WTF Is The Keirsey Temperament Sorter? And How Can I Use It To Get Ahead At Work?

WTF Is The Keirsey Temperament Sorter? And How Can I Use It To Get Ahead At Work?

I get asked about my Myers-Briggs type as often as I get asked about my astrological sign. That’s all to say that personality tests are about as common as avo toast on Instagram. For the most part, both can serve as innocuous ice-breakers. What I never get asked about though is my Keirsey Temperament. Or a personality assessment based on an individual’s core needs that can be especially helpful in the workplace.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter, asks one initial question—what’s your “Temperament?”—and a 10 to 15 minute questionnaire will sort you into one of four Temperament types: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. An Idealist, for example, needs cooperation and communication. Understanding this about yourself might help you to be mindful of the coworkers you spend your time with. It also might inspire you to work toward becoming better at dealing with conflict. Determining your Temperament is another step forward in understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and what role they play in you achieving your goals in the workplace and beyond.

What exactly is a Temperament?

Temperaments are determined by how an individual communicates and behaves. The test designates whether an individual communicates in a way that is concrete (related to reality) or abstract (related to ideas). In other words, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter assumes that some people talk about reality more often — facts, news, weather, and other things that are happening or have happened —while others talk about abstract ideas more often — theories, dreams, beliefs, etc.

The test also examines how people go about accomplishing their goals. It supposedly nails down whether an individual tries to be cooperative (do what is right) or utilitarian (do what works). Those who are more cooperative might try to focus on keeping up with conventions (i.e. rule-following), and only after a task is completed will they consider if the “rule” is effective. Those who are more utilitarian are more results-oriented, and focus on getting the task done efficiently before considering the rules.

What’s your Temperament?


The Artisan is tactical (i.e. loves working with their hands) and would do well in a creative field. Artisans are driven by factors like like artistic action, audacity, and adaptability — born performers, they’d be great as DJs or dancers. It’s no surprise then that the four types of Artisan are the Promoter, the Crafter, the Performer, and the Composer.


The Guardian is logistical and a natural leader, much like the best boss you’ve ever had. Guardians are natural born rule-followers and driven by factors like reliability, service, and respectability. The four types of Guardian are the Supervisor, the Inspector, the Provider, and the Protector.


Like your favorite English teacher from high school, the Idealist is a natural communicator. Idealists have big ideas while managing to follow rules. They are driven by empathy, benevolence, and authenticity, making them the most thoughtful person in your friend group, probably. The four types of Idealist are the Teacher, the Counselor, the Champion, and the Healer.


It’s safe to guess Girlboss’ own Sophia Amoruso would fall in this category. The Rational truly thinks outside the box. Rationals are driven by ingenuity, autonomy, and willpower. The four types of Rational are the Field Marshal, the Mastermind, the Inventor, and the Architect. The Rational is strategic, and well-suited for jobs that require innovative thinking.

How can the test help you?

Understanding yourself—whether through a personality test or introspection—is always helpful. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter can help you understand your strengths, behavioral style, and communication style—and sort through what drives you, and builds your self-worth.

We talked to HR expert and strategist Dannie Fountain about her thoughts on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. “The Sorter is a great tool for helping a) coworkers understand how to interact with one another and b) helping managers understand how to give feedback and engage with their reports,” Fountain said. “Artisans are going to be more interested in direct feedback that they can take action on quickly to change their impact level, whereas Idealists are going to prefer feedback that is a little more abstract so that they can derive the next action item for themselves.”

But she also warns its important to know that personality tests have their limitations. “Keirsey sorts people by temperament vs. function, which can be misleading—someone with a gentle temperament might actually prefer a more firm feedback structure, which the Sorter model would not uncover,” she said. In other words, it’s worth remembering that personality tests are not the end all, be all. An Idealist could be as great a creative as an Artisan; a Rational could do just as well in a managerial position as a Guardian.

TLDR: It’s helpful to recognize the Sorter — and all personality tests — as a tool: helpful, but not without its flaws and limitations. Whether you take it seriously or do it just for fun, you can take the personality test here.