Pitfalls of Using Personality Assessments

Personality assessments can be a great tool for employers, especially during hiring stages. They are helpful in providing background on an individual’s strengths and communication styles, as well as whether or not the candidate may be a good fit for a role based on their work preferences. For example, if you’re looking for someone who is highly analytical, an assessment can help to determine if an individual would actually enjoy doing an analytical role – thus allowing a better predictor for retention.

However, one of the pitfalls of using assessments is the manner in which they are used after the hiring stages. Employers use assessments both for team-building exercises, as well as to help employees learn about themselves and their blind spots. This allows managers to leverage the employees’ strengths within the broader team. But what often ends up happening is the assessment can become a method of profiling the individual. You may be familiar with these types of phrases: “Oh well you know, Jason is an introvert so he will hate going to that networking event;” or “oh that Jane, she’s an extrovert so you know she’ll take over the whole meeting.”

It gets worse when work and projects are assigned to people due to their assessments and resulting profile. “Well, John is very outgoing and his assessment says he’s a natural leader so let’s give him that project to lead.” While it’s understandable why a manager would use an assessment to assign work, it also leads to the fallacy that the person is good at this task because of their “profile”. It can also paint the picture that the person is ONLY good at certain tasks because of their profile.

And of course the opposite is true as well. Not only does John get assigned tasks he would be good at because of his profile, now John may also not be offered opportunities to take on development assignments because his assessment indicates he wouldn’t be strong at it. Or those opportunities will go to the person who is profiled at being good at it, creating a lost opportunity for John.

The most common scenario I have seen is when someone justifies behaviour because of an assessment. “Oh, Suzie is analytical so that’s why she gets into the weeds” or “Marco has a lot of green energy so he’s very sensitive.” These broad statements over people’s personalities can actually lead to unintentional stereotyping and assumptions about the person, their preferences, and their strengths and weaknesses.

In order to avoid this pitfall, here are some tips on how you as a manager can use personality assessments with your teams:

  • Ask each employee to read over their assessment, and if they would like, ask them to share what they agree and don’t agree with.
  • Based on their assessment, ask the employee where they would like to focus when it comes to their development.
  • Discuss with your employee what their preferences are for communication, work style, etc. You can use the assessment as a tool for the conversation.
  • Determine with the employee their triggers that you should be aware of. For example, perhaps they need time to think about the answer to your questions, so rushing them for answers causes them to become anxious. Or perhaps they prefer an agenda for meetings so that they can feel prepared to discuss the topic. Knowing these factors will ensure the employee is set up to be their best selves in the work environment.

Remember assessments are a great tool, but they are meant to help the employee understand themselves better and how they bring value into their team. However, when assessments become a way to categorize someone, you will lose their individuality and specific characteristics, and may exclude them unintentionally.

Do you use personality assessments, or plan to use them? Contact us for a free consultation so that we can help you create a plan on how to use assessments to maximize outcomes for your team:

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Tasleem Jessani is an Executive Coach and the Founder of Rubiks Coaching, located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. She has over 10 years of experience coaching leaders within several industry verticals such as insurance, financial, aerospace and education. Tasleem’s clients have seen accelerated results transforming their teams through mergers, acquisitions and various organizational changes. Learn more about Tasleem and Rubiks Coaching at www.rubikscoaching.com.