Laboratory Personalities, Part 2

There are a number of ways in which personality surveys may be beneficial in the workplace. Many organizations currently use personality surveys in their organization for pre-employment screening. Personality surveys can also be used to improve communication between employees and their customers to create a better culture. Customers of health care professionals are not only the patients but also other health care professionals and colleagues that we interact with on a daily basis.

On the surface, having this knowledge of personality types can help us understand people better. This can also aide in acclimating better and sooner to new environments. With a bit more insight and effort to understand personality differences and similarities, this knowledge can be used in a constructive way to promote a better work environment. Understanding differences in personality types can be a first step in overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles that allow individuals to work in harmony. Having an understanding of personality types can also assist in building teams in the work place by knowing what individuals will be most likely to work best together as well as having a team in which each individual can bring a unique skill set to the table.

The Unique Role of Phlebotomists
Hospital laboratories are not well understood by the general public as they are behind the scenes in the role of patient care. For many people, phlebotomists are “the lab.” However, there is a much more complex scenario that follows blood collection that includes the work performed by Medical Laboratory Scientists and Technicians. The information the doctor receives from the lab is extremely important as approximately 70% of the information used to diagnose a patient’s condition comes from laboratory analyses2. Regardless, phlebotomists are indeed the face of the lab and sometimes the face of the hospital as some patient’s only come to the hospital for blood collection for tests ordered by their doctor. The role of the phlebotomist, therefore, is very significant not only to patient care but also as a representative of both the lab and hospital. No doubt then the phlebotomist plays a highly significant role in patient care as phlebotomists are involved in the first stage of laboratory analysis.

Phlebotomy is focused on here because the profession may be unique in that the phlebotomists must be able to think analytically (typically associated with introversion) while also being able to interact well with patients (exhibiting an ability to switch to an extraverted type). The phlebotomist’s environment is very challenging from a number of perspectives. The field is highly scrutinized, fast-paced, and physically demanding. The profession also requires excellent judgment skills, technical skills, and empathy3 on a routine basis. These factors in themselves create a highly stressful job environment. One may hypothesize that it takes individuals with particular traits to survive and thrive in this challenging environment.

Utilizing Personality Types
Personality types given by the MBTI survey do not serve as a way to label individuals but to show their general preference for a given situation. Individuals share qualities of all types but tend to prefer some over others, and an individual’s type preference may change when in different environments. For example, a phlebotomist’s personality type may take on another preference when roles are reversed and the phlebotomist becomes the patient. The same is true for how we deal with colleagues and management. This altering of preference is referred to as an individual’s “type mode”- the type preference an individual is exhibiting in the present moment, under the current situation1. To improve communication in the workplace, it is helpful for professionals to pick up on particular cues that assist them in identifying another’s (e.g., patient or colleague’s) type mode. This first requires the professional to acknowledge that the other individual involved in the interaction may have a different personality than them and need to adjust the manner in which they interact with the other. This goes against the common notion of treating others as you would like to be treated as this assumes the other person prefers to be treated and spoken to in a way that appeals to you. To improve communication, one needs to treat and speak to others as the other appreciates and best relates to.

By identifying personality types in the lab, a tool or model could be set up in the future to show how differing personality types can improve communication as there are many such models currently in existence. Initially, employees could take the survey and then read their type descriptions. This would help people first become familiar with their type and perhaps other type descriptions. The next step would be to set up an exercise for people to become familiar with other people’s type, particularly those that they have trouble communicating with.

Generally, people with the most similar letters in their type will see eye-to-eye the best. That is, INTJs should see eye-to-eye the best with other INTJs. Then, in theory, INTJs would most likely have the greatest difficulty in seeing eye-to-eye with ESFPs as they share no similar letters. The INTJ and ESFP share no common ground, type-wise, in how they think about and interact with the world. The INTJ will most likely have a difficult time even trying to comprehend where an ESFP is coming from on a particular matter, and vice versa. It would be in the interest of both types to read the other’s description to help gain insight as to how the other perceives and comprehends things. This should not only help to gain appreciation for another’s type, but also provide individuals with some tools to try approaching others in a manner which will better appeal to the opposite type, thus enhancing communication.

After some time has been spent on this people should be starting to have a decent familiarity with the types that they don’t “get” that well. And they should have developed a few tools for how to approach those individuals for improved communication. On a patient-centered approach, the focus would be on identifying patients with varying needs and concerns and how best to approach those individuals by attempting to identify their general type. Again, in this setting you want to treat others as they want to be treated, not as you want to be treated. Some patients may want very specific details about a particular procedure, test results, etc. Other patients might be terrified about such details and wish for just generalizations or to totally ignore discussion of their condition and talk about the weather. It is important to pick up on these cues to best accommodate the patient, or any customer.


1. Allen, J., & Brock, S.A. (2000). Health care communication using personality type: Patients are different. East Sussex: Routledge.

2. Forsman, R.W. (1996). Why is the laboratory an afterthought for managed care of organizations?, Clinical Chemistry, 42(5), 813-816.

3. Peglar, M., Snider, J., & Gordon, J. (1984). A psychological approach to better phlebotomy. Medical Laboratory Observer, 16(9), np.

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