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THE VALUE OF TESTING WORKER PERSONALITY
An individuals personality is defined as the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts
to and interacts with others (Robbins et al. 2017, p. 78) and can be used in parallel with other
metrics to predict an employees likelihood of reaching organisational outcomes within a
specific role. Personality testing aims to identify personality traits, defined as enduring
characteristics that describe an individuals behaviour (Robbins et al. 2017, p. 79) while
adding to the tools at a managers disposal to assist in successfully placing an employee during
the hiring or promotion process. Further, this can also help with the understanding of
personality types, rather than relying on education or previous experience alone.
Two main methods of testing are preferred within the organisational context; self-report
surveys or observer rating surveys, of which interview and observation are key examples.
Mount, Barrick, & Strauss (1994) discussed the validity of observer rating and found that it
was on par with self-rating as a valid predictor of performance. Using both these methods
together gives the best opportunity for a successful ability to estimate personality constraints.
The evolution of personality testing has resulted in two frameworks which have become
dominant in identifying and classifying traits within the organisational context. They are the
Big Five Model and the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator. Additionally, a valuable addition to
understanding negative traits is the Dark Triad, defined as a constellation of negative
personality traits consisting of Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy (Robbins et al.
2017, p. 82).
Personality identification is key to organisational outcomes at all three levels of the basic OB
model (Robbins et al. 2017, p. 18). At an individual level, it is key to understanding an
employees attitude and their ability to perform a role. ONeill, Goffin, and Gellatly (2010)
describe the need for allocating preferred personality traits to individual job descriptions, which
allows for hiring personality types suitable to complete the designated functions. Identification
of managerial roles required such as the ten identified by Henry Mintzberg under;
Interpersonal, informational and decisional allow managers to succeed in their jobs (Mintzberg
1973). At the group level, the ability to predict one of the antagonistic Dark Triad traits in a
potential employee would have a significant impact on the suitability of a candidate to join and
complement a functioning and cohesive team.
Getting the culture right within an organisation is a crucial input to the organisational level and
leading to successful outcomes such as; effectiveness, productivity and ultimately
organisational survival. Building a culture that puts companies objectives at the fore front can
be enhanced by employees commitment. An individual from a society with a high power-
distance culture would be more likely to commit to an organisation and prefer directive
leadership while an individual from a low power-distance cultures like that of Australia prefer
consultation and are more willing to rock the boat to get what they want.
While research has shown a relationship between the Big Five model and job criteria, it has
shown little quantifiable evidence that self-reporting or observer ratings are reliable or
accurate. Allowing a personality test to provide insights into employees is only an indicator
and a small look into the complex realm of organisational behaviour. Managers must look
further than this type of test to really understand the traits to ensure organisational outcomes.
At an individual level, emotions and mood are a vital process of the OB model (Robbins et al.
2017, p. 18). Personality testing provides only a snapshot in time; a single data point that
needs to be reviewed and is susceptible to misunderstanding by managers. An example would
be someone having an off day and as such the results may be incorrect due to their mood. As
such, a wrong selection of an employee may lead to a decreased task performance
(ONeill, Goffin, & Gellatly 2010).
At the group level, a threat to the validity of personality testing is the ease and accessibility of
faking. Candidates trying to prove they will be a good fit for team cohesion could lie or
even take tests multiple times to get a desired result. Research suggests that considerable
fluctuation can occur due to faking; this is especially true at the high end of the scale and
affects the overall decision-making ability (Mueller-Hanson, Heggestad & Thornton 2003).
Shoss & Strube (2011) research suggests the identification of faking is complicated and
affects the global legitimacy of personality testing.
Knowing the context at the organisational level is instrumental to the success of company
outcomes; this can be met with correct structure and culture and utilisation of efficient change
practices. Pomerance (2014) discusses the importance of specific context; otherwise, validity
is unknown due to uncertainties in organisational behaviour. People react differently in the
same situation, thus adding risk without a having a context.
Personality testing within the organisational context has many floors, and the validity is
uncertain therefore it must be used in conjunction with other testing options such as cognitive
and competency testing, or existing employees decide, they understand the culture better than
Mintzberg, H 1973, The nature of managerial work, Harper & Row, New York.
Mount, MK., Barrick, MR. & Strauss, JP 1994, Validity of observer ratings of the big five
personality factors, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 79, no. 2, pp. 272280.
Mueller-Hanson, R, Heggestad, ED & Thornton, GC 2003, Faking and selection:
Considering the use of personality from select-in and select-out perspectives, Journal of
Applied Psychology, vol. 88, no. 2, pp. 348355.
ONeill, TA, Goffin, RD & Gellatly, IR 2010, Test-taking motivation and personality test
validity, Journal of Personnel Psychology, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 117125.
Pomerance, MH & Converse, PD 2014, Investigating context specificity, self-schema
characteristics, and personality test validity, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 58,
Robbins, SP, Judge, T, Millett, B & Boyle, M 2016, Organisational behaviour, 8th edn,
Pearson Australia, Sydney, N.S.W.
Shoss, MK & Strube, MJ 2011, How do you fake a personality test? An investigation of
cognitive models of impression-managed responding, Organizational Behavior and Human
Decision Processes, vol. 116, no. 1, pp. 163171.
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