Why Personality Tests are Popular in the Workplace

Working in an office has its quirks and perks. That’s because everyone in the office is a different personality, and brings something different to the table—both good and bad. For those leading teams of people, it’s important to get to know everyone on the team individually in order to lead effectively. One method for doing this quickly is doing the personality test. There are all different kinds of personality tests, and they’ve become a popular management tool in offices all over the country over the years. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology reports that about 13% of US employers use these tests, especially for gaining insight on where to allocate their talent.

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Most people have encountered one in the workplace at some point during their career. But why are they popular? How do they help managers lead their teams more effectively? And are personality tests actually helpful?

Personality Tests Can Help Reveal Strengths and Weaknesses

We’re not usually very good at self-assessment, which is why personality tests can come in handy for assessing our strengths and weaknesses. Once we know what they are, it’s much easier to leverage our skills and build up the areas that may need work. “Soft skills” that indicate high levels emotional intelligence and allow people to communicate and work well as a team are becoming more and more important in the workplace all the time, and personality tests may help show which soft skills are already developed.

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Awareness Enhancing Teamwork

When personality tests are used to reveal strengths, it can benefit the team as a whole. Delegating can be difficult if you’re not sure what each person on the team is comfortable with. Having more in-depth knowledge of everyone’s preferences and strengths can help each individual improve their lives and make delegating easier. After all, someone who is terrified of public speaking would probably be horrified to hold a meeting, while the outgoing personalities in the office might be bored by a quiet research project.

Leveraging strengths is a great way to enhance teamwork, because productivity is likely to increase without feelings of resentment about the task at hand—as long as responsibilities are handed out fairly.

The Downsides of Personality Tests

Do you remember taking a career assessment test in school? If so, you might have gotten a result that was completely different than you were expecting—and probably weren’t hoping for. Though many of the personality tests offices tend to use (the Meyers-Briggs test, for example) are more sophisticated than these basic assessments to help guide young people in their career path, they’re still far from perfect. They’re not always accurate. Beyond this, people can absolutely push outside what comes naturally and gain new strengths. In this respect, personality tests can put people in boxes they never asked for, causing leadership to view them in the context of their personality test. This can curtail professional and personal development, limiting their advancement within the organization.

Many academic institutions don’t put much stock in personality tests, and feel they don’t measure performance potential. That’s one of the main reasons it’s not a good idea to use personality tests in the hiring process: it’s simply not reliable enough. It might seem like a clean and simple way to assess applicants, but there are a number of pitfalls to this method that can allow strong candidates to slip through the cracks.

Should You Use Personality Tests in Your Office?

If you do use personality tests, take the results with a grain of salt. They can help you gain helpful insights, whether you’re leading a team of adaptable Millennials who value corporate social responsibility, or learning more about yourself. However, it’s important to use them as a means of exploration, not the gospel for the future.

Try using personality tests to open up a conversation. If you’re a manager, use the opportunity to find out what your employees’ goals are for personal and professional growth, and help them reach those goals. If you’re working in an office that uses personality tests, think about where you want to be in the company—and use your test to help discuss those goals with your supervisors. Personality tests are only as meaningful as you make them, so be sure to use them responsibly if you want to avoid hurt feelings.

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