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Toward a Diversity of Psychological Type in Organization: Part One

© John Fudjack & Patricia Dinkelaker - October, 19941


Abstract
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section one

In this series of papers we will argue that the failure of the typical organization, as we know it today, to promote (or even accomodate) diversity along racial, gender, and other lines, is linked to an absence, in the organization, of a genuine diversity of 'psychological' type. This happens at a significant social cost.

Using demographic information generated by the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) it can be shown that statistically speaking, there is an uneven distribution of (Jungian/MBTI) types in the population at large, with a strong bias toward the ESTJ. This bias is amplified in organizations, where the presence of the ESTJ - who typically is more concerned about usurping 'control' - increases dramatically as one travels up the corporate ladder. The influence of the ESTJ is magnified even further as power is filtered through the strict hierarchical structures which, as Ian Mitroff has demonstrated, is the prefered organizational form of the ESTJ.

The ESTJ's preference for 'bureaucratic' forms of organization, when combined with the striking dominance of the ESTJ type in corporate decision-making, translates into an overuse of these structures. This is unfortunate, and alarming - as bureaucratic forms of organization have been shown to inhibit creativity, collobaration, and group synergy. They are also less inclined to accommodate or even tolerate other kinds of diversity - cultural, ethnic, age, gender, etc. This built-in tendency toward a reduction of diversity of all kinds has a negative impact on both the 'fairness' of the typical organization in our society, and its 'richness'. Exploration of these root issues leads us to an identification of personality types and traits that are currently undervalued and underused (those that cluster around the I,N,F, and P modes of experiencing the world), and eventually to a discussion of 'new paradigm' views that we believe to have arisen, at least in part, as a compensatory reaction to current psychological type biases.

Section One: Diversity
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footnotes

THE BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY

Diversity in the workplace is an issue of increasing importance in contemporary life. Cultural diversity, as well as diversity with respect to gender, age, physical ability and sexual orientation stand out as specific concerns in the contemporary workplace. This raises both a 'fairness issue' (equality of opportunity) and an interpersonal and organizational 'enrichment issue'. The absence of diversity in an organization impacts:

  • ... the opportunity for individuals in associated minority groups to contribute to organizations at their highest level of ability and to reap the respective rewards for making such contributions;
  • ... the enrichment of other members of the organization. Absence of diversity deprives them of opportunities for experiencing the variety of frameworks and value-systems, alternative languages, methodologies and styles implicit in different cultural approaches, ethnic groups, and gender differences; and
  • ... the richness of the organization itself. Diversity can promote flexibility in organizations and enhance the capacity an organization has for change, making it more responsive in turbulent times or environments.

With diversity comes the benefit of variety of perspective and such variety can bring breadth, depth, balance and creativity to an organization. Differing opinions and points of view can stimulate groups to explore divergent views, enhancing the number and range of options that a group may be willing to consider. Tacit assumptions held by a group can be injurious insofar as unquestioned wrong or inadequate views escape detection. Divergent views can compel organizations to uproot such assumptions and discover new syntheses that combine options formerly considered to be contradictory. Divergent thinking can force organizations to develop dialectical processes capable of supporting real dialogue.

As Organizational Development consultants Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot (1993, p. 240) point out, the presence of diversity in an organization may have a positive impact on its capacity to learn, and thus to change in accord with situational need. We should like to add that perhaps even more importantly, diversity can also impact an organization's ability to learn how to learn. Learning takes place when 'new responses to old stimuli' are discovered; learning to learn involves discovering how to change the contexts or frames in which learning takes place (Bateson, 1972, pp. 166-176, 204-206, 283-308). We can, of course, learn from what diverse individuals tell us from the vantage point of their unique perspectives. But, if our organizational structures are flexible enough, we also learn even more profound lessons through the variety of hands-on encounters that we experience with others under diverse 'structural' conditions. Dealing creatively with complexity and change requires dexterity in handling new paradigms and 'forms' of organization, a skill which comes with 'learning how to learn'.

It is one thing for an organization to welcome diversity, and quite another to invite diversity with the expectation that individuals will bring their whole persons to work -their core values, beliefs and aspirations as fully dimensioned (material, psychological, social and spiritual) beings. The organization that encourages diversity at such a profound level will be an organization that supports the self-actualization of its members. As their individual potentials unfold it will also be more likely that the group potential inherent in the organizations membership as a whole will also be realized. Not only is there enrichment - continual positive transformation also occurs, at both the individual and group levels.

To successfully incorporate divergent views and practices into an organization, an effective communication infrastructure is required - a web of multiple communication channels needs to be opened. When an organization creates mechanisms for feeding back the information obtained from these enriched encounters, into decisions that impact organizational structure and policies, it begins to become 'self-organizing'. An organization that can use diversity as a 'corrective' for 'redirecting' its own mission, goals, structure and process will as a result be more flexible than one that cannot. A flexible organization does not need to require as great a degree of conformity of its members because it is not locked into one kind of structure or set of responses and can afford to consider divergent perspectives. As a self-organizing entity it is capable of initiating and managing self-directed change, transforming its own fundamental assumptions and actions in the course of performing its activities.

Perhaps it is this type of organizational flexibility that Elizabeth and Gifford Pinchot have in mind when they say that -

In a community of differences, people are welcomed for their uniqueness as well as for their similarities. If everyone approaches his or her work from a similar perspective and always does everything the same way, the organization will learn almost nothing. (Pinchot and Pinchot,1993, p. 240)

But, as the authors of the above passage caution, diversity can also be sought in such a way, ironically, that an organization's initial biases (in its fundamental ways of experiencing the world) are preserved:

As one of our professor friends put it, "My university is desperately trying to increase cultural diversity without any effort to increase intellectual diversity. They seek out people of various cultural backgrounds, all of whom think the same". Another friend says of her workplace, "We are always trying to find people who will fit in. Instead we should look for people who stretch our ways of thinking. Diversity keeps the system dynamic and experimental. It also encourages people to bring more of themselves to work." (Pinchot and Pinchot, 1993, p.240)

Such concerns spark a host of very significant questions: 'How can an organization ensure that it has a truly diverse range of members, which might maximize variety of input?', 'How does an organization engender a maximum of varieties of responses from each member, (as opposed to constraining them to act within 'approved' parameters)', and 'How does an organization need to be structured so as to take maximum advantage of the variety inherent in its diverse membership?' One can imagine a spectrum of possibilities with polar opposites: on one end, a situation in which there is an increase in the 'appearance of diversity' versus a situation in which there is an authentic and rich diversity of response in the daily business of the organization.

In other words, How do we maximize 'different ways of thinking', to use Pinchots' terminology, in a particular organization, or - more importantly - in organization in general?

'PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPE'

If one is looking for a framework that identifies the most basic differences amongst human beings in order to explore divergent world views, perspectives and lifestyles for the ultimate purpose of optimizing diversity and richness in a society and/or organization, one could find no better a schema, according to Carl Jung, than the Psychological Theory of Types. Jung's original intention was to describe the most profound level of diversity possible in human beings. In the preface to his book, Psychological Types, he described his motivation for devising the type theory:

If one is plunged, as I am for professional reasons, into the chaos of psychological opinions, prejudices, and susceptibilities, one gets a profound and indelible impression of the diversity of individual psychic dispositions, tendencies, and convictions, while on the other hand one increasingly feels the need for some kind of order among the chaotic multiplicity of points of view. This need calls for a critical orientation and for general principles and criteria, not too specific in their formulation, which may serve as points de repere in sorting out the empirical material. What I have attempted in this book is essentially a critical psychology. (Jung, 1921, p. xiv)

But, unfortunately, psychological type is infrequently mentioned in discussions of diversity in the workplace. In both popular and scholarly works on the subject the topic is typically ignored. 2

We propose that the topic of psychological type is a significant underlying issue in the diversity discussion that needs to be made explicit and thoroughly explored. It is a 'root question' which travels to the core of the diversity issue - for absence of diversity of psychological type leads to forms of organization that inhibit diversity in general, as we shall show. This creates an escalating effect in which organizations become progressively more rigid and conformist, increasingly less likely to seek out cultural, ethnic and gender diversity, resistant to it when it occurs naturally, and incapable of dealing with it productively.

Setting the context for our exploration requires a review of some of the major features of Jung's theory of psychological type and the Myer-Briggs modifications to his theory - to which we turn in Part Two.


Footnotes

1. This paper was presented at the First Annual Antioch University Management Faculty Conference, in October of 1994. back to text

2. In Beyond Race And Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Workforce (1993), by R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., personality type is mentioned as a dimension of diversity, but is not discussed further. Nor is there any entry for the topic in the index of the book. In Managing Diversity (1993), neither psychological type nor personality are mentioned. Gardenswartz and Rowe cite Loden and Rosener as separating dimensions of diversity into primary and secondary categories, neither of which include psychological type or personality type. The primary types mentioned are: geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and educational background. There is also no mention of psychological or personality type in Managing a Diverse Work Force (1991), by John P. Fernandez, or in the somewhat more scholarly anthology of articles entitled Diversity in the Workplace: Human Resources Initiatives (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Professional Series, 1992), by Susan Jackson and Associates. back to text

3.See Ruppert and Maidenbaum, "Psychological Types, Job Change, and Personal Growth' (p. 197) in Stein and Horowitz (1992). back to text


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