Thursday, April 24, 2008

Company mandated personality tests creep me out

Is it just me, or is there something unsettling about having your employer give you a personality test, like a Myers Briggs Type Indicator test? I get a gut reaction that makes me uncomfortable.
I'll freely say that I'm an ENTJ, with strong tendencies towards the NTJ and barely tipping to the E.
For me, the most unsettling thing about a company personality test is the knowledge that the information will be used by people who don't understand the tests. It's also taking something that's very personal to me, my personality and possibly using it against me.
I had the experience of working at a company that was big into personality testing. I think part of it was the HR director having a father who ran leadership seminars based on personality testing--could have been a coincidence.
I enjoyed learning more about my own personality. It was also nice to learn a little bit about our colleagues' personalities. It didn't really tell us anything new about them though. Surprise, the obnoxious guy that nobody likes has the polar opposite personality than everyone else. It was really just data that we could use to affirm what we already knew.
I think where company personality tests get really creepy is when people who don't even know you and aren't really qualified to understand the tests make decisions that affect you based on your personality test results.
It makes me even more uneasy when I think about how qualified people in HR are in understanding the tests. They aren't psychologists. Sure they get some insight into what they tests indicate, but they have no real understanding how strong of an indicator those tests are to how well a person can do their jobs.
Worse yet, company personality tests that are a one off of the standard personality tests. The ones that someone in HR or management writes up based on their understanding of psychology. It can be really dangerous.
Take for example a team building exercise that the HR director of that company spun on her own. She created an exercise of having people break into pairs and tell the other person their greatest weakness. When they were through, the other person explained the other person's weakness to the group. Marital infidelities, drinking problems, addictions, and other weaknesses came out. How is this information relevant to the company or to peers? I was lucky to get out of there before they did my group. It felt like something they'd have on The Office.
I think the really bad thing about a company one off is they are usually the free option. Real tests with qualified psychologist cost real money. Something that someone in the company creates isn't nearly as expensive.
Probably the most unsettling thing about these tests to me is they are a waste of time. They are a waste of time, because they are really just an intelligence test. Those who are intelligent enough to see that the test is there to evaluate employees based on non-performance based factors and unscrupulous to use that knowledge to their advantage are going to game the test. Why respond with answers that are truthful when I can provide answers that will get me what I want? I think most people who recognize these test for what they are are going to use them to their advantage. Integrity is all well and good, but it doesn't do you much good in a crooked system.
With polluted data, what good is the test really?

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