“Dog with a bone” might be an appropriate phrase or, as keen readers of my ramblings will better appreciate: “Octopus with a baby seal”. Whatever the animal metaphor, the fact is that I am returning to a subject I have covered before, because I feel that I have more gristle to extract from the marrow.
The subject in question is psychometric personality profiles, and the reason they rank high on my current list of obsessions is because my organisation has recently rolled them out to all staff.
The profiling in question identifies eight core personality types and, presumably because eight is too large a number for most of their subjects to comprehend, then allocates four key colours to these groupings.
The evaluation process involves the completion of a multiple-choice questionnaire, and the outcome is explained by a ‘qualified practitioner’. Most of my colleagues completed the questionnaire… well, unquestioningly. They met with the ‘qualified practitioner’. They were told their personality type and they were given a Lego brick––Duplo actually––which supposedly matched the colour of their most dominant characteristic. Most went off happy and still unquestioning. Needless to say, I did not.
Whereas most of my colleagues were content to passively submit to this kind of evaluation, I believe that it is the test, itself, which requires more critical analysis.
A fundamental flaw lies at the heart of most workplace psychometric tests, and this test was no exception. The initial questionnaire is a matter of self-assessment. This can never be objective. It merely reinforces assumptions; in no way exposes misconceptions.
An example: a director in my section came away from the testing process delighted, because the outcome––red Duplo brick––had reinforced her own misconception that she was an excellent director. The result revealed nothing more than that she had answered all the questions from her own––entirely deluded––subjective viewpoint.
Perhaps worse still, though, there are biased value judgements at the core of the evaluation process. In order to explain, I need to elaborate.
The four colours defined by the test are––predictably––red, yellow, blue and green. Without going into excessive detail, broadly, red and yellow equate to extrovert personality traits; blue and green to introvert ones. These colours then match up to corresponding ‘personality types’ but ones that have titles, which could easily be construed as ‘job roles’. Examples are ‘Director’ and ‘Motivator’; ‘Helper’ and ‘Supporter’. It doesn’t take the most astute careers adviser to recognise that ‘Director’ and ‘Motivator’ are going to be preferable career options to ‘Helper’ and ‘Supporter’. What is worrying is that all the plum roles fall in the red and yellow categories. The test is fundamentally biased towards extrovert personality types. It might as well come with an Animal Farm-style warning attached: “Extrovert, good: introvert, bad.”
I am making a stand for introvert rights. Albeit a rather quiet one.
Of course, there is one crucial question left unanswered. What was my colour in the personality test? Well, the fact is that I didn’t take the test. I refused to take part. I didn’t answer any of the questions. I didn’t meet with the ‘qualified practitioner’. I didn’t receive a personality type. I wasn’t given a Lego––Duplo, actually––brick.
What colour does that make me?
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree leads an introvert revolution.