3 Ways Organizations Misuse Personality Assessments

3 Ways Organizations Misuse Personality Assessments

Jen Lawrence
Jen Lawrence

Business Process Consultant focusing on streamlining workflows, optimizing tools, and aligning teams for operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Personality assessments are ubiquitous in company culture today. Everyone has their preferred assessments, and the list of available profiles is extensive: DiSC, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Predictive Index, Clifton Strengths Finder, Hogan, Lumina, etc. When used correctly, personality assessments are powerful tools to create cultures of belonging with effective communication and collaboration. However, when misused, serious personal and company damage can be done. If you’re administering profiles, avoid these common ways organizations misuse personality assessments.

Misuse 1: Diagnosing Others’ Personalities

Companies often engage personality assessments to shine more light on their employees and their needs. While well-intentioned, an unfortunate side effect of diagnosing individuals based on their results can slip into how the assessments are used. Because personality assessments categorize and label individual styles, it’s easy to slip into, “They are an X-style; therefore, I can assume they do/want/need this.” 

Instead of these assumptions and diagnoses, leaders should use the insights from their team members’ profiles to have more meaningful and proactive dialogue. All personality assessments provide insights into common stressors, informational needs, and interpersonal communication patterns. Use these insights to prevent problems by adjusting your communication style or leaving space for the team members to express theirs comfortably.

Remember: Personality assessments are tools for dialogue – not diagnosis.

Misuse 2: Pigeonholing Individuals

Like diagnosing, pigeonholing uses an individual’s results to make assumptions, but in a potentially devastating way. When pigeonholing, someone limits the capabilities of another person based on their personality assessment results. “They are an X-style; therefore, they can’t/won’t do this.” This can harm the person’s prospects for project opportunities, promotions or career advancement, and potentially much more.

Personality assessments use a lot of data and are rated on spectrums. While a person may have a specific style expressed on their profile, their preferences toward behaviors of that style are likely to flex situationally. Additionally, humans are a complex amalgamation of their life experiences, so their personality lives within a complicated arena with their cognitive abilities, conative instincts, and personal histories. There’s a lot to be considered.

This doesn’t make personality profiles useless. Using their profile to build your sensitivity to their uniqueness eases collaboration. Their results can aid in guiding coaching conversations and piecing together project teams with a well-rounded strengths composition – ultimately leading to a culture of belonging.

Remember: Individuals are complex, and their profile results don’t tell the whole story.

Misuse 3: Justifying Based on Style

Whether coming from the team members themselves or leaders downplaying situations, personality assessment results are often used to excuse the negative impact of certain behaviors. This looks like, “Well, they’re an X-style; what do you expect!” or “I’m an X-style – that’s just how I do it.” 

Profile results should build awareness around our tendencies that allow for dialogue – not dismissal. Instead of excusing our behaviors (and impact), the conversation should shift to recognizing that we have a pattern or preference for behaviors and environments that may not work well for others. This leads to productive discussions around honoring our differences while finding common ground.

Remember: Personality profiles provide us insights – not excuses.

One way to start using personality assessment results correctly…

Stop saying… You ARE an X-style.

Start saying… You HAVE an X-style.

This moves the attention from diagnosing someone as a specific style to empowering them with ownership over the styles expressed in their personality assessments. Because, after all, personalities shift over a lifetime. This is not who this person is forever – it’s just their preferences and wants right now.
If you’re interested in exploring the power of assessments in your organization, I recommend starting with the personality assessment EverythingDiSC Workplace or the conative assessment Kolbe A Index. You can learn more about both of these here.

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