I Am Not a Category! Redux

I have written on this and will probably do so again but an email advertisement for a book, Wars at Work, caught my attention recently.  The author, Kaveh Mir, believes that psychometric tests provide the information necessary to solve differences at work that waste time, effort and have a negative impact on profits.  While I don’t argue with the fact that most disagreements at work have negative consequences to the company as well as the combatants, I do not believe that psychometric tests provide the answer.  I say that, coming from training and practice in those tests.  As a practicing clinical psychologist for many years, I gave more tests than I care to remember.  While there are many arguments to be made about their use, the foremost criticism is that it is very presumptuous to assume that from a paper/pencil test that it is possible to capture the essence of a person. 

This is certainly a sampling error of the worst kind.  The second problem I have is while they are touted as producing valid and reliable measures of one’s behavior, they all have to be interpreted!  The interpretation depends on the training and experience of the interpreter. I could go on and on but I believe that assessing an employees’ ability to get along at work, facilitated by personality tests, is another case of wasting time and money.  Categorizing people in any way violates their uniqueness.  Most people spend many years trying to rid themselves of prejudices based on treating people on the basis of particular group identification rather than by who they are as individuals. In the modern workplace, employees are placed in an environment where the widest range of personalities (however that may be assessed) exists and where they must learn to work cooperatively and effectively with them.  Changing behaviors related to increasing work efficiency, effectiveness and enjoying doing it with many different people starts with accepting them as they are, not due to any group affiliation they may have. While grouping defines one’s heritage, it shouldn't define how they behave toward others.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.