The Supervisor’s Personality Test: How Important is Your Personality?

Is there a “right” personality type that is necessary to be a good manager?

How important is your personality in determining whether you will be a good supervisor?

Everyone has a personality. Some people are quiet, some are loud, some are thoughtful and some are thoughtless and any number of variations in between.

Do you have to be outgoing and extroverted to be successful, or should you be pensive and soft-spoken? Should your personality be a key determinant in your selection as a supervisor? Can you do anything about the way you are, to improve your chances of being a good supervisor?

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Many companies and agencies have their employees take personality tests. One of the most frequently used is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Myers-Briggs can help you better understand why people act and speak in certain ways, and, in turn, allow you to relate more to others and communicate more effectively with them. It also gives you an insight into how you may be perceived by others. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a very helpful tool for understanding and categorizing personality archetypes. It is based on the following main factors: Introversion/Extroversion, Intuition/Sensing, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving. People are then categorized into a type based on which of the four traits they practice. After taking the Myers-Briggs test you will find out which of 16 different personality types fits you best. 

As an example, if you are an INTP this means you are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Perceiving. People who are introverted draw energy from time spent by themselves. They are usually less talkative and more emotionally reserved. Introverts generally prefer to be alone, so others should focus on being respectful of their time and communicating clearly.

People who identify more with the Intuition characteristic love to explore new ideas. They enjoy seeing how everything connects and have strong instincts. Intuition types generally prefer thinking about the bigger picture, so avoid focusing too heavily on details and specifics.

People who are Thinking types follow their head. They prefer thinking logically and considering the facts when making decisions. Thinking types prefer direct and honest communication; avoid being overly emotional.

Individuals who identify with the Perceiving characteristic prefer to be flexible and spontaneous. They dislike rigid rules and processes, preferring to go with the flow of a situation. Perceiving types don’t like to feel controlled; focus on being encouraging and upbeat.

Myers-Briggs types can help you better understand why people act and speak in certain ways, and, in turn, allow you to relate more to others and communicate more effectively with them.

There are 15 other personality types which may fit you. Once you figure out your personality type, the theory is, this should help you to be able to communicate more effectively with people who have one of the 16 personality types which may be very different than yours. It is an interesting test and now, a free version is being offered online.

While Myers Briggs helps you to understand more about people’s personalities, including your own, it does not make you a better communicator, nor does it propose that you can change your personality.

Some people are what is known as a “people person” – someone who enjoys or is particularly good at interacting with others. Not everyone is a people person. To be a good supervisor, it does not mean you must become a people person. You must take the personality you have and use it to your best advantage.

However, you may have to adapt some of the ways you interact with people to be successful. If you are an introvert it doesn’t mean you need a personality transplant to be something you are not. If you are an extrovert it doesn’t mean you have to change, you just may have to learn when and how to act differently when it is called for. 

I remember the first time I took the Myers Briggs Personality Test. It was during a training seminar at the OPM training facility in Charlottesville, Virginia. Before they handed out the results to everyone in the class, they called me into a meeting with the school’s expert on Myers Briggs. He told me I was off the charts on being an introvert. He had seen very few people if any, score so strongly as an introvert.

He asked me what I did. I told him I was a trial lawyer, supervisor and did a lot of training. He asked me how I handled, what he called, my extreme introversion in doing my job. I told him each day I knew I had to interact with people in which ever role I was performing and that to do my job I had to be a different person than I other wise might have liked to be. At the end of performing the role, I knew I could go back to being the way I was.

Dealing with People

If you just don’t like people, being a supervisor may not be for you. You can learn how to effectively deal with people regardless of your personality type, but if you just are not interested in interacting with people, managing people is not something which will work well for you or the employees you would be supervising.

A person who doesn’t want to talk to other people will have a hard time being a good communicator. One thing to understand is that your personality type does not make you either a good or bad communicator.

An introvert can be a great communicator. Introverts who find direct interaction difficult can become effective communicators by simply pretending to be extroverted for short periods of time, such as when engaging with an employee.

An extrovert can be a terrible communicator because they may fail to spend the time necessary to make sure their communications are clearly understood and effective.

Everyone can learn to be a good communicator – if they want to be one. While it is difficult, if not impossible, to change your personality anyone can improve their communication skills if that is the kind of supervisor they want to be.

If you want to be a good supervisor you must decide whether you want to interact with employees. If you realize interacting with employees is not something you want to do, then think about other choices of career than being a supervisor. You are not being asked to be a “people person” or become an extrovert overnight. The real question is, are you willing to learn how to be effective in interacting with employees? If the answer is yes, I want to be effective in my interactions with employees, then you can learn how to communicate effectively regardless of what Myers Briggs said about your personality. 

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.