This is the third edition in an eight-week series, made possible by MYOB, discussing the future of the New Zealand workplace.

"A little nervous," says Niru Balu when asked how she's feeling before things get started.

This isn't an unusual reaction given the circumstances. They're sentiments shared by about half of her colleagues from MYOB, who have also volunteered themselves as guinea pigs for a personality test which spotlights their best and worst traits.

Termed the "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator", it's a 93-question multi-choice test that identifies traits like if someone is an introvert or extrovert, fact-focused, or more perceptive (likely to test things out for themselves).


Participants are ultimately assigned 1 of 16 workplace personality types, the goal according to Myers-Briggs Asia MD and Psychologist Cameron Nott is to "help individuals develop a greater sense of self-awareness, in terms of their strengths and blindspots".

Nott says companies use Myers-Briggs for a number of practical applications within the workforce, including individual development, team building, conflict management, communication improvement, management training and more. It's also credited with creating workplace environments that discourage conflict and even determining where your boss may sit you.

Myers-Briggs is one of the oldest tests that employees are being subject to, created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers more than 70 years ago.

It was based on the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung, who speculated that humans experience the world from four primary perspectives.

Sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking. He believed one of these four functions is dominant in each of us, most of the time.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator gauges a predisposition and assigns a personality type - such as 'responsible realist' or 'imaginative motivator' - to the user to help the employer better understand the strengths of a worker.

Questions include "You consider yourself more creative than pragmatic" and can be answered anywhere from strongly agree, to strongly disagree. Questions are equal measure, tedious, abstract and repetitive according to Niru and her colleagues. This is all to make it hard for ambitious employees to game the test.

The premise of labelling people is not without its critics.


As early as 2006, the Consulting Psychology Journal reported that half of a group of volunteers retested five weeks after their initial evaluation, reported a different profile from their first.

It has led some researchers to speculate, the theory we all have an innate personality from birth, might not be true.

That's a caution disregarded by other academics, corporations and individuals. More than 80 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use the test within their organisations, with more than 50 million individuals having taken the test to date.

Myers-Briggs licenses the test to psychologists around the world, who in turn become consultants to organisations. That is estimated to net the Myers-Briggs foundation more than $30 million dollars annually.

The MBTI is part of a myriad of workplace testing instruments used by employers to maximise employee performance in today's increasingly complex workplace.

Companies like Google are notorious for stringent hiring tests, with their complex recruitment questions going viral as far back as 2009 when Business Insider journalist Nicholas Carlson published the headline "15 Google Interview Questions That Will Make You Feel Stupid". A sample question included "How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?" (answer below*).


It might not be surprising employee profiling is common in large tech and management consultancies. Employees remain the single-largest expense for companies, so with streamlining the lifeblood of Silicon Valley, it's logical that white collar jobs which can't be automated or outsourced, will be optimised.

Our Kiwi companies are predominantly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but Silicon Valley has come to the rescue with testing tools for those workforces too. is one of a myriad of startups offering personality tests that can be delivered via a web browser, despite critics arguing these tests aren't as scientifically accurate as Myers-Briggs.

For Balu and her colleagues, they're conscious of the criticisms of all personality tests, but have an open-minded outlook. "I was a little sceptical at first, but then I read the report and was like yeah, that is me," says Balu.

Whether you're willing to take the plunge on the Myers-Briggs will, of course, be dependent on if you have a predisposition to "judging" the test based on the scepticism you've read above, or "perceiving", an openness to test the test for yourself. Or so its advocates would argue.

*For those who were curious, mathematicians hypothesise around 500,000 golf balls fit inside the average school bus. Google, of course, will be more focused on your mathematics methodology, than your specific outcome.