How does it feel when someone calls you a name?
Depends on the name right? What if you like the name you’re being called – like ‘genius’ or ‘natural leader.’ How about when the name is not so flattering to you? Names like ‘idiot’ or ‘minion.’
The truth is we are all labelled overtly, covertly, formally or informally. Leaders however, must be very careful in how employees are labeled and how they are treated after the labeling occurs.
Although we are now adults I’m sure you can remember what it was like to have some kids call other kids names and have those names stick for years. Depending on the name a kid was called, it could change the way the other kids saw them and treated them. Being in a clique or being bullied often came from this personality labeling.
My caution to leaders is that this same dynamic can and does take place among adults in the workplace. I have seen this take place first hand. I am not referring to the informal whispers behind someone’s back that leads to informal labelling or name calling. Let me explain how official sanctioned labelling occurs in the work place.
Labels Are Unavoidable And Even Necessary
In most companies leaders try many things to get the most out of their teams. To ensure employees work well together and that teams perform at higher levels, leaders have to know who their employees really are and how they are likely to behave in differing situations.
There are 3 basic ways that leaders collect this information and makes these determination.
1 – Leaders regularly observe and evaluate the employee. Observation takes place daily and a formal evaluation should take place at least two times a year at minimum. This formal evaluation is usually focused on the employee’s work performance and includes input from the supervisor’s direct observation of the employee’s work and behavior. From this the employee is labeled anything from Unsatisfactory to Outstanding. That is the label they will carry for the coming year and beyond unless they do something to shift the supervisor’s opinion during the next evaluation period. The work performance portion of the evaluation is based on objectives but the observation portion is fairly subjective.
2 – There is often subjective observation and feedback collected informally and formally from other employees in and out of the employee’s home department. This is sometimes done through 360 degree feedback forms or direct interviews with the employee’s peers. Informally it can be a simple as word of mouth passing conversations.
3 – A third method that is being used more and more is a formal assessment process of personality type. Many companies use this method to identify the behavioral traits and tendencies of their employees. Typically a series of questions are asked that when the answers are run through a psychological evaluative software program, the resulting output is a unique profile associated with person answering the questions. This does not take the place of the performance review but plays a very important role in establishing an identity of sorts that can be used in building a team, assigning work and influencing day to day interactions.
When a company or a department decides to have their employees go through this personality assessment process it is for the purpose of providing a predictor of employee behaviors. With the profile established for each employee the leadership can now view into another dimension of the workforce and workforce dynamics which can help the leader increase the overall effectiveness and performance of the organization.
The power of these predictive behaviors is realized by having the results shared and known by members of the same team and therefore enhances the peer to peer interactions and teamwork. It also allows the leader to better communicate and motivate team members individually in ways that better address to the individual employee’s needs.
When these assessments are completed on each person there are names or labels describing their personality type which the employee exhibits as their main behavioral style.
Different assessment tools use different labels for naming the behavioral predictive styles. in most cases a primary and secondary type name is used to describe the employee.
Which Personality Type Are You Most Of The Time?
There are several ‘Personality Type’ assessment tools that companies use. For example a well known assessment instrument called the Myers-Briggs uses categories that assess Psychological Functions, Attitudes, and Lifestyle Preferences. Results are labeled in these categories as:
- Feeling vs Thinking (F / T)
- Intuition vs Sensing (N / S)
- Perception vs Judging (P / J)
- Introversion vs Extraversion (I / E)
A more detailed explanation of what each of these labels mean and how they play out for the individual is shown in the diagrams below.
There is also several other personality type assessment tools that companies are using.
A much simpler one that is easier to administer, share and remember is called the DOPE Bird assessment. Where D.O.P.E. stands for – Dove, Owl, Peacock and Eagle
- Dove – peaceful and friendly.
- Owl – wise and logical.
- Peacock – showy and optimistic.
- Eagle – bold and decisive.
There is much more detail to what each of these Bird personality types have and how they respond normally and under stress. For the sake of this writing I will just make mention of the instrument.
Then there is the popular DiSC assessment tool.
Here are the possible Personality Types associated with the DiSC assessment instrument.
There is also The Birkman and The Keirsey assessment tools that are offshoots of the Myers-Briggs. And many other lesser known instruments.
Possible Outcomes: Stigma Or High Performance
The bottom line to all of these assessment instruments and the results they produce is that they provide a snapshot and insight to one’s personality that is often used to determine a good or bad fit within a team.
When used in this manner, the outcome can be very powerful. Recognizing the strengths of each team member allows the leader to guide a more effective team overall.
Unfortunately, many leaders use these results to coach and develop performance improvement plans for the employee. I personally think this is a misuse of these results.
Which brings me back to the main point of this article. The labeling that occurs with the assessment output can be used very effectively to understand the behavior of boss, peers, subordinates, clients etc. However the same sword’s other edge can cut deeply when used incorrectly.
The mere fact that there is now a category, label or type that gets associated with an employee has the potential for that labeling to be used in a negative way. In extreme cases it could stand in the way of that employee’s future advancement opportunities and even alienate them from others in the organization depending on the pervasive personality types that are in the group.
How To Avoid The Impact Of Labelling
It is therefore extremely important that the correct effective training and coaching be administered along with the sharing of the results that the group or organization will receive.
Having personally coached teams that have taken these assessments, I have seen far too many employees respond negatively to their peers after learning of the differences between them. It can have the same effect within the group’s culture as having other differences highlighted. (race, gender, sexual orientation and so on.)
If the leader is not skilled in creating an inclusive culture that values the diversity of the employees, including personality styles, then the chance for organizational dysfunction grows.
Two solutions come to mind to prevent the down side of implementing Personality Type Assessments in an organization.
1 – Clear and thorough training of the leaders that will have to manage the teams going through the assessment. In fact, it makes the most sense that the executive leadership team or department heads go through the assessment before their departments. The CEO should also have an assessment done with specific one on one coaching as the results are shared. Ensuring the top level executives are clearly trained and skilled at managing through the varied results that will come from these assessments can only help in the acceptance, and smooth implementation while resulting in the greatest positive impact these assessments were meant to have.
2 – Although many companies select one method and that becomes the standard assessment tool used throughout the company, I would recommend the use of at least two instruments administered fairly close together in time. Of course this is much more work relative to training and understanding the output. However since different instruments capture personalities in different ways the rich data that can come from these results will have the effect of showing a more rounded individual as opposed to a snapshot taken from one angle. This is not a popular recommendation primarily due to the cost of implementation and if not done well can lead to confusion. But, having these diverse views of the same individual will have the effect of minimizing the hard labels that can come from a single assessment instrument.
Clearly my first recommended solution is most important and if only one were to be followed it would be number one hands down. A comprehensive well thought out strategy for training and implementation that includes the company’s leadership should be considered table stakes in implementing any personality assessment tool.
If you need help in implementing one of these assessment instruments or dealing with the aftermath of having implemented an assessment, give my office a call. We will happily address the situation you or your team may be challenged with and ensure you get the most out of the results you have or will receive.