Hands up if you’ve ever had to endure the indignity of undergoing a psychometric or personality test at work?
Ok – now keep your hands up if you had to keep a straight face as your supervisor or people and performance manager (yep that’s actually what they call them) explained to you that it was to “get a good feel of the diversity within the team and to find new and innovative ways to work together as such”?
Hands down everyone. Thanks for humouring me on the last question – I myself can’t keep a straight face when I hear that it’s all for the greater good of the team, but hey – I’m cynical like that.
Having worked predominantly in sales roles within various organisations throughout the last 10 years, I’ve had to undertake a number of personality/psych tests that would give the guys at Mensa a run for their money. At first, I found it all quite novel – flattering even – that my employer would take the time to invest in its employees to find out exactly what made them tick.
In recent years however, I’ve grown increasingly sceptical about these tests and have done little to conceal my obvious annoyance at having to complete yet another personality profile at the behest of another over excited sales manager or work performance coach.
“Great!” I’d lie through my teeth, a little part of my soul dying at the prospect of being involuntarily analysed and assessed. Again.
To give you a brief run down of the lucrative world of psychometric testing (these companies charge other companies the big bucks to conduct ‘testing’ on employees) the assessments are usually designed by a group of psychologists or workplace behaviour consultants, and aimed at categorising employees into stock standard, easy to understand ‘buckets’.
Imagine the personality quizzes that used to litter women’s magazines ten years ago, multiply the questions by 30 and then add a price tag of a few thousand dollars. You get the picture.
I’ve completed Myer Briggs (a fancy test which generates one of sixteen personality types based on measuring extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving), parlayed with thinker/feelers and shared inside jokes with fellow INTJs (just one of the 16 Myer Briggs profiles).
When pushed into a heated debate at work I have simply cited my DiSC profile (a test which measure degrees of dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness) and asked that my steady and analytical teammate understand my high influencer perspective. Watch some Yoga exercises to relieve the stress for Office Workers below. Post continues after video.
I’ve have seen first hand the repercussions of trust metric exercises gone wrong (rating your co-workers on degrees of trustworthiness – an absolute minefield mind you) – which have escalated into paranoid innuendo between colleagues weeks later (in this case one colleague borrowing and not returning the other colleagues stapler). I’ve also witnessed the unscrupulous behaviour of colleagues which has done little more than elicited a plaintiff sigh from their reporting manager.
“He’s a D,” she’d say exasperated, as though that were a good enough reason.
“No he’s just a bit of an a-hole” I would counter, unsure of why the psychometric profiles made arsehole behaviour okay.
In terms of being used as part of the recruitment process, I have often let out a sigh of relief after receiving an offer of employment after having completed an online assessment, silently thanking the powers that be that I haven’t been identified as a raging sociopath with megalomaniac tendencies and a predisposition for drama.
I’d practically high five myself and then try to ignore the niggling question that was pushing its way to the forefront of my mind – why did I give these tests any credence? I mean honestly, wouldn’t I know if I were a raging sociopath by now? And, because I’m not an idiot and I’m not going to answer that I find it hard to work in teams or I’m a lateral problem solver etc, didn’t I cheat a bit anyway? What does that mean about the personality the test has assessed? Is that even my personality?
I could be accused of thinking that the purpose of the tests would be to weed out these unsavoury types and you know what? You’d be right (some of you familiar with Myer Briggs might attribute that to the J in my INTJ but whatever). However as the years roll on, I still see the same mix of characters in each and every workplace.
1. The smiling assassin.
He or she comes across as a fairly amiable and friendly type, but will roll you under the bus at any given opportunity with the swift exactitude of a field trained commando.
2. The slightly unhinged pathological liar.
Their lies are so transparent you almost want to roll your eyes and sigh loudly – but to do so would be at your own risk as you might place yourself in their line of fictional fire.
3. The megalomaniac fast talker.
They often rocks up to meetings 15 minutes late, utters some corporate/workplace speak like “let’s just put a pin in that” and buzzes off 15 minutes early because he is very very busy and important (and just quietly, I really detest that guy).
4. The ridiculously lazy.
There are those who are so incredibly lazy you wonder if they are secretly outsourcing their work to some virtual assistant in China (and then you can’t help wondering if that’s actually more genius than it is unethical).
Despite all the personality and psych tests in the world, these personalities all continue to sit in the surrounding cubicles, sharpening their pencils and innocently sipping their coffee, occasionally making eye contact. Like characters in a modern day Dickens novel.
Most recently I participated in a personality profile called ‘WAVE’. Being a few months into my new role at the time, the HR manager said it was to gauge the ‘best management’ style for me.
Sure, whatever, send it over.
I decided to tackle it while getting my hair coloured that weekend, and later noted with some disappointment that the assessment didn’t adequately test for excellent multi-tasking and time management skills.
Having heard the pre-speel at least a dozen times before – you know the one – ‘don’t overthink your answers’ and ‘just select the first answer that resonates’ I whipped through the 60 questions just in time the final spritz of holding spray.
I knew the results would be emailed directly to our HR contact interstate, and weeks passed without hearing anything further. After a couple of months though, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to call our HR Manager and ask if I might see the results. Her response unsettled me. “I’ll just check with your manager” she said carefully before hanging up.
Jesus. The soundtrack to Psycho’s shower scene played in my head.
She sent them through later that day. Everything looked fairly standard although I do have some concerns about their methods of assessing capacity for empathy. While I scored low, I later relayed to my manager that I have been known to stop walking in the rain to rescue and relocate a snail crossing a path so it wouldn’t get stepped on.
The personality and psychometric assessments are in my opinion indicative at best, and a complete waste of time at worst. There are however, better ways to assess employees in the workplace – more specifically, in their everyday environment (David Attenborough would be proud). It’s simple, but effective.
Hear me out.
Does your colleague replace the paper in photocopier? Extra points if they have to go and find more reams of paper and triple points if they decide to tackle an empty toner cartridge. Minus points if they send the print job to alternative printer and minus triple points if they ask someone else to do it because the job might be ‘beneath them’.
Does your colleague offer to grab you a coffee when they are heading out to get one because they can see you are run pillar to post? Or does the waft of their freshly brewed cappucino and hot raisin toast waft over the partition as they laugh at another YouTube video?
When your colleague is in the elevator and sees someone racing for it, do they hold the doors open or feverishly press the ‘close’ button while maintaining the disposition of somebody trying to locate the open button? Detract double points for colleagues who push their way into a lift before allowing people get out. Bonus points for starting small talk and giving compliments to strangers.
And finally – does your colleague return the stapler? This alone speaks volumes.
This post originally appeared on Debrief Daily and has been republished here with full permission.