The Thing I Hate About Personality Assessments

January 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

Have you ever taken a personality assessment? What were your results? Were you an INFP? A “high D and low I?” A fire with a bit of earth mixed in? An eagle or an otter?

If you spend much time on social networks, you’ve probably even seen personality quizzes that blend with pop culture. Which Lord of the Rings character are you? Or Disney character. Or past U.S. president. Personality assessments are definitely trending right now.

Hate Assessments

Now before you get the idea I’m about to start hating on personality assessments altogether, I should mention first off that I’ve taken several myself and helped administer them in professional settings as well. Some of the assessments I’ve worked with are Myers-Briggs (probably the most popular), DiSC (my favorite), and FIRO Business and I’m familiar with several others. I’ve also worked with strengths assessments and 360 degree assessments.

Clearly, there are many benefits to personality assessments, so let’s start there.

What I Like About Personality Assessments

John Maxwell famously stated in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth that “you’ve got to know yourself to grow yourself.”

It’s surprising how deeply some people study other leaders while completely ignoring themselves. Then they get frustrated because they can’t attain the same results.

On the other hand, there are plenty of leaders who expect that the only way to be successful is for their followers to copy their methods. That usually frustrates everyone.

The truth is that we’re all different. Personality assessments benefit us by helping to show us how we’re unique. The implications for how extroverts interact and gain energy are a lot different from introverts. People with dominant personalities usually respond differently to challenges than conscientious personalities. And the list goes on and on. Add all the ratings together and you have a profile. Depending on the assessment, profiles may have additional descriptions based on common traits and themes.

No personality assessment is 100% accurate, but many can be extremely accurate. The next time you take one, make sure to review the information and validate the results. You may ask for the input of other people who know you closely or enlist a coach to help you interpret the results. Look for areas where you can further your development. Personality assessments should be useful as well as insightful – but it’s up to you to take the next steps.

If you’ve never taken a personality assessment before, I’d recommend you take the DiSC Classic Profile either online or in print.

The Thing I Hate About Personality Assessments

And now for the moment of truth. What is it I hate about personality assessments?

Personality assessments can make it easy to excuse bad behavior.

That’s it. Once the “scientific data” comes in, it’s easy to justify why would shouldn’t have to act a certain way or do certain jobs simply because it’s not “the way we are.” Here are some examples:

  • I shouldn’t have to be friendly to every new person I meet all the time.
  • I shouldn’t need to make a decision so quickly.
  • I shouldn’t have to be so flexible. Or structured.
  • I shouldn’t be expected to be so creative.
  • I shouldn’t have to be the leader in this situation.

The reason I hate this is because I’ve caught myself thinking these kinds of thoughts at times – and other people too.

Imagine having your team take an assessment together and then everyone using the results to justify poor performance instead of high performance. When non-ideal jobs come up, it’s a chance to be flexible. When responsibilities come up that don’t come naturally, it’s a chance to build some compensatory skills.

At the end of the day, personality assessments should be developmental. It’s up to us to use the results constructively, instead of destructively.

How do you feel about personality assessments?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and thought leader. To learn more about his services, visit NathanMagnuson.com/consulting or follow him on Twitter.
  • Rachel

    When I learned about temperaments it was like a light switch got flipped on for me. It really helped me understand my weaknesses as well as my strengths. I’ve seen it improve things in my marriage and my relationships with others because I can generally see where the Lord has gifted me and also those areas where He’s still working on my sinful self :) Being more aware doesn’t keep me from making mistakes, but it does allow me to identify them more readily than I used to and repent more often.

    • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

      Thanks for following, Rachel. You bring up a good point about finding value in personal settings in addition to organizational. It’s hard to know where to go until we know where we are.