As a burnout recovery expert, I know the importance of examining both the environmental as well as the personal factors that contribute to stress. So when it was time to tackle the effects of personality on burnout, I decided to look at the four dimensions of one of the most widely used and researched measure of personality, the Myers-Briggs.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on individual preferences. The assumption here is that our preferences are a reflection of our “interests, needs, values, and motivation.” The authors of the instrument, Isabel Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs, state that one of the factors that reflects our personality type is the way we gather information.
When I set out to write this article, I began with three questions in mind:
Why does it matter which way you gather information?
How can your preference related to information gathering contribute to burnout and what can you do about it?
How does it affect your results differently when coupled with whether you’re an introvert or an extravert?
How Do You Gather Information?
There are two main ways of gathering information, according to the MBTI. The first is through the five senses, and is thus named Sensing. The second is through intuition, and is named as such.
When you are in any given situation, do you tend to only trust information that is concrete? Are you like a detective who looks for indisputable facts? Do you have to see it to believe it? If so, you are a Sensing type.
Alternatively, you may be the type of person who looks for patterns, meanings, and associations. Do you have hunches about events, an inner knowing that guides your decision-making? If so, you are an Intuitive type.
How Does Your Information Gathering Style Contribute to Burnout?
One of the key concepts to keep in mind, regardless of which aspect of your personality you’re thinking about, is the person-environment fit. You’re probably familiar with the idea that there are different learning styles. Some people are more visual learners, so when they are required to get information by listening to a podcast, for example, they may have a much more difficult time holding onto new learning than if it were presented by video.
Similarly, Sensing types learn better when they are provided information in a logical, organized fashion. They start by focusing on their present experience and from that can extrapolate what the future might entail. They look for practical ways to apply their learning moving forward. When they share their ideas, they do so in a detailed way.
Intuitive types focus on gaining insight by looking for patterns. When attending to new information, they seek out meaning and ways to organize the data based on what they already know. They are more visionary as they consider what might be possible if circumstances were different. When asked to describe their learning, they might be more long-winded or talk in an abstract way about their big picture idea.
Imagine that you work in an advertising agency where you need to come up with marketing material that could lure in the company’s target audience. This is a highly imaginative and creative task that requires you to inspect patterns of what’s worked in the past and piece the puzzle together.
If you’re a Sensing type, this would clearly be a bad fit for your personality based on the way you gather information. Being a round peg in a square hole can lead to burnout. Instead, you might be a good contributor to help your teammates research what the competition is doing, look at your success and failure rates from past advertising efforts, and provide a detailed summary that can help your Intuitive co-workers be more on target.
And now imagine that you’re a bookkeeper. You work with other small businesses, helping them organize their finances. A good bookkeeper needs to be systematic, analytical, and practical. This is a job much better suited for a Sensing type. If you’re an Intuitive in this role, you might find yourself unable to flourish due to a lack of innovation. You might be better off as a business coach that can help entrepreneurs with creative problem solving, a position that affords you intellectual stimulation and an opportunity to use your original ideas to promote transformation.
Burnout can not only happen due to a poor personality fit, but also expresses itself quite differently based on personality. One British researcher, *Anna-Maria Garden, did some fascinating work on what burnout looks like for different types. She found that despite the fact that Sensors are more detail-oriented, when burned out, they are less able to to focus on details. A similar trend is found with Intuitives who normally are big-picture minded. When burned out, they are less able to focus broadly.
When Functions and Attitudes Come Together
We already mentioned that the Myers-Briggs examines four dimensions of personality. The first dimension is about your attitude, whether you are an extravert or introvert. The former likes to be action-oriented and this fuels their energy and motivation, especially after some reflection. The latter expends energy when focused on doing and needs to recover through inactivity - an opportunity for reflection.
How does your information gathering preference coupled with your attitude affect your results? Let’s dive into the four combination possibilities, examine strengths, weaknesses and career fit for each of the 16 personality types, and reach conclusions about the integration of the MBTI’s first two dimensions.
Please keep in mind that T and F form the third dimension of personality and reflect the judging functions of Thinking vs. Feeling and J and P form the fourth dimension which reflects the lifestyle preferences of Judging and Perceiving. More on these dimensions in future posts.
Sensing and Introverted
If you gather information through the five senses (Sensing) and need to be alone to recharge (introversion), your personality can be described as one of the following:
Strengths: Reliable, hardworking, structured, competent, punctual, trust-worthy
Weaknesses: Stubborn, harsh, inflexible, overly self-reliant, filled with self-blame
Ideal professions: Accountants, auditors, data analysts, financial managers, administrators
Strengths: Analytical, meticulous, kind, dedicated, confident, enthusiastic
Weaknesses: Procrastinators, perfectionistic, lack boundaries, emotionally repressed
Ideal professions: Nurses, elementary school teachers, social and religious workers
Strengths: Flexible, imaginative, logical, good at time-management, spontaneous, relaxed
Weaknesses: Unpredictable, stubborn, hard to reach, unreliable, noncommittal, conflict-prone
Ideal professions: Biologist, software developer, jeweler, office manager, firefighter
Strengths: Warm, likable, empathic, creative, flexible, helpful, passionate, expressive
Weaknesses: Oppressed by rules, lack of planning and focus, easily stressed out
Ideal professions: Psychologists, teachers, consultants, physician, personal fitness trainer
The combination of Sensing and Introversion leads you to be balanced as well as help counterbalance people with opposing personalities. Introverted Sensations, as Carl Jung called them, make good accountability partners for this reason. In addition, they are highly engaged in activities in which they can experience their body internally such as yoga and meditation. Using this knowledge, such activities can be used to recover from stress and avoid burnout.
Sensing and Extraverted
If you gather information through the five senses (Sensing) and need to be around others to recharge (Extraversion), your personality can be described as one of the following:
Strengths: Energetic, practical, experimental, observant, clear communication, action-oriented
Weaknesses: Blunt, impatient, impulsive, poor focus and planning, low frustration tolerance
Ideal professions: Mechanic, chiropractor, chef, paramedic, budget analyst
Strengths: Experimental, artistic, dramatic, practical, talkative, independent
Weaknesses: Overly-sensitive to criticism, avoid conflict, poor focus and planning
Ideal professions: Event planner, tour guide, EMT, real estate agent, florist
Strengths: Determined, honest, reliable, organized, efficient, hardworking, self-motivated
Weaknesses: Inflexible, uncomfortable with change, overly concerned with others’ opinions
Ideal professions: Sales manager, financial counselor, paralegal, school principal, dentist
Strengths: Practical, responsible, sensitive, outgoing, organized, socially intelligent, patient
Weaknesses: Overly concerned with status and playing it safe, risk and conflict averse, needy
Ideal professions: Counselor, paralegal, police officer, caterer, optometrist, office manager
The combination of Sensing and Extraversion means that you are more attuned to details around you including styles and trends, that you have a strong appreciation of physical beauty, and that you become engaged through physical action. Using this knowledge, you can combat stress by going to a museum, taking a flower arranging class, or exercising your body.
Intuitive and Introverted
If you gather information by relying on your instincts (Intuitive) and need to be alone to recharge (introversion), your personality can be described as one of the following:
Strengths: Imaginative, compassionate, honest, inspiring, good follow through, passionate
Weaknesses: Vulnerable to criticism, perfectionist, overly-private, prone to burn out
Ideal professions: counselor, advisor, writer, photographer, designer, musician
Strengths: Strategic, curious, creative, confident, direct, honest, logical, very independent
Weaknesses: Insensitive, perfectionistic, dislike rules, judgmental, overly-analytical
Ideal professions: Project managers, system engineers, marketing strategists
Strengths: Optimistic, inclusive and supportive of others, creative, flexible, hard-working
Weaknesses: Dislike rules, overly-idealistic, impractical, difficulty incorporating facts
Ideal professions: Massage therapists, social workers, counselors, physical rehab specialists
Strengths: Analytical, imaginative, flexible, enthusiastic, open-minded, objective, honest
Weaknesses: Withdrawn, insensitive, forgetful, dismissive of others, dislike rules, indecisive
Ideal professions: Systems analysts, mathematicians, software engineers, technical writers
The combination of Intuition and Introversion means that you tend to collect information about the outside world and process it to form an impression and meaning out of it. You rely heavily on your sense of vision and are often a visionary. Because of this ability, you are able to have insightful solutions to problems. To strategically recover from stress, you would benefit from a visualization exercise that focuses on relaxation, such as a beach.
Intuitive and Extraverted
If you gather information by relying on your instincts (Intuitive) and need to be around others to recharge (Extraversion), your personality can be described as one of the following:
Strengths: Adventurous, open-minded, enthusiastic, strong people skills, spontaneous
Weaknesses: Struggle with focus and follow-through, over-analyze, easily overwhelmed
Ideal professions: Psychologists, politicians, detectives, fashion designers, animal trainers
Strengths: Lover of learning, flexible, creative problem-solver, confident, charming
Weaknesses: Argumentative, insensitive, critical, easily bored, trouble focusing, impractical
Ideal professions: Lawyers, psychologists, systems analysts, scientists, sales representatives
Strengths: Team players, reliable, skilled communicators, selfless, warm, natural leaders
Weaknesses: Naive, poor boundaries, overly sensitive, indecisive, underestimate themselves
Ideal professions: HR administrator, event coordinator, politician, health educator, author
Strengths: Efficient, ambitious, confident, determined, strategic, inspirational, natural leaders
Weaknesses: Stubborn, inflexible, impatient, suppress emotions, insensitive, critical
Ideal professions: Budget analyst, financial advisor, property manager, sales engineer
The combination of Intuition and Extraversion means that you dig for meaningful patterns behind the data. Because you are always finding new ways of looking at a given situation, you are open-minded and objective. On the down side, Extraverted Intuitives can be easily distracted and feel restless for change. If acted upon, they might be thought of as unreliable. Perhaps this tendency is a way of preventing burnout or maybe the incessant change leads you to burn out. Either way, consider ways to grow in your current role. Meditation is a tool that can help you increase your ability to focus and can decreases your stress levels.
Through my search for answers to the three questions I posed at the start about the relationship between information-gathering preferences and burnout, I uncovered three valuable insights:
The focus on person-environmental fit is one that is helped by examining the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 16 personality types and informs on suitable career options for each. The better the fit between your preferences and your work setting, the more protection against burnout you’ll enjoy.
When burnout occurs, it creates a paradoxical reversal in how each type perceives information. This may create confusion both for yourself and others who know how you typically behave. Keep this in mind to inform yourself of the burnout process and take action to recover.
By better understanding your preferences, you can custom tailor your stress reduction and burnout prevention tools to fit your personality.
*Anna-Maria Garden, “The Purpose of Burnout,” British Region: Association for Psychological Type Newsletter 1, no. 6 (1990), 1, 2.