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The worst…

…company that I worked for in my life passed away last week (not quietly, from what I understand). I learned a lot there (not all of it pleasant) and met some good people.

(Warning – this blog entry contains the objective results of direct testing in psychological research. If you do not want to know about reality, stop reading now.)

I am a “root cause” kind of guy. When I look back over my career in high tech, my root cause for leaving almost all of the companies that I left is “personality cloning” and the types of corporate cultures that it produces. The research (and Myers-Briggs testing has taken place with thousands and thousands of individuals over many many years) suggests a personality basis for discriminaton in corporations, against women and FP (Myers-Briggs “Feeling, Perceiving”) types in general. What is wrong with discrimination on the basis of personality? Well, personality is genetic, like blond hair, blue eyes, sex, and left-handedness (and many many other things). If you discriminated on the basis of these characteristics, you would find yourself in court rather quickly.

(Note added April 28, 2009: Oops! I forgot “age,” [life expectancy is genetic as well] and maybe you actually WON’T wind up in court so quickly, or quickly enough.)

Psychological Type Begets Psychological Type

“Kroeger and Thuesen (1993) suggest that …’type begets type’ at work. When you can control the kinds of people with whom you want to work, chances are you’ll pick people who are more like you than different. In our experience the people around you will likely share three out of four letters with you. Hence typological diversity, though a noble goal, will probably not happen. There may be a balance in gender, a variety of cultures and races, but odds are that the typological preferences will be similar. (p. 190)”

Kroeger, Otto, & Thuesen, Janet M. (1993). Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.

The source has some interesting things to say about ESTJs, which have been suggested to be largely responsible for the creation and maintenance of bureaucracies. From Kroeger, Otto, & Thuesen, Janet M. (1993) and (direct quote) –

“There is a predominance of TJ types over FP types in management.

‘At the executive level upward of 90 percent are Thinking-Judgers’, according to Kroeger and Thuesen (1993). As a result of all this we can predict three things about the typological makeup of the higher echelons of the workplace:

As long as management is predominantly TJ, women are statistically destined to be in the minority; there are simply fewer T women in the population.

Most of the women achieving top-level positions will look typologically like their male counterparts. More than likely they will be TJs.

The few Feeling-Perceiving types who make it to the top typically do so for one of two reasons: simply to prove to themselves that they can do it or because they have a missionary zeal to change the organization. The FPs got there not because the system accepted them so much as their ability to play the TJ game. While at the top the idealists do have some impact, but as soon as they leave, their programs are often obliterated with the sweep of a pen (p. 191).”

At the company that died last week, a personality that was cloned was the Myers-Briggs “INTJ”, a type that is common in science and engineering. This fact was actually verified by Myers-Briggs testing at the time that I was working for the company – almost all of the managers at that time were INTJs. Along with the extraverted variety (ENTJ) and the type ISTJ (common in the military, police forces, and one very large IT company), these three types are the most common personality types of corporate CEOs. The “groupthink” of ENTJ-INTJ-dominated clusters, and its exclusion of objective reality :-) has always been of interest to me. I believe that “personality cloning” ultimately destroys companies (by the processes of increasing structural rigidity and declining innovation), but unfortunately, the processes take years, and most of us do not have that kind of time to waste. The acquisition of smaller, innovative companies along the way is merely “buying time.”

Here are my best wishes for the victims of the dissolution of the company last week. You are good people, and I wish you the best of success in quick placement in the lousy high-tech marketplace that exists right now (see the outsourcing and offshoring entry below). If you choose another path, more power to you.

Always remember your skills and your real worth as human beings. Good luck.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo

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