The use of personality assessments in the workplace has some controversy. Professionals cite the questionable reliability and validity of many assessments and argue that they reinforce our self-perceptions and don’t show us the nuances of our personalities. However, others argue that they can be useful as part of a range of assessment tools to help us understand ourselves and others.
“Treating a personality assessment report as a ‘one and done’ event,” says Roger Pearman, CEO of Leadership Performance Systems and an MHS alliance partner, is a common but costly mistake. It’s important that the individuals participating in the assessment understand what the assessment reports say and how to use them effectively in the workplace.
There’s no denying that having increased self-awareness, however, is beneficial to individuals and their organizations. Knowing how your behavior affects others helps you adjust it when needed, and when teams use personality assessments, according to Pearman, it helps them “open new doors of understanding” and work more effectively together.
When personality assessment results are aligned with key competencies, training and business goals, they can be impactful. When assessment reports provide irrelevant or incomplete information, they can be counterproductive. Select a personality assessment that is supported by research and provides reports that will help the organization achieve short- and long-term goals.
The Role of Personality in Conflict
Wiley recently launched a new assessment and training tool, Everything DiSC Productive Conflict, connected to the popular DiSC personality profile. The DiSC profile uses an assessment to identify users in four personality categories:
- Dominance (“person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence”)
- Influence (“person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships”)
- Steadiness (“person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability”)
- Conscientiousness (“person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise, competency”)
The Productive Conflict assessment tells you in which area your personality falls and, based on that personality type, how you respond to conflict. Julie Straw, a vice president at Wiley, says the tool is meant to help users identify their automatic destructive thoughts and behaviors and interrupt them with productive behaviors that are still aligned with their personalities. If the information gained from the assessment is continuously referenced by team members, she says, that new understanding of self and others can help create more effective teams.
For example, someone with a dominant tendency tends to view conflict as a win/lose situation and to overpower other people during discussion. However, this person can also use his or her straightforwardness and ability to have an objective discussion to make conflict more productive. Someone with an influence tendency can make a conflict very personal, but he or she can also be empathetic and verbal, encouraging others to share their feelings in a productive way.
Turning Conflicts into Innovation
It’s important to understand the source of conflict in order to manage it successfully. “Conflict over goals, tactics and methods,” Pearman says, “can be resolved more easily than conflict over values and personality differences.” Personality assessments can be useful in conflict management by helping individuals de-personalize the conflicts. Pearman says that they can be beneficial by helping team members understand that their differences are due to their different natural tendencies rather than “hidden agendas.” On the other hand, it’s critical for managers to help users understand the purpose of assessments and that, for instance, their results don’t identify “intractable” personality differences but rather behavioral tendencies.
Ultimately, Wiley is hoping that the new DiSC tool helps organizations develop the understanding that conflict doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, conflict is important to encourage innovation and creativity, and Pearman says it’s important to “identify the productive outcomes of conflict” when it happens. What new ideas came out of the conflict? “Make conflict part of the story rather than shun it,” he says. Straw agrees: “When you shove conflict under the rug, you’re also shoving opportunities under the rug.”
Whether you use personality assessments or another tool to develop better self-awareness and understanding of different personalities and behaviors, doing so will be important to not only manage conflict but to take advantage of its outcomes.