Newsletter #3


In this issue:

Which Myers-Briggs® Type is the Office Politician?

About the Strong Interest Inventory®: What's the Learning Environment Scale?

The FIRO-B: What Affects Your Results?

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode: What's Good About Accommodating?


Which Myers-Briggs Type is the Office Politician?

We've all seen those people at work who seem to be masters at getting to know everyone, figuring out what they like, and learning how to get them on their side. Sometimes these people are known as office politicians. Is there a certain type that tends to be the office politician? Do others trust them?

Researchers asked members of the Association for Psychological Type to describe those people they felt fit the image of the office politician. The researchers then compared the results to the psychological types of the respondents. There was little influence from the gender or type of the respondent. The results seem to show the same thing, regardless of who answered the survey.

Who is the "typical" office politician? According to this study, two types dominated the responses: ESTJs and ENTJs. Third place went to ISTJs. For those of you who are familiar with type theory, you'll notice the first two are Dominant Extraverted Thinkers, while the third is an Auxiliary Extraverted Thinker. The opposite of this, Dominant Introverted Feeling (ISFP or INFP), was not rated by anyone as an office politician. Extraverts and Judgers received 56% of the votes, while Introverts and Perceivers received only 3%.

In general, the office politician appears to be a Thinker and a Judger. You might know that TJs are frequently office managers, so it's not much of a leap to see office politician as an answer. However, in this study, the politician was seen as far more Extraverted than the manager type. Interestingly, gender played no role in this view of the office politician: women were as likely as men to be seen in this role. The TJ aspect is far more important.

What are some of the characteristics of the office politician? Descriptors include socially adept, logical, assertive, ambitious, and needing power. These characteristics have been associated with Extraversion, Thinking, and Judging.

Note that many types were seen as potential office politicians. Only Introverted Feelers had virtually no votes (except two votes for ISFJs). INFJs, INFPs, and ISFPs received no votes.

What about trustworthiness in office politicians? Dominant Extraverted Feelers (ESFJ and ENFJ) were seen as far more trustworthy than Dominant Extraverted Thinkers (ESTJ & ENTJ) in this study. Extraverts and Feelers were described as strongly valuing harmony in interpersonal relationships and actively attempting to satisfy others' needs to ensure harmony. They are said to reflect benevolence, show cooperation and concern for others. Thinker Judger types are said to be more impersonal, critical, and focused on task-related issues. Those who put tasks before people are viewed as less trustworthy.

It's important to remember that this study asked about the PERCEPTIONS of who the office politician might be. The participants were not asked to point to the office politician so he or she could be assessed. We should also consider the possibility of type bias. While the participants in the study were APT members, that group is heavily weighted with Intuitive Feelers, a group that is much different from the perceived office politician. It's possible that bias influenced the results of this study.


About the Strong Interest Inventory: What's the Learning Environment Scale?

Simply put, this scale shows whether people prefer academic learning or more practically oriented, hands-on learning. This scale will NOT predict academic success. It shows which environment is most comfortable for the person.

It's more common for those who score highest on the Artistic scale to score towards the Academic pole, reflecting the scale's central cultural and verbal content. This pole is also moderately correlated with the Investigative theme because of the research component.

There are large differences on this scale among college majors. Those who prefer the Academic pole tend to study language or literature, history, journalism, physical sciences, and social sciences. Those who prefer the Practical pole tend to study things such as the machine trades, vocational-technical subjects, business, law enforcement, and agriculture.

Scores of 55 and above are common for people who engage in professions that require a great deal of academic preparation, such as PhDs. Scores of 45 and below are more common for people in occupations that require practical training of a limited duration. Still, it's quite common for college students to score below 50.

Here are some jobs for those who prefer the Academic pole: College professor, Geographer, Lawyer, Physicist, Psychologist, and Public Administrator. In contrast, jobs at the Practical end of the spectrum include Auto Mechanic, Dental Assistant, Farmer, Hair Stylist, and Nurse (LPN).

Once again, be careful about choosing an occupation based on your score on this scale. Avoid using your score as an excuse or reason to do something. If you scored towards the Practical pole, you can still be a doctor, for example. Likewise, if you came out near the Academic pole, you can still be a business major. The medical field is a good example of how wide the range of education can be. Some programs for lower level technical skills can be completed in less than a year. Others require many years of training and preparation.


The FIRO-B: What Affects Your Results?

The FIRO-B tells us a great deal about our individual desires for interacting with others. Is it possible that the results are inaccurate or someone could fake his or her responses?

Sure, someone could consciously decide to answer in a way that makes him or her appear better, particularly when used as a recruitment tool. People are often quite conscious of the desires of those giving them the test, so the results can be skewed.

However, that's less frequently the case than other causes for inaccurate results. The most common reason is major life events that lead to intense self-reflection or temporary withdrawal from others. Examples include getting divorced, getting married, getting fired, retiring, looking for a new job, graduating from college, death of a loved one, etc. Any or all of these can affect how a person views him- or herself at the time of taking the FIRO-B.

In one study using students who had recently suffered through the death of a parent, researchers found the Wanted Inclusion score to be higher than in the control group. Interestingly, men in this group also scored higher on Wanted Affection, while women scored lower than the control group. The theoretical explanation was that the men were using "overpersonal" compensation, while the women were using a form of avoidance.

Other examples include cultural differences about how needs are expressed. Some cultures don't allow men to show any emotions at all, except in extreme situations such as war or winning the World Cup. Some people might struggle with the vocabulary or language of the questions, particularly those whose first language is other than English. Some people also consciously or unconsciously avoid extreme responses, answering near the middle on all questions. Others may feel pressure from their environment to respond a certain way. The classic example is when the FIRO-B is given as part of a teambuilding training. People understand they should fit in and support the team and will answer accordingly.

The interesting part about those who try to alter their answer to fit in is that they rarely make big changes. They fear being discovered, so they make minor changes to their responses. However, because they don't know the cutoff score for each response, it's unlikely they'll change their answers enough to affect the outcome. The FIRO-B is well designed in this regard. Faking is usually successful at the extremes, i.e. "make myself look great" or "make myself look terrible."


Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode: What's Good About Accommodating?

When people read the results of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), they can reach the conclusion that accommodating is the best style. In fact, each of the 5 styles works well in some situations and poorly in others. The skill is to know when to use each style.

Some of the benefits of accommodating include restoring harmony, building relationships, settling things quickly, and helping others out. Some disadvantages include possible loss of respect and motivation, and sacrificing important points.

Some examples of how this style can be used include doing someone a favor, obeying an authority, deferring to someone else, appeasing someone who is dangerous, or letting yourself be persuaded.

When an issue is very important to someone else and not that important to you, it might be a good idea to give in to reap greater rewards later. You will build a good working relationship with the other person and will also help that person in his or her work. Likewise, it helps increase the other person's self-confidence if you let him or her do well without having to take credit yourself. The more secure you are in your position, the easier this is to do. You could tell one of your direct reports that you couldn't have done a better job yourself. You can also encourage your team members to try new ideas out, even if it's not the way you'd do it. Remember: even though it might look different than your way, it's not necessarily the wrong way.

If you have created some ill will in your past dealings with others, an accommodating style can help clear the air. This is one of the best uses of this style: damage control. It might help to apologize for angry words or deeds in the past. If the relationship with the other person is important to you, apologizing can help rebuild trust and improve goodwill.

Accommodation helps when you are in a losing position or are about to be overruled. It's a matter of realizing that you might not win every argument or your position might not be accepted every time. If you concede gracefully, you'll continue to build goodwill and will help speed along the decision making process. This is particularly smart if your boss has overruled you. You gain little by continuing to argue your point. Of course, there are exceptions: if your boss is doing something illegal or clearly against your organization's policies, you might tell his or her boss about it. Other than that, you're better served by respecting the organizational hierarchy.

One key aspect of this style is to concede gracefully. This means maintaining your composure, smiling, and avoiding snide remarks and threats. You gain little by complaining about the decision. Briefly explain your reasons for going along with the group, then move on.

Of course, there are disadvantages to every style, which we'll cover in a future issue.


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