The Politics of Personality Tests


A  friend of mine attended a training session where they completed a personality profile quiz, which resulted in quite a stir amongst the participants. He shared that people had become very upset because some felt put-down while others felt superior because of the results of the test. There was a definite heirarchy to the different profiles the test identified.

When I am facilitating Restitution training, I always have participants complete a personality profile as well. I think it’s really important to recognize that we all see the world in different ways, and recognizing our own biases can be key to working more effectively with others. However, I really disagree with the idea that there is an ideal profile, and that some people are superior to others.

For every seemingly positive characteristic a person may display, there is always a negative side. People who are confident, outgoing, and funny may just as easily be seen by others as being smug, overbearing and not taking issues seriously. And it’s not simply that others may interpret characteristics differently, but there is also an internal battle that we each wage. How can I care about people and not let other’s opinions overwhelm me? How can I be a strong leader, and still be open to new ideas?

Similarly, even seemingly negative characteristics have a positive side. If it wasn’t serving some purpose, it wouldn’t exist. That person who doesn’t speak their mind in the staff meeting is ensuring they don’t cause unnecessary conflict that will divide the group. That person who resists change is concerned that there is enough stability to ensure the system is still able to function.

Instead of seeing some people as more worthy than others, and promoting one perspective over another, it is much more useful to recognize that every perspective has value. When we are able to validate and appreciate what each person brings to the table, truly effective teams are born.


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