Our editor Jenny Darmody delved into the world of personality assessments to find out how they can be used in workplaces. She also completed her own assessment to get the full effect.
A lot of us have probably indulged in the odd online personality quiz, whether it be telling us what animal we’re most like or which celebrity would be our best friend.
But then there are other personality assessments stemming from psychology that are designed to help you understand yourself better, especially in different environments or situations. They can often be used in workplaces to home in on certain character traits and establish how employees work best.
One of the most well-known assessments is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which determines where a person falls within four key groupings: extraversion versus introversion, judging versus perceiving, intuition versus sensing and thinking versus feeling.
Another common assessment is the DISC personality test, which offers test-takers 28 statements that they can identify with, choosing from four options. DISC stands for dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance.
But what exactly are the benefits of these tests when it comes to your career? To find out more, I spoke to Dr Robert Hogan, founder and president at Hogan Assessments.
‘Everyone in the world thinks they’re a great judge of character, and they’re not’
The company was founded in 1987 and since then, has assessed more than 9m people around the world.
One of the first things he told me about what makes Hogan Assessments different from a lot of other personality assessments is that it assesses one’s reputational personality rather than the personality someone believes they have.
“There are two parts of personality, there’s identity and there’s reputation. Identity is the ‘you’ that you know and that you think you understand. Reputation is the ‘you’ that we know. The ‘you’ that we know is a lot more important than the ‘you’ that you know, because the ‘you’ that you know is made up whereas the ‘you’ that we know, we can base it on real behavioural data.”
As the founder of an assessment company, Hogan is unsurprisingly in favour of companies using these tests to assess candidates and workers. However, it’s hard to argue with the logic of data.
“The best way to make decisions about people is to use data. The worst possible way to make decisions about people is based on interviews and your personal impressions – people are terrible judges of character,” he said.
“There are three areas of performance where everyone thinks they’re great, and they’re not. Everyone in the world thinks they have a great sense of humour, and they don’t. Everyone in the world thinks they’re a great driver, and they’re not … and everyone in the world thinks they’re a great judge of character, and they’re not.”
The dark side of our personalities
Another key area Hogan Assessments focuses on during its tests is what has been coined the ‘dark side’ of our personalities, also known as our ‘derailers’.
The bright side of a person’s personality is essentially when we put our best foot forward, when we’re paying attention to how we’re being perceived and evaluated.
The dark side, meanwhile, is the side of our personalities that comes out when we have dropped our guards, when we care less about what other people think.
“My colleagues like to say it comes out when people are under stress. I don’t think stress has anything to do with that, I think it just comes out when they don’t care,” said Hogan.
He added that managers in particular need to be wary of the ‘dark side’ of their personality because they care less about how their subordinates will react to them and will therefore be more likely to show their true selves.
The good and the bad of assessments
While data is often the best tool in making decisions and personality assessments can provide data on people, the industry itself is unregulated. With thousands of tests available online, it can be hard to figure out which ones are providing meaningful data.
“What most test publishers focus on is the client experience. Do they enjoy taking the test? Not, does the test predict anything?”
Hogan is also a self-professed lifetime critic of IQ tests and said that plenty of smart people “don’t get out of their own way” and can fail at certain situations and a lot of that comes down to their personality traits.
“Are they honest? Can they work as part of a team? Do they have accountability? Do they respond well to feedback? Can they handle pressure? Do they have any creativity? These are all personality variables.”
What’s it like having your personality assessed?
Having spoken to Hogan about the benefits of personality assessments, I could see the merit of using this kind of data to assess oneself or one’s team and using that data to gain a deeper understanding of how an organisation could thrive.
But to really get under the hood of what the data actually looked like, I took the assessment myself to see what the results would say.
The assessment was split into three categories: the personality inventory, which was essentially the bright side of my personality; the development survey, which showed the dark side; and the motives, values and preferences inventory, which highlighted what matters most to me.
In each separate assessment, I answered more than 160 statements with multiple-choice answers indicating how strongly I agreed with a statement or how accurately one described me.
Once all three surveys were complete, a one-to-one session was booked in which I was brought through a huge breakdown of scores that showed where I fell on a variety of scales.
While the data points are a lot of fun to look at – and in many cases scarily accurate as to how I present as a person – the results also came with a summary in plain English and it is here that one can gain a stronger understanding of how someone works best.
The following is an excerpt from my summary under the heading of strengths within the context of working learning style:
“Ms Darmody is typically calm and able to handle pressure, but at the same time willing to admit faults and errors and listen to feedback. Ms Darmody is practical, able to focus her attention and does not get caught up in pointless abstractions.”
Not one to skip over the negatives, the assessment also gave an insight into the dark side of my personality, which is arguably the most valuable data when it comes to how you can thrive in your career – by knowing your potential limitations or derailers. Here’s one of mine under the heading of reactions to authority:
“Ms Darmody seems to have very high standards of performance for herself and others, and others see her as hardworking, conscientious and demanding. At the same time, she may be a hard person to work with because she can seem reluctant to delegate, critical, hard to please and stubborn.”
While it can be difficult to hear your own limitations, it can often be here that leaders and employees alike can gain the most understanding about how they can navigate these derailers as they go through their career.
What does this mean for your career?
Assessments such as these come at a cost for companies, but Hogan argued that the cost of a bad hire will often far outweigh the price of the former. Being able to predict performance can help with that, he said.
“Measures of reputation are the best data we have for predicting career success … the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour and your reputation is predicated on your past behaviour.”
And when it comes to getting the most out of the teams they already have, especially at a time of critical talent shortages, personality assessments can give leaders, managers and the employees themselves a better understanding of their strengths, limitations and what motivates them.
While I only got an insight into myself, I can see how the data could be used to help someone reach their full potential using their own strengths while ensuring ‘derailment tendencies’ or weaknesses can be worked on.
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