Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types. People are categorized into sixteen groups that are described by a combination of four letters. The letters describe the two extremes of various aspects of personality. Despite the fact that there are sixteen groups, you can make life simpler by generalizing a bit and grouping into four groups.
In engineering, the NT and SJ personalities are the most prevalent. NTs, or ‘rationals’, comprise only about 5% of the total population but a significant chunk of engineers. SJs, or ‘guardians’, are nearly half the population. The more analytic of the guardians tend to enter engineering, a field which tends to utilize a lot of rules and is thus appealing to the SJ personality type.
The funny thing is, SJs and NTs tend to not get along very well at all. SJs like rules and like to follow them and like when other people follow them. NTs are known for their unconventional but pragmatic thinking, which means they tend to try to find what works, even if it means thinking outside of the box.
As you may have guessed, this can lead to a lot of workplace conflict. Sometimes engineering has nothing to do with what you’re making and everything to do with your approach to the project.
There are other ways to categorize personality types. One that I came across many years ago was the Trent-Smalley categorization. While it doesn’t have the same level of background as the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey types, it is useful in it’s simplicity. NTs correlate to the personality type of “lion”, while the SJs become “beavers”.
So engineering can boil down to a bunch of egomaniacal carnivores trying to work with busy-body vegetarians. And then people wonder why it can be so hard to get along with coworkers.
What do you think? Have you seen these personalities in your workplace and do you think they make it more difficult to get real engineering done? What type are you?