Gen X ISTJs need not apply

breakfast club

My degree is in psychology which totally explains why I am now in HR.


Actually my decision to study psychology doesn’t explain much more than my interest in self-analysis and trying to understand more about why people are the way they are and why they do what they do.

So maybe it does explain why I’m in HR.

It’s human nature to want to make order out of chaos – to sort through life’s junk drawer and label and categorize everything. Just think of your high school years – we identified people whether they were jocks, geeks, goths, mods, head bangers, hicks…because it was then able to understand why they like that music, dress that way, believe what they do. However, very few people are hard-core anything…most of us have a bit of all these types in us, but either chose to go with our strongest tendencies or worse, fight these and try to live as someone we feel we should be.

And despite what we hoped, this doesn’t go away when you become an adult. In fact, on many days the dynamics at work feel like you are reliving your teen years.

We truly do spend too much time trying to categorize ourselves and others to the point where we may be creating vicious circles. We are being advised to expect certain behaviours and attitudes from people depending on the generation they are part of or their Myers-Brigg score. I mean how many more generalizations can we get about Gen Ys?

I’ve recently been reading more about the Myers-Briggs system and find it interesting to understand how you fit into the world, why people approach things the way they do and why they respond the way the do, but it is only a guideline – not a hard fast rule. It’s meant to be an awareness tool to help you see where your strengths are and where you might need to work on things.

But often times people want to live and die by these systems. They organize team-building activities, have all their team members take assessments, debrief, and possibly have a big ole group hug. But essentially all they have done is pigeon-holed all the team members.

It does look good and makes things neat and tidy when we can identify people this way – we can balance our project teams, predict performance, and anticipate whether they will be a “good fit” for our organization.

It is also a convenient way to make excuses for people’s performance…”I know Susan was a bit abrasive in the meeting, but that’s because she’s an ISTJ…don’t take it personally”. No, Susan was a nasty piece of work and needs to be reminded that even though she has great ideas and performs well – she can’t treat people like shit.

There are benefits to understanding people’s tendencies and working with and around them, but I don’t believe in letting people off the hook because of it. They still need to be challenged and called on these. If you are naturally introverted but hired into a position that requires you to do things out of your comfort zone…like networking, conduct training, etc…then you need to stretch yourself or reconsider your job.

I’m just waiting for the day that a hiring manager lists a particular Myers-Brigg type as an asset, or worse, required qualification.

As an ISFP…this is just not going to work for me.


5 thoughts on “Gen X ISTJs need not apply

    • Kirsten – thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. A bit of knowledge and labelling can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.

      And The Breakfast Club rules.

  1. The manifest reasoning for the M-B is tenuous at best given it is often applied by unqualified HR practitioners themselves succumbing to the hubris of altering the test, and then delivering it in inappropriately ‘noisy’ conditions, thus invalidating its value as a tool.

    Furthermore, I submit the real reliance on the M-B by HR is for its more latent purpose as a shield from responsibility when our hires/teams turn out to be ineffective, unproductive, uncooperative, valueless, psychopathic turds. It also conveniently feigns activity for the bored and simultaneously acts as a crutch for the uninspired.

    It becomes all to easy for HR and managers to point backwards to what is little more than manufactured results of tests like the M-B and say: ‘Oh I don’t understand these results, they tested as an ABCD’ or a light-bulb, or a plant, or their colour profile was orange, or they were a spring/summer hybrid. What it is is a latent tool for piss-poor managers or HR trying to deflect the blame for lame results or a bad hire.

    A bastardized M-B was never designed to be a selection tool for hiring based on ‘fit’.

    The M-B was designed for those rare managers who appoint their employees activities based on the value they bring to the group as a conductor directs their orchestra, and ‘it is a poor musician who blames their instrument’.

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