Thanks to Myers Briggs and a host of other workplace personality tests, it seems like everyone in the corporate world is either an â€śENTP,â€ť or their collaborative style is â€śRed,â€ť or their leadership style is â€śHomerâ€ť (I made the last one up, there is currently no test to determine if you are like the head of the Simpson clan.)
Take a test, get the results and instantly youâ€™ll have a clearer understanding of who you are and youâ€™ll suddenly become insanely effective at work.
I vehemently disagree. Not only are these tests mostly a waste of time and money, I think they are dangerous.
But first let me quote a favorite scene from â€śSeinfeld.â€ť Jerry is being forced to take a lie detector test by a woman that he wants to date. Since he knows that heâ€™ll be caught in a lie, he goes to the best liar he knows, George Costanza, to ask for advice. Georgeâ€™s reply sums up everything you need to know about whatâ€™s wrong with self-inflicted personality tests, â€śJerry, itâ€™s not a lie if you believe it to be the truth.â€ť
And that is why I think these tests are so bogus. Because they donâ€™t pursue an objective view of your performance, but simply quantify our own self-deceptions. And thatâ€™s where the danger comes in.
The most valid take on your personality comes from the people you work with. They watch you, they know when to trust you and when to run away from you. Even your craziest colleagues can often offer insight that you wonâ€™t find by going knee-deep in your own gray matter. Without some external input from the people who see you on a daily basis, you are just filling out forms and recycling your own misperceptions.
I admit, these tests can be an ideal starting point for a conversation with the people you work with about who you are and how you can do a better job. But they usually arenâ€™t, because people hold the results so close to their chestâ€”like theyâ€™re an immortal truth.
Itâ€™s like hearing your own voice (you didnâ€™t think you were going to get through this entire column without a metaphor, did you?). Your voice sounds one way when you hear it inside your head. But have you ever noticed how it sounds totally different when you hear it on a tape recorder that is played back to you? Itâ€™s no different when it comes to meaningful feedback, the most helpful comes from outside your own head.
Donâ€™t get me wrong. Iâ€™m a fan of self-deception as much as the next guy or galâ€”heck, not a Keanu Reeves movie goes by that I donâ€™t think that I could have provided a much more compelling performance. The problem is that these tests claim that they offer some objective truth and can cost a lot of money.
If you donâ€™t believe me, then start talking to your colleagues about what they believe they do very well. Undoubtedly youâ€™ll hear things that will make you double over in laughter. Mr. Disorganization will tell you that heâ€™s totally on top of all of his projects. Ms. Only-In-It-For-Herself will tell you what a great team player she is. And your boss will tell you that his people love him.
Which leads up to the big questionâ€”what are your blind spots?Â What do you hold very closely about your approach to work, or your values, that is just as laughable as Mr. Disorganization, Ms. Only-In-It-For-Herself or your boss?
Donâ€™t get me wrong, you donâ€™t have to put those number 2 pencils away any time soon. Keep taking your tests. But just remember that a dose of truth from a trusted coworker can provide you a lot more valuable input than just probing your own gray matter.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller â€śThe Bossâ€™s Survival Guide.â€ť If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.