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Are Some Personality Types Happier Than Others?


Mon Apr 12 2021

Are Some Personality Types Happier Than Others?

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How do you define happiness?

In her book The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”


Growing evidence tells us that “life outcomes” like health, relationships, occupational performance, and even income are influenced by well-being.

But what is well-being? And is there a link between your well-being and your personality type?

These are just some of the questions asked and answered in the latest research from Myers-Briggs. Well-Being in the Workplace is a three-year international study on well-being, which expands on Martin Seligman and Ed Diener’s PERMA model of well-being and flourishing.

PERMAN breaks down into:

  • Positive Emotion: Part of positive emotion is being optimistic. Science says 50 percent of this is genetic, 10 percent is life circumstances, and 40 percent is your choice.

  • Engagement: Any time you’re doing activities that make you happy.

  • Relationships: One of the top five regrets of those dying is that they didn’t keep better relationships. Whether you prefer introversion or extraversion, social connections are essential to happiness.

  • Meaning: This is the part people leave out in their own definitions of happiness. It’s about purpose and the “why” of life. Meaning and accomplishments are two areas in which we’ve found distinct differences in Myers-Briggs personality types and what affects their happiness.

  • Accomplishments: What goals did you achieve? What are your ambitions?

  • Negative Emotions: Activities cause low levels of anxiety, pessimism, depression.

Here are some of the highlights from this research:


Improving Well-Being at Work

There are myriad ways to improve individual well-being, including being active, connecting with other people, recalling positive life events, performing acts of kindness, meditating, and more. But less research had been done about what sort of things increase people’s well-being in the workplace.

This research focused on the workplace so we could turn the results into something practical and useful for people and organizations. The research sample was global, so the tips work for different geographical regions.

The Most Effective Work Activities for Well-Being?

Participants rated the effectiveness of a wide range of activities for enhancing their well-being. Overall, the most effective activities used at work were:

  • Focusing on work tasks of interest

  • Focusing on work tasks that increase positivity

  • Undertaking work that taught something new

  • Taking breaks at work when needed

  • Undertaking challenging work that adds to skills and knowledge

While it’s unsurprising that focusing on work tasks that make people feel positive is one of the more effective ways to support well-being, the findings also highlight the importance of people having autonomy in their roles to take on work that fits their interests.

It also underscores the importance for people to take time to develop awareness of their own individual work interests and their development needs. Doing so helps people consistently source opportunities to learn throughout their careers and keeps them more engaged in their careers.

For employers and managers, these keys to employee well-being reinforce the importance of taking time to learn about their employees’ interests and development needs. Managers can help create opportunities for employees to shape their work so that it aligns with the employees’ interests and learning objectives, increasing their workplace well-being.

Relationships Matter Most

The relationships factor of the PERMAN model was consistently rated the highest aspect of well-being over the three years of research. Having supportive, meaningful relationships is an essential element for people’s workplace well-being that organizations need to foster and individual employees nurture.

In addition, the relationship between a manager and their direct reports has been shown to have the highest effect on workplace well-being compared to other relationships in the workplace.

Autonomy Improves Well-Being at Work

One of the big learning points from the survey is that autonomy is crucial to people’s well-being. In addition, there is some difference as far as which tips help specific MBTI personality types. For example, ENTJs improve well-being when they can “seek assignments that give them a sense of purpose” and “align work goals with career goals” more than other options.

Women and Men Are Equally Happy at Work . . . Aren’t They?

Our research found that women and men reported similar levels of workplace well-being. However, women reported higher scores for engagement and positive emotions than men.

Want to find out more? Check out the recording of the ATD webinar on well-being.

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