Pros and Cons of Personality Assessments in Conflict Management
I usually don’t make editorial comments, but I have continuously witnessed people ‘stereotyping’ others based on ‘personality’ tests and I felt compelled to provide my personal opinion.
I have heard many people make excuses for their inappropriate behaviour by saying, “I can’t help it, I am ‘red’ or ‘driver’ or ‘expressive’, ‘accommodating’, ‘avoiding’ and many other descriptors.
Some even describe themselves as ‘owl’, ‘fox’, ‘elephant’, and many other animals, depending on what they hear. Have we not evolved so little that we describe ourselves as animals?
Those ‘types’ or ‘styles’ represent a simplified view of human nature and people may feel comfortable in ‘fitting’ in a given style.
I feel that in most cases, these models are not properly introduced in organizations and become stereotypes which prevent deeper self-awareness and reflection and the opening of authentic dialogue.
The reality is that personality tests are self-report measures of traits, temperaments or descriptions. They do increase the ability to predict probable attitudes and behaviours that can influence success or failure. Real care should be exercised in their introduction and use in organizations.
Positive aspects of assessments
- Creates a common language which in turn facilitates discussions.
- Creates a good base for non-threatening dialogue.
- Can be used with humour.
- Good base for self-awareness and further reflection and development.
- Many are useful for development and team building.
- Create a sense of curiosity about oneself.
- Provokes introspection.
- They are often very interesting.
Negative aspects of assessments
- Create stereotypes which often prevent open dialogue.
- Influence people’s judgment. They don’t have to talk and dig further to really understand the other person.
- Create ambiguity if a person acts ‘out of style’.
- It is impossible to figure out the most efficient personality. In practice people need to be versatile and adapt their approach to the counterpart.
- Creates the risk that people will respond according to their ‘profile’ instead of being themselves and authentic. We can’t play a role, all the time.
- We are all susceptible to stereotyping. This may become a barrier to curiosity and deeper understanding.
- Many people criticize the instruments for their unproven and debatable reliability and validity.
- When people create an imaginary view of their colleagues, they enclose themselves in a box. This may prevent authentic dialogue and the need to learn about the real person in front.
Assessments are indeed useful in creating a common language and are a good base for establishing rapport and conversations.
They are also great for building self-awareness and for constructing personal development plans.
In my opinion, a ‘type’ or ‘style’ is not a reason for conflict. Personality differences is not a reason for conflict. There are many different causes of conflict, most of which are organizational in nature. Management should spend more time trying to find the root cause and then make the necessary improvements for a great place to work.
Jean-Paul Gagnon, ACC, CHRP is a professional coach, certified as CINERGY Conflict Management Coach. He is also a trained practitioner in conflict resolution. He is a mediator in the workplace and a volunteer community mediator. He has over 35 years of experience in Human Resource Management.
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