How personality type affects team performance and job satisfaction
Teams are essential to the human experience. From sports to political parties, we are predisposed toward rallying in groups according to common interests. It goes without saying, therefore, that teams are critical to businesses.
Even those with high work autonomy are typically part of a team. The practical impetus for this is obvious: There are things we can accomplish working in coordination with others that can't be accomplished otherwise.
When teams click, results can be spectacular. Most of us, however, have also experienced the opposite, and examples of poor teamwork follow us through life.
Myers-Briggs® type and team performance
The Myers-Briggs Company conducted a study of factors associated with team performance, such as individuals' views concerning team performance, as well as the correlation between their personality type preferences (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® framework) and perceptions of working in a team.
The survey of 883 participants found job satisfaction is related to team performance, and that whatever people saw as "worst" or "best" about their team was typically directly tied to team leadership.
Additionally, the study showed intriguing interaction between the personality type of the individual and the collective type of the team.
In this article, I’ll dive into why these attitudes may be emerging and what leaders can do about them.
Team performance predicts job satisfaction—and possibly retention
One primary discovery was that participants who believed their team was performing effectively tended to exhibit higher levels of job satisfaction and vice versa. Survey results also had direct implications for employee retention. Those with positive views of their team’s performance were less likely to be considering leaving than those with the opposite views.
The study also showed that personality often affects a person’s perception of team performance.
For example, a team I worked with had several members with an ENFJ preference who valued collaboration and ensuring that each team member contributed and was heard. For these team members, top success criteria included harmony and feeling supported by the leader and each other.
On the other hand, a few team members with ESTJ and ISTJ preferences had a top success criterion of meeting monthly revenue targets. This, at times, was at the expense of harmony, and some team members didn’t feel supported. With this particular team example, high performance was defined differently depending on which team member you asked.
The impact of individual versus team personality
Groups, like individuals, tend to have personalities of their own. This phenomenon is measurable, and the predominant personality preferences of teams can be discovered through psychometric assessment.
A team, for example, may have an overall preference for Extraversion, even if many individual members have the opposite preference, Introversion. This, according to the study, may generate some interesting dynamics.
While the personality type of the individual did not relate to team performance—a person with any one MBTI personality type was not generally more or less likely to view their team’s performance positively—the collective personality type of the team, and its relation to individual type, did.
For example, the study revealed that individuals who shared the same type as their team in terms of Sensing–Intuition (S/N) and Thinking–Feeling (T/F) believed their team performed better. In other words, if the team personality type was INTP, and the individual's personality type was ENTJ (note that the middle two letters, NT, are the same), that individual was more likely to view their team’s performance positively. Conversely, individuals with personality types completely different from that of the team had the least favorable perception of the team's performance, on average.
Furthermore, individuals who shared the same type as their team in terms of Sensing–Intuition and Judging–Perceiving exhibited greater levels of job satisfaction.
Interestingly, findings didn’t suggest that individuals choose to join teams based on personality type. Individuals who understand their personality type also know that it is just one attribute; they also value skill and experience. They typically seek out teams where their contributions are needed, and those may be teams with great personality diversity.
For example, one team I worked with was responsible for highly regulated financial transactions, which required a high level of skill and deep experience. While personality type played a role in their satisfaction, they didn’t seek out the team through the lens of personality.
Personality and the critical team leader role
The survey also found that perceived performance of the team leader was strongly related to an individual's job satisfaction. Here again, personality type affected these perceptions.
Although there was no clear evidence that any particular personality type was perceived as a better or worse team leader, the interplay between the leader's type and that of their team members did have an impact. Specifically, individuals with a Sensing (S) preference tended to rate their team leader's performance more favorably than those with an Intuition (N) preference.
While participants weren’t explicitly aware of their team leader's personality type, participants tended to perceive their leaders as displaying traits associated with Extraversion and Intuition, as well as, to a somewhat greater extent, Thinking and Judging.
It’s also interesting to note that in several instances people's perceptions of their leaders' personality type reflected their own. For example, those with personality preferences for Sensing, Intuition, and Judging tended to believe their team leader shared their personality preferences.
In summary, job satisfaction appears to be directly related to perception of team and leader performance, both of which are related to personality type.
None of this should be interpreted to suggest, however, that alignment between individual, team, and leader personality type is necessary for a well-functioning team. In fact, diversity of personality type (also called diversity of thought) can be a very positive thing within a team, as it tends to yield diversity of opinions and approaches. These, in turn, can yield more innovative solutions and guard against groupthink.
These findings do suggest, however, that team leaders should pay close attention to team dynamics and individual personalities to improve team performance and job satisfaction.
This article was written by Sherrie Haynie, Sr. Director of US Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company, and first published by Forbes Coaches Council, July 2023.