Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Does Everyone Fit in a Box?


During my fifteen years in Corporate America, there were two or three times that I had to take a personality test. I don’t remember all the official names, but after answering several questions, I landed in one of four boxes on a piece of paper, each labeled with one or two general words that defined “me.”

One time, I was bored by it; another time, I had fun. My coworkers and I had to mark a yellow sticky on each other’s backs to give our opinion of the person's personality.

My husband and I also took a test during a marriage retreat. This one was fun because it defined us with “colors!” We were red, yellow, blue, or green – our dominant personality, and another of the four colors as our secondary personality. A church leader jokingly said, “All you red people (controllers), take notice of who all the green people (givers) are because they have a hard time saying no.”

This subject came to mind when I asked a tennis teacher if she had more openings in her class for nine to twelve year olds…on the day of the first class. She only had four signed up, but the following day she told me several more showed up.

“Everyone procrastinates,” she said, which made me wonder if the procrastinators fit in one of the personality boxes or in another popular categorization, “Type A or Type B.”

(Click here to see Wikipedia’s entry on the “Four Temperaments” and click here to see the “Type A and Type B Personality Theory” entry; or Google “personality test.”)

I suppose these tests are used to place individuals in positions of work where they will be most comfortable, productive, and best able to benefit the organization - a worthy goal.

I didn’t pay attention to the A-B thing until I began working at a large corporation in 1984, filled with college recruits. “I’m type A,” one young woman said, “and I hate it when I can’t get an immediate and direct answer!”

“Ohhhh…” I thought. So that’s what the media is defining as those likely to have a heart attack.

After leaving Corporate America to get married and have children, I thought I’d relax and go with the flow. (ha ha) But even motherhood proved to be non-exempt from a scheduled day. A new friend suggested we get our five year old girls together to play. “Sure, good idea,” I said. We lived in the same neighborhood; I knew it would happen soon. But she said, “When?” and right then, I had to get it on the calendar.

I’ve always remembered that conversation. She was “proactive” (another current buzz word), and I was impressed.

My guess is that the people who researched and studied to assemble these tests can vouch for the necessity, accuracy, success, and benefits. But at my age, hopefully, I’m done with them. I’ve always been an independent type, and whereas I have landed in one of the four boxes when tested, I prefer operating outside of the box, jumping into whatever box I need during any given situation.

As for Type A-Type B – I think I’m in the B box, because I never say it. All my Type A friends announce it on occasion. I’ve never heard anyone announce that they are Type B.

What word(s) defines your dominant personality? Are you Type A or B? How do you feel about these tests?

30 comments:

Just Plain Tired said...

If a Type-A person demanded a quick answer from me I will always oblige them, not necessarily with the answer they want to hear though. ;)

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

I don't know what type I am but I am a lot more relaxed now than I was 10 years ago.

Marla @ Always Nesting said...

The older I get the less I'm a type A. I don't like myself when I go into type A mode. When I let myself slip into type B, I stop grinding my teeth, snapping at people, and worrying all the time.

Kate said...

I think I'm different types on different days and about different things. But I don't mind that. Who wants to be labelled???!!

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I don't think I'm a type A but maybe a type Z?

Tammy@ A Doctor in the House said...

I guess I'm type B b/c I'm definitely not type A. I don't know if I've ever heard anyone define Type B. So funny and true what you said about Type A's announcing themselves.

Just Two Chicks said...

Bahhh! I'm so tired of hearing about personality tests. That is all I hear when it comes to the wifes company. "We tested so-and-so and they're "blah, blah, blah," while so-and-so 2 is "blah, blah, blah." So then they have seminars on how to best combine those personalities, they have dinners where they rate each other, they have 4 day sleepovers at ranches so they can best learn how to center themselves. Seriously?! I mean, if all of the leaders are continually meeting to discuss this stuff, who IS actually running the company? She doesn't listen to me, as I'm more of the "cut out so many meetings and lets see if it increases more productivity" kind of person." Or the "Who cares about personalities, you knew what your job would be when you were hired, you know what it will take to move up, so lets just get the job done." Is that "old school?" As far as what Tyupe of personality I am, the wife actually had me take one of her corporate tests and I apparently scored exactly the same as she did. Not really sure what that means, but if I were to analyze myself I would say I'm inbetween A and B. I make my lists, have my schedules, am completely neat and tidy, but if something goes wrong, I make adjustments as needed without freaking out. THAT is my best character trait... dead calm in the midst of chaos. :) Long response huh? :)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I've never taken one, but I'm certain right now I'd be a Type B -- who likes to work alone. Is that on the chart? When I left the corporate world and became a full-time mom, my intensity was probably rather high. I expected schedules and organization. Defined roles and planning. Maybe I was a Type A then? If so, didn't last long.

As time went by - schedules and organization became defined in completely different sections of the dictionary.

Dori said...

Each and every time I've taken the Myers Briggs test I've come out exactly the same...years apart, but at least I'm consistent! :)

As for A or B...I'm a color-outside-the-lines/annoy-authority/please-just-leave-me-alone-and-let-me-work type...it that B? Or some other letter further down the alphabet?

I think there was a time I firmly held the belief that Things had to be Done a particular way. I've evolved into a much more flexible person over the years...parenthood has something to do with that! I do know with absolute certainty that I don't do well in boxes.

Buckeroomama said...

I think I might be a Type A, LOL!

SuziCate said...

I used to be what people termed as a go-getter, and I was stressed. I am now laid back and relaxed. I let things happen in their own time. I am much happier this way. And I must say I am happy also not to be out in the business world now. I do miss it on rare occasions.

Tracey said...

I wanna be Type A cuz like things just so. But I am too lazy

MissKris said...

I don't think I've ever allowed myself to be pigeon-holed in to any category. I have forever and always gone to the beat of my own drummer. But just out of curiosity, when I read Dori's comment, I went to take the Myers-Briggs test and I'm a Guardian:

http://keirsey.com/handler.aspx?s=keirsey&f=fourtemps&tab=2&c=protector

That puts me in company with Mother Theresa and Jimmy Stewart. I'm satisfied. ;-)

yonca said...

My mom always says that everyone has different personality.Don't label them.They might surprise you one day.That's what I believe too.
Great topic as usual Anita!

Joanne said...

I like your idea of choosing whatever box suits a given situation. And since that seems to be a kind of easygoing way of looking at things, I guess I'll go with Type-B :)

Abby said...

I find these tests kind of fascinating actually - the whole psychological aspect of them.

I used to be active with a women's group, and we had a facilitator come and do a Myers-Briggs test with us, and then we were put into our respective boxes. It was very illuminating!

My name is PJ. said...

Dang, I worked for IBM for years and took my share of those types of tests. I don't miss IBM or the tests. :)

I always tell people I'm a type B plus. And, yes, I always announce it.

Dorraine said...

I don't like labels. Or boxes. I've always managed to operate quite fine without either. Some days we feel one way, another day another. And certainly as we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we change, mellow and grow. The idea is interesting, but for me that's as far as that label goes!

Tabor said...

I like taking the tests...but accept them with a grain of salt because we are complicated people and like our blood pressure we change personalities to suit the day or mood.

Jen said...

I prefer to call it weighing my options or thinking it over. Procrastinating sounds too much like lazy.

Aging Mommy said...

I actually hate the idea of putting people in boxes, especially children or young adults because people can and do change so very much and people develop at different speeds. So labels can become defining and therefore restrictive. There are definitely basic characteristics we are born with that do not change much - go getter types are often just born that way. But many other things are less fixed and will vary depending on what the situation is and how important or unimportant something is to a specific individual. Becoming a parent necessitates lots of changes again and I know I am in some ways very different now to the person I was four years ago. So like you I prefer to avoid those labels.

Rebecca S. said...

My husband is most definitely a type A, but he is starting to mellow out a bit. I don't know what type I am, but I would say that it is the type that can live with a type A, while driving them a bit nuts by their own lack of type A-ness. But somehow, due to that X-factor called love, it all works out!

ModernMom said...

Oh you are right!N I have never heard anyone announce they are type B. Guess I am Type A...more poor kids:) lol

Hilary said...

I'm an A, through and through. I'm definitely that mom scheduling the playdate! It is what is, and I own it.

gayle said...

I'm pretty sure that I am type A. My new principal had us all take the color test and I thought oh wow that will help her work with us too. Well, so far it hasn't work out that way!!

Erin said...

I don't know that I like all the boxes, either (especially given my recent post, LOL!). I do tend to be very Type A and a little OCD. I like my duckies in a row. But lately I catch myself falling off a bit, flying by the seat of my pants, and becoming a bit disorganized. Not sure if it's b/c I'm a bit overextended, or if I'm learning to let go in lots of areas of my life....

Nancy C said...

I was in education, so I've been called, Green, Gold, introvert, extrovert, type A, B, etc. etc.

Also, I'm an oldest child.

And a Pisces, if you're into that.

It's a party game, something to spark conversation, but they can be really misused and damaging if they become shields to hide behind.

Good conversation here!

diney said...

On Mondays I'm probably an A, all proactive and assertive at the start of a new week. By Sunday I'm a Z. Thankfully I've never worked in the corporate environment to that extent, so never had to be labelled. I feel the freedom and it's good!

Georgiana said...

LOL! It's totally true--Type A's announce it every chance they get (yes, this is me) and B's don't seem to care. Or if they do they don't feel the compulsion to share it with everyone.

Jenny said...

I think I might be a type X. I'm with you. It's hard to be categorized.