Sunday, October 24, 2010

Personality "Tests" - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I am focusing this post on the ordinary person who is trying to make their way as a part of today’s workforce. Please -  don’t try to make more of it than it is meant to be.

Personality assessments have become the bane of our society because of the misuse of personality assessments in almost all corporations.  You notice I did not use the phrase “personality test” - a test (by definition) has a right or wrong answer, personality assessments do not have a right or wrong answer, the responses show “differences”.  Yet industry has repeatedly deemed personality assessments as a “test”, with a supposedly right and wrong answer for each statement and has completely ruined the initial purpose of the assessment.  Shame on you industry!

I taught management courses at the graduate level for a long time and one of topics I always covered was the proper use and benefits of personality assessments (Myers-Briggs, DISC, Situational Leadership, etc).  A personality assessment is designed to be a development tool!  As a development tool – personality assessments have a strong background of documented reliability and validity.  A personality assessment is designed as an instrument to help people grow and develop.

A personality assessment is NOT designed to indefinitely cubby-hole people into a specific quadrant of a model.  A personality assessment is NOT designed to label people for the rest of their lives (corporate and personal).  A personality assessment was NOT designed as a device to hire specific personality types for cloning an organizational culture.  Cubby-holing people and labeling people requires there to be a right or wrong answer on the personality assessment and there is no right or wrong when it comes to personality, there’s just difference.  You are who you are and that’s wonderful and should be celebrated!

If you search the internet you will find lots of advice on how to cheat on a personality “test”.  Why?  Because personality assessments are misused and people feel they have to cheat in order to pass – that’s really stupid – a personality assessment has no right or wrong answers, just different responses.  The premise of having to lie to pass a personality assessment could be construed as proof of the misuse of personality assessments. Why would you want to lie about who you are?  Lying about who you are doesn’t make you a better person / employee – it brings out a negative part your personality, “being a liar”.  Lying on a personality assessment to get a job at a company puts you in a work culture that does not value who you are as a person – do you really want to do that to yourself?  Lying about who you are devalues you as a person – why would you want to do that to yourself (no job is worth that)?

Personality assessments are designed to make you whole and successful – not put you in a miserable box for the rest of your life.  You should never be ashamed of who you are – but you should be open to developing and using the different parts of your personality that at hidden and not used the most.  The only way you can find the “hidden” parts of who you are is by taking a personality assessment.  Knowing the results of a personality assessment can help you tap the different parts of “personality” that you have and by doing that become a more vibrant and successful person.

So what is the true meaning of a personality assessment?  The purpose of a personality assessment is to help you grow and develop and become the best person that you can be, based on the situation you are in.  First of all it is important to recognize that you are NOT one personality type.  Your full personality has every type of personality possibly, some hidden some more predominant.  You have the ability to be the best person you can be, by knowing what you are strong at and what parts of your personality may need to be brought out in different situations.  If you are a high “I” – then you know there are situations that you will need to dig deeper and pull out the “E” in your personality.  If you are a high “Assertive” you then know there are times in your life that you may have to pull out the high “Passive” in your personality.  If you are an “S1” you know that your goal is to grow / advance your skillsets in order to be able to move to an “S3” or S4” so you can contribute fully, be successful and grow in the organization.  The use of personality assessments is all about your personal success!  It’s all about you being able to grow and develop as a person.  It’s not about what is right or wrong!  Personality assessments are about the results and your ability to put those results to work!

You may ask, if what you say is true (which it is) why are personality assessments misused in industry?  Most common reasons are (1) Because it suits industry’s purpose or (2) Because industry chooses to be ignorant to the true purpose of the personality assessment or (3) The corporation is not interested in your development – they want to cubby-hole you as one specific personality type (for a reason).  Whichever one it is – it’s wrong and industry’s that are misusing personality assessments should be ashamed. 

The final note:  Use personality assessments to grow and develop. No one type of personality is inherently better than any other personality type – each has its place in this world (although most businesses will argue that).  Be true to yourself – you are who you are and that’s not a bad thing.  Not everyone is the same personality and that’s not a bad thing – be yourself! Remember that your personality strengths are important.  Keep in mind that your personality may change as you age and experience difference significant life experiences – the personality you are today may not be who you are ten years from now.  Be proud of who you are and who you can be, the goal of the results of a personality assessment is to help you grow and develop.  Don’t put yourself in a work culture you won’t fit into by lying on a corporate personality assessment.  Know that there is no right or wrong answer on a personality assessment – unless industry wants there to be and that is wrong!  Be open to growing as a person based on what you know about your personality and striving to use your whole personality – don’t cubby-hole yourself or let others cubby-hole you – be open to using your whole personality, now and in the future. 

Take a personality assessment - review the results. Identify your strengths and the areas you need to pay more attention to.  Do not accept the results of the assessment as defining what you can't do or be.  You can be or do anything!  Use the results of the assessment to set a path of personal personality development -  to be the best person you can be.  It's going to take a little work on your part - but the results can be amazing!

Not sour grapes, 'cause I really don't care - it's just my thought for the day!

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