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 individual’s 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. O’Neill, 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 (O’Neill, 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 anyone.