Carl Jung’s greatest gift to human psychology was the MBTI framework & psychometric tool; which is considered to be the mother of all instruments. The MBTI framework has emerged as an eternal tool for Personality Typing and for knowing the individual preferences for the four dichotomies and thus, the associated impact on the collective group dynamics. I endeavor to use the framework to evolve a plausible hypothesis for productive Work from Home (WFM) or a matter of reality Work from Anywhere (WFA) methodology. It is thus important to first revisit the essential concept of the MBTI framework to proceed to build this hypothesis.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) a Swiss Psychiatrist developed the theory of personality and stated “Differences between people are not random; Instead they form patterns-types. (Psychological Types published 1921 translated into English 1923).
Carl Jung determined four dichotomies in human nature, which resulted in 16 personality types.
- Extraversion (E) vs Introversion(I)
- Intuition(N) vs Sensing(S)
- Thinking(T) vs Feeling(F)
- Perceiving(P) vs Judging (J)
As per MBTI, each person has two processes:
- A method of receiving/taking information
- A mental process of making decisions on the information
The above leads us to the Interpretation of Dichotomies as under:
- Extraversion Versus Introversion: It is about where do we focus our energies and get attention from; Extraversion is about energy from the outer world, and people & Introversion is about energy from our inner world of ideas and experiences.
- Sensing Versus Intuition: People with sensing preference as a mental function focus on present realities, verifiable facts, and experience; People with Intuition preference focus on future possibilities, the big picture, and insights.
- Thinking Versus Feeling: People who prefer Thinking as a part of mental function focus on logic and objectivity. Individuals with a preference for feeling function focus on harmony through personal priority and relationships.
- Judging versus Perceiving: This is our attitude of the external world. People with judging preference engage with an orderly and organized method. However, people with choice for Perceiving seek experiences from the world and not organize it.
- S, N, T & F are taken as combinations of Mental Function.
The group dynamics for an organization thus evolve into 16 personality types indicated in the figure classically called the House of MBTI, which is possibly the representation of a midsize to a large team in an organization. These 16 personalities are interacting with each other creating the synergy and complexities in the dynamics of Virtual Offices as they do in traditional offices at work. If one notices the group thus comprises of equal distribution of Introverts and Extraverts. This essentially means on a Virtual Conversation, there will be some set of extraverted preferences that will dominate the conversations. In contrast, an equal set is likely to be perceived as non-participative owing to the substantial verbal engagement demanded on online communication. The Introverts will be exhausted end of the virtual meeting, whereas the extraverts would like a frequent and extended conversation. The dynamics will also be impacted by the Leader’s preference for Extraverted Vs Introverted. This will be the first level of dissonance the team will experience.
The vertical columns reflect the orientation of detailing oriented, sensing type (S), and another half of big picture orientation Intuition type (N). As long as detailing and big picture approach are synergistic the virtual team will experience a great resonance and a fruitful conversation, however, if not controlled effectively will result in polarization of the group to ether detailing or big picture with the other side feeling incomplete with the meeting.
The conflict of Feeling (F) Vs Thinking (T) will create the most noise as Feelings’ preference seeks preservation of harmony and relationship priority. In contrast, the thinking orientation created debates and cause and effect, oriented conversation. This poses the biggest challenge in the Virtual teams resulting in the tug of war.
The perceiving (P) and judging (J) types will be able to manage through as the deadlines, and regular meetings will make perceiving type to stick to schedules and deadlines. However, they prefer experimentation and are pressure prompted. Possibly this would raise the productivity levels of the team as deadlines become active and sacrosanct. However, the Judging type will have a significant challenge moving from physical environments to virtual environments and may cause distress with the new technology and means. Let’s not forget the indulgence of perceiving to take on extra load will tire the team off.
So, the question arises how do we make the 16 rooms of MBTI useful to the Virtual Way of work? Here are some of the approaches suggested based on the best use of personality type of each of the sixteen personality types:
For a start, let us be aware that we do not attempt to change the personality type. However, best would be to acknowledge the differences of preferences and attempt a synergy and resonance in the following ways.
- Allow the introverts to contribute to their limited verbal engagement and leave the rest to be written as emails. They are excellent at it.
- Allow the Extraverts to engage orally in the meetings and don’t expect lengthy, detailed answers to emails from them.
- Build a mutual acceptance for Extraverts and Introverts. Interpersonal effectiveness and virtual teamwork is the key.
- Let the sensing folks come up with the detailing of projects and allow them to synergize with the big picture folks of intuition type to generate a holistic view. Synthesis of thoughts and approaches need to be developed.
- Let the feelings preference work on what is best to preserve and to harmonize relationships and allow the thinking types to debate amongst themselves to analyze the project or process through verbal or written interactions. The areas are differentiated here as approaches are starkly different. However, every project component needs these specific preferences for ensuring creation, sustenance, and discontinuation.
- Let the perceiving types innovate while the judging types convert the change or innovation into a standard operating procedure. Interchanging the work requirements will be disastrous.
Virtual meetings can create a lot of noise and conflict. It is also true that virtual work presents an opportunity when behavioral competence manages the team dynamics. The problem arises when leaders set rules to drive the work from home, which is not conducive or coherent to the personalities. Empowering the teams to operate through their preference is the best option.
The new norm is the delivery of results on time and not time spent at work. Controlling human processes in work from home framework is just not possible. Thus; the simple rule is that action must happen on time and of the required quality. Allow subgroups and informal groups to happen and allow indirect collaboration and exchange of ideas. These informal groups can process a lot more inputs together and create exceptional outcomes than with formal work methods.
Also, it would be noteworthy that new work designs must fall in place. The earlier work designs will just not do. Accountability and ownership of outcomes must get defined clearly. Any ambiguity will be managed by subgroups and informal groups informally. Allow informal high energy groups to flourish; they will create amazing innovations and achievement of objectives. Technology inhibits teamwork most say, but if works design match the personality types and informal interest groups are allowed to flourish, it can create exceptional results.
Last but not the least Virtual Teams and Work from Home will need time to stabilize as behaviors are different. The most significant risk is that human perceptions can flaw the dynamics and trust. Thus, designing the teams and nodes with clear work designs and associated control definitions are the key to success for work from home. Caution area is that toxic elements of the group can trigger excessive inefficiencies in the group leading to complete paralysis in a worst-case scenario. Only the ones with a high level of ownership will flourish in the new norm of work from home. Thus, continual up-gradation of skills and competencies will be the success drivers. The intent and attitude of a sense of purpose towards work will be the ultimate definers.
Work from home and virtual teams will change the dynamics of employment. Individuals will ultimately discover what they are best at and take contractual multi-organizational contracts. Organizations will go lean and holonic in nature with Mentoring talking a front seat. Expenses on assets and real estate will dramatically decrease, and the online training will be a new reality. Technology will enable virtual office spaces for augmented collaboration across the globe.
Therefore, it becomes crucial now to equip work methods, organization processes and assets to be redefined to suit this new Post-COVID19 norm which is here to stay as organizations start registering EBITs which were earlier hard to achieve. However, Personality Types will remain consistent and constant.
In my final hypothesis, if I have to apply the principles of FIRO-B with MBTI, the following would emerge:
- Personality is given and cannot be changed.
- Influencing on virtual networks will be the key, which will be the expression of individual personality types.
- Control will have to move to individualistic empowerment.
- Affection and synergy will be virtual through high energy informal groups.
- Work designs will have to be based on personality types.
- Ownership and accountability will have to be driven through control dashboards driven by artificial intelligence which will map and predict performance.
- Employment will now be niche, and competence will be the critical definer with organizations that will be shaped by technology than in size.
Old paradigms of operations will not work. New work methods and designs based on personality and technology are in. Are you good to go virtual with remote teams?