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Ethical Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Updated on August 17, 2014

Getting the Most Out of the Myers-Briggs

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular tool for helping individuals and groups increase self awareness. It can be a powerful asset in self development and has been successfully used to improve interpersonal relationships. With any widely used and popular instrument, misuse, both deliberate and unintentional, is a risk.

I've been a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner for more than 15 years. I've used the indicator primarily in the workplace, for team building, leadership coaching, and conflict mediation. The Myers-Briggs has made a positive difference for many people I've worked with. Sadly, though, it's been an uphill battle to help some clients see the positive side of the MBTI because they've been victims of unethical use of the Myers-Briggs and other instruments.

If you're invited to complete the Myers-Briggs Type indicator, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity! But, make sure those administering it make the most of this dynamic tool by using it ethically.

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Have you taken the Myers-Briggs?

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Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Find the Authentic Indicator

There are lots of personality indicator knock offs out there. If you want the benefits of accurate and valid results, you need to take the authentic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The authentic indicator is not published in a book, nor is it offered free, online. The authentic online versions are administered by credentialed professionals. Check the links listed below to find a certified practitioner who can offer you either the online or paper and pencil version of the MBTI.

Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Photo: freeimages.co.uk
Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Completion of the MBTI is Always Voluntary

One of the main ethical tenets of the Myers-Briggs is that completion is voluntary. It's about more than respecting your individual rights, it's a matter of accuracy.

The MBTI is a self report instrument. There are no tricks; there's no "lie" scale. When you complete the Myers-Briggs, you're reporting on your personal preferences.

If you've been coerced or pressured into taking the indicator, you may not feel at ease and your results may be adversely affected because of your discomfort. Likewise, if you are required to take the indicator as, say a pre-employment exam, you may try to answer in a way you think the employer wants you to answer, again resulting in an inaccurate outcome.

Professional practitioners will make certain that you know completion is voluntary and that your choice to decline is kept confidential. In my workshops, those who choose not to take the indicator receive a results folder along with everyone else. Only they know the type section is blank.

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Feedback is Always Professionally Delivered

One sure way to know you're not taking the authentic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is if your results are delivered electronically or you're just handed a print out. Ethical use of the MBTI requires that you be provided with interactive feedback by a certified professional.

The feedback may be in a workshop or one-on-one. The feedback session should be scheduled for no less than an hour and you should have ample time to ask questions. The professional will make sure you understand the terms and descriptions associated with the MBTI and should help you confirm the validity of your results.

If you aren't offered feedback as part of completing the Myers-Briggs, run fast, run far.

MBTI Results are Always Confidential

Confidentiality is another major tenet of ethical use of the Myers-Briggs. The decision to share your results and type are yours and yours alone. No matter who pays for the indicator's administration, your type is not to be disclosed to employers, others in a consulting company, your partner or spouse, or anyone else.

In my team building workshops, it's obviously useful to know the type make up of the entire team. However, unless every single individual agrees to share his or her type, we use dots on the type table rather than names. Participants are allowed time to consider whether or not they want to share and can make that decision known, privately, so there is no retribution.

If you are required to disclose your type or if the indicator's administrator shares your type without your permission, you may want to consider discussing the infraction with an authority in your organization. You may also report the practitioner to the MBTI's publisher, Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP).

You Decide if the Results are Valid

Remember what we said about the Myers-Briggs being a self report indicator? It only makes sense that you and only you can say if the report got it right or not.

Terms and type theory should be completely explained in your feedback. You should be given an opportunity to read about your type and similar types and to consider whether or not your results are valid. Your type can be considered a "working hypothesis" for as long as you want -- maybe even forever, if that's what you'd like.

Many people find their reported results to be surprisingly accurate. And, most people enjoy sharing their type results and talking with others about type. Your choice is always up to you.

Type is an Explanation, Not an Excuse, and Never a Stereotype

The Myers-Briggs sorts type into one of 16 sets of preferences. We all know we humans are far more unique and complex than that!

The 16 types are a first step in understanding. They provide a framework. But type should not be used to include or exclude. Type is not the basis for hiring decisions or team composition. I've heard more than one manager say, "but we need more of those," as though he or she were ordering office supplies.

We all can (and will) use all the preferences in our lives. The more we work with type, the more we can see the infinite variety of behavior associated within each of the 16 types. It's unfair to our own understanding and to the other person to decide they are capable or incapable of something because of type.

Your feedback session or workshop needs to foster that sort of understanding. The certified professional will help managers (and others) in the example above see how to make the most of the team by capitalizing on the gifts already right under his or her nose!

Photo: freimages.co.uk
Photo: freimages.co.uk

More Resources are Available

As part of the feedback (or workshop), you should be provided resources to continue you exploration of type. One of the wonderful things about the Myers-Briggs is the easy availability of the theory. A multitude of reliable, professionally written books are accessible at your library, bookstore, or online provider.

I've listed a few books in the section below. An online search will turn up plenty on type and the Myers-Briggs, as well.

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What do you think of the Myers-Briggs?

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    • MissRubyStars profile image

      MissRubyStars 3 years ago

      My results were ENTJ. From what I have read so far seems pretty accurate.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Its another stepping stone to self discovery, I've heard a couple people mention that they were a little surprised with some of the results, sometimes we might know all we think we do about ourselves....I like that the person gets to determine if results are valid or not.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      It's an excellent tool used to determined preferred behavior. I agree with ethical use of this and other such tools. Some employers use them to screen out job candidates. And some people use them without proper training, which can cause more harm than good.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      I think it's a nice tool to use in conjunction with other self-discovery systems; I've been assessed professionally three times; in the late 1980s by an HR professional, at a workshop in 2001 and at another workshop in 2008... all three times by people certified to administer the M-B. Came out INFJ all three times, so I'd have to say it's fairly consistent.