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Elizabeth T.24.09.20206 min read

Jung’s Archetypes on Pre-employment Assessment

Jung’s Archetypes on Pre-employment Assessment

In a world of AI in recruiting, a digital-first pre-employment assessment, and people analytics, it’s easy to forget the origins of understanding people. Psychology, a social science, gained ground when two psychiatrists pioneered major ideas about human psychology and development, Sigmeund Freud and Carl Jung.

Although his theories are discussed to a lesser extent than Freud's psychodynamic approach, Carl Jung's ideas carry an influence whose effects can still be felt today. 

pre-employment assessment

Freud believed biological factors, such as libido, heavily influenced behavior and personality. Jung postulated the human mind was born with innate characteristics “imprinted” on it as a result of evolution. 

According to Jung, as a consequence and collection from universal experiences and ancestral past, our psyches understood certain situations at a conscious or unconscious level. The common fears of the dark, snakes, and spiders are examples of Jung’s theory. Common characteristics could be found in other dimensions of personality.

Jung identified four essential psychological functions: Thinking, Feeling, Sensation, and Intuition.

He believed that each of these functions could be experienced in an introverted or extroverted fashion and that one of these functions is more dominant than the others in each person.

Jung’s work on personality impacts the field of personality research---but it also impacts you and how you navigate the workplace.

You become a certain kind of person in the workplace. It may differ from your role as a prent, friend, brother, or neighbor. Jung’s theories theorize how and why we put on a “work personality”. Using Jung’s concept of personality, researcher Lewis Goldberg created the Big 5 Personality Traits in the 1980s. It is now the most widely-accepted model in the scientific community.

  1. Extroversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Openness to experience

Jung influenced the construction of personality as a concept. Jung viewed personality as how others perceive us, but it’s not our true person. According to Jung, personality is an aspirational, idealized version of who we’d like to be.

For example, Jung provides a distinction between introverted persons and those with more outgoing extrovert personality types. This particular idea by Jung inspired tests, like Myers-Briggs and other pre-employment assessments.

Jung believed that the human psyche was composed of three components:

-The ego, which represents our conscious state

-The personal unconscious, which includes memories, including those that we’ve suppressed

-The collective unconscious, is the “imprinting” of psychological inheritance humans share as a species.

It’s from the collective unconscious, Jung proposed, where we these archetypes exist. He rejected the idea that people start off as blank tablets when they arrive into the world. He suggested archetypes are universal models that show us how to learn, function, and organize certain experiences.

What are these archetypes?

Jung identified four major archetypes, but believed there is no limit to the archetypes. Jung proposed other archetypes can be found throughout art, literature, religion, and dreams.  The Swiss psychiatrist also believed each archetype played a role in personality, though usually one archetype is dominant. How the archetype is expressed occurs due to the individual’s cultural surroundings and personal experiences. 

The four main archetypes include:

  • The Persona
  • The Shadow
  • The Anima/Animus
  • The Self


The Persona

Jung’s Archetypes in the Workplace: Questions to Reflect THE PERSONA

The persona refers to how we present ourselves to our family, friends, community, and greater society. We use the persona to weave through different social situations and groups. To one group, we may be the fun-loving friend; to one group, we may be the silent colleague at work. It’s used to shield our ego from negative repercussions. Jung suggested we can see the development of the persona, just as we teach children to learn and behave in certain ways in certain scenarios.

Children learn to contain emotions or other urges that may not be permitted in the greater world. The persona is a necessary part of the psyche as it allows people to adapt to the groups around them. The caution, Jung points out, is if people identify themselves with this archetype too much, they fall out of touch with their true selves.

In the Workplace:

  • Who is your “work persona”? 
  • What values does your work persona identify with? 
  • How do you believe your work persona differs from the “real you”?
    Are there values/qualities you want to bring from your true self to your work persona? Vice versa?
  • What things do you want your work persona to change or learn?


The Shadow

Jung’s Archetypes in the Workplace: Questions to Reflect  THE SHADOW

The shadow refers to the unconscious mind which is composed of memories, repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings. This is the space filled with the emotions and desires that would be unacceptable to society and even to our own selves. This could be grumpiness, aggression, excessive sadness, or prejudice.

The shadow lies often latent until certain scenarios or situations occur. It might be someone cutting you off in traffic or getting a bad bout of a cold. Jung suggests that sometimes people deny their own shadow elements and instead project them onto others.

In the Workplace:

  • At work, are there feelings/emotions/beliefs you want to express, but haven’t?
  • If so, how does that affect your work? Your relationships with your team?
  • Are there certain scenarios or colleagues that bring out your shadow side? If so, what did the latest situation look like?


The Anima/Animus

Jung’s Archetypes in the Workplace: Questions to Reflect  THE ANIMUS

Jung noticed how sex and gender created rigid roles for both men and women. In many cultures, men are discouraged from exploring their feminine side and women are penalized for exhibiting masculine traits. As part of understanding the psyche process, Jung proposed the concepts of the animus and anima archetypes.

The animus represents the masculine aspect in women while the anima represents the feminine aspect in men. According to Jung, the anima/animus is the "true self"---which differs from persona. It is through the anima/animus that we individually communicate with the collective unconscious.

In the Workplace:

  • Do you feel redacted to your sex/gender at work? If so, in which scenarios and with which people? 
  • What ways could you address this incongruence? Could it involve communication with HR, the person themselves, or maybe even opting entirely out of a conversation? 
  • In what ways, do you feel your communication is feminine/masculine? 
  • How can you strengthen your communication with others that have similar or different communication styles?


The Self

Jung’s Archetypes in the Workplace: Questions to Reflect THE SELF

According to Jung, the self is the unification of a person’s consciousness and unconsciousness. People create the self through individuation, a process where different aspects of their personality is brought into the whole. Jung pointed out that disharmony in the self happened when the unconscious and conscious mind were incongruent or failed to address issues.

This brings conflict and mental hardship. Part of individuation is resolving inner conflicts and integrating these learnings into one’s self.  The goal of the self (and the individual) is harmony with themselves, feeling cohesive and connected to themselves and the world around them.

In the Workplace:

  • Do you feel harmony at work? With your tasks? With your colleagues?
  • Are there situations that you could make more harmonious?
  • What disharmony do you notice? What can you do make these better?
  • What have you learned over the past 12 months? How has this been integrated into your professional life?

Jung's ideas may not have yet gained as much status as Freud’s, but his work in archetypes frame how we talk about development. We see it in films, novels, and art. Used as supportive mechanism for data-driven tools, Jung’s archetypes permit us to question and reflect about our instinctual responses in the workplace. 


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