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MBTI: An Unhealthy Romance

There are people who, at some point in their lives, question the novelty of the love within their lives with respect to their significant other

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There are people who, at some point in their lives, question the novelty of the love within their lives with respect to their significant other. When romance sours, it is best to cut those ties as you would sever an infected leg. You have to do it. MBTI is such an affair in the realm of Psychometric Assessments, the ever existent fad that just won’t die.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, often shortened to MBTI, is an assessment taken by more than 2.5 million people a year, inclusive of over 90 Fortune 100 companies. With such stats, why then is it an unhealthy romance? As with all quality assessments, there are certain standards that account for quality – validity, reliability and norming.

For those of you fresh to these words in the world of assessments:

1. Reliability: In assessments, a test is reliable if it produces similar results over time, repeated administration or under similar circumstances.

2. Validity: A test is valid if it measures what it is supposed to measure.

3. Norming: This is a process where a near-final version of the assessment is delivered to a group that matches the population distribution for age, gender, ethnicity, and more for whom the test was intended.

Since there are no right or wrong answers in psychometric assessments, this becomes an important metric for relative or percentile scores.

However, under the standards of reliability, validity and norming, the MBTI shuts down at a miserable not very, no, and okay respectively. The interesting fact is that despite the test’s popularity, it has been subject to consistent criticism by psychometric professionals and psychologists alike.

You may ask why, but the answer is far from simple.

The Jung theory based MBTI places a test taker in one of the 16 defined personality types, all attuned to dichotomous categories such as a classification between an introvert and extrovert, or disposition toward being either logical or emotional. However, a glaring problem with the MBTI is what statisticians call low “test-retest” reliability.

This implication indicates that if a candidate retook the test within five weeks of having taken it, there remains a 50% chance at a different result or personality type.

Additionally, the MBTI also assumes that personality falls into mutually exclusive categories; a grave mistake in its own right. This would suggest that you are either an introvert or an extrovert, but never a combination of the two. That’s about as similar as categorizing people into being either fat or thin, even though a fair share of the human population falls into the in-between.

This especially is a matter of worry, for those who believe that personality or psychometric assessments pave the path to a perfect career. Even more so because, according to psychologist David Pittenger, there is zero correlation between MBTI type and success within an occupation.

Why does MBTI remain so popular despite these problems? Two reasons.

1. Thousands of people have invested time and money into becoming MBTI-certified trainers and coaches. Talk about big commitments.

2. That moment of truth experience for people from when the test gives them insights about candidates.

Of course, people have raised their eyebrows citing that the MBTI could use a trip back to the whiteboard for refurbishing. However, that would entail converting a horse caravan into a Ferrari. That’s right. It just won’t happen.

We need to understand that four letters, as is with all 16 MBTI personality types, does not define anyone’s identity, not even close. Living in a world of rapid progression, it hardly makes any sense to miss a potential high performer for hire or promotion simply because the MBTI claimed otherwise.

Needless to say, it is still smart to use psychometric assessments in certain parts of the employee life cycle be it for hiring, promotions or leadership development programs. Use it, yes, but choose that test wisely. Mettl, an India based firm in Talent Measurement, covered extensively in a free eBook just what it is one must look for in such an assessment.

Having said that, we must look for other options. Sorry MBTI, but it looks like we’re breaking up. It’s really not me. It’s you.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator romance personalities

Nishant M

The author is an Senior Associate, Insight Marketer at Mettl. He is also a published author in the fantasy genre, releasing a book titled the ‘Tempestatem’ in 2015.

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