To Promote Inclusivity, Stay Away from Personality Assessments

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In a separate encounter, after my manager quite literally dumped work at my desk without telling me what to do with it, I directly and sternly requested — in true I.N.T.J. style — that he refrain from doing this in the future. I was promptly told that my approach was “unprofessional” and that it would be noted in an upcoming performance review.

Of course, too many negative remarks on performance reviews certainly wouldn’t lead to advancement, and if deemed serious enough, could have resulted in further disciplinary action. While the M.B.T.I., and the organizations that use the assessment, promote the idea that there’s no “wrong” personality, real-life workplace conflicts do not always play out so objectively.

When asked about diverse personality types and how they fit into company culture, Tamara Rasberry, a human resources manager in Washington, D.C., explains that a specific set of desired traits often lead to hiring and promotion biases.

“I wouldn’t say wrong personality, but more so one that is less desired,” Ms. Rasberry said. “For example, a hiring manager may believe they should hire someone who is outgoing and assertive for a sales position. While it’s not a given that someone who isn’t outgoing or assertive would be unsuccessful in the role, the hiring manager may believe that to be the case and decline to hire anyone without those traits.”

There are personality traits that can negatively impact a person in the workplace, Ms. Rasberry added, such as the way our culture socializes women to not speak up or to avoid being assertive. This socialization can cost women growth opportunities, particularly in male-dominated workplaces.

Similarly, Kristin Wong, and author and journalist, has discussed the challenges immigrants face in the workplace when their culturally influenced behaviors make them vulnerable on the job. While it’s looked upon favorably in some cultures to be polite, quiet and nonconfrontational, those same traits can often be exploited in American culture, where assertiveness and competitiveness are more frequently rewarded. With this in mind, it’s likely that an immigrant, woman or another minority employee can easily be passed up for a promotion or raise in the typical American work environment.

These dynamics, along with experiences similar to the one at my previous job, are all things that broad personality assessments like the M.B.T.I. don’t take into account. Most of us are aware that specific personality traits do not directly correlate with work capabilities. A person who is extroverted is not guaranteed to be a great salesperson, nor does it mean they will be an asset to the organization. That being said, it makes little sense that personality assessments are still used in the name of team-building. When trying to gauge an employee’s work style and how they will fit in and work with others, a personality assessment offers little more insight than a “Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?” Facebook quiz.

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