Myers-Briggs and Office Politics: Sensors and Intuitives
In the terminology of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), sensors are hands-on people who prefer to process information about the world in terms of what they can see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. Intuitives, on the other hand, prefer to assimilate information about the world around them and process the data in an abstract, big-picture way. When they work together in an office, sensors and intuitives might find their working relationships rife with misunderstandings unless they can try to mutually understand and respect one another's differences. By doing so, they'll contribute to harmony in the workplace, fostering an office politics that's based on cooperation, not conflict.
Sensors are the quintessential “Just the Facts” personality types, whereas intuitives thrive on connecting the dots and considering possibilities. When sensors get frustrated with intuitives for not focusing on the facts at hand, or when intuitives get annoyed with sensors for not seeing beyond what's readily at hand, communication difficulties arise in the workplace. Instead of truly listening to one another, sensors and intuitives can fall into the trap of focusing on their different styles of perceiving and communicating as a source of conflict rather than a means of cooperation.
Let's say a problem crops up in an office that needs resolution. A sensor will want to examine aspects of the problem fact-by-fact in order to reach the bottom line of the issue. An intuitive will want to brainstorm ideas for solving the problem rather than focusing only on facts. If the two people, our sensor and our intuitive, butt heads over how to solve the problem, then office politics of conflict, not cooperation, will rear its head. Instead of solving the problem, a brand new problem will be added to the original one: namely, miscommunication and maybe even mistrust.
Getting the Job Done
So how would our sensor and our intuitive go about resolving their problem and getting the job done? In our hypothetical workplace, the people involved could either complain to co-workers or to their supervisor about one another, contributing to office politics of the worst kind. A far better alternative is if the sensor and the intuitive can strive to understand that neither one of their communication styles is “wrong” – they're just different. And diversity is the lifeblood of any workplace. It takes people of all kinds, working as a team and trusting one another, to reach goals and accomplish great things.
The key is mutual understanding. In the workplace, sensors and intuitives can make a fabulous team, since the two preferences beautifully complement each other. Sensors trust their firsthand experiences and five senses, whereas intuitives trust their gut feelings and their sense of what is possible. When you combine these two sources, the practical and the possible, the physical and the theoretical, you wind up with a powerful mix indeed.
MBTI assessment can serve as a tremendously useful tool in helping sensors and intuitives understand and appreciate one another better. Mutual appreciation facilitates communication, and when co-workers understand how their differences can work in a complementary fashion to get things done, they can become a highly efficient – and amazing – team in which operate office politics of the best kind.