as 16 personality types. In addition to its widespread popularity, the MBTI also has fans within the corporate world. For example, in Canada, MBTI assessments have been used within B.C.’s Ministry of Finance and Alberta Energy and Environment ministries.

Big Five Personality Traits

In the 1980s, researchers working in psychological trait theory started developing a way to group people based on five personality factors: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (memorably known by the acronym “OCEAN”).

Because this personality typology was developed by psychologists, some claim Big Five has more scientific validity than other ways of testing personalities. In the workplace, it has been found that there’s a correlation between career success and how conscientious a person is (by “conscientious,” researchers mean goal setting, reliability, dependability and organization skills). For business owners and managers, the promise is that if you understand employees’ personality strengths, you can use that to lead and motivate your people appropriately.


While the MBTI is often administered by trained professionals, 16Personalities offers a simplified, user-friendly personality test. Produced by the company NERIS Analytics Limited, the site sorts people into 16 personality types based on how people score on the four character dichotomies of MBTI, with the added characteristic of “turbulent/assertive.” With the company claiming that over 460 million people worldwide have taken this popular online test, many are drawing guidance from the results on how to build teams, manage a career and contribute successfully in the workforce.


The Enneagram theory, developed in the 1950s, defines 9 personality types: reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger and peacemaker. In the workplace, it has been used as a tool to help understand interpersonal relations among employees, although it’s also popular within spirituality circles. As with other forms of personality tests, the Enneagram test is a tool that can be used to help employees gain personal insights.

Overall, out of the many personality tests available (beyond what’s listed above), one of the great gifts of such tests is the introspection that it invites in the person taking it: do you find the results accurate, or do you disagree with the assessment of your personality? That’s true whether business owners are hiring an expert to deliver professional-quality evaluation to all employees, or simply taking an online test themselves out of curiosity. Understanding what employees see as their personality strengths can help a business owner place their people on teams that allow them to flourish and ultimately benefit the company.


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