Labels Are For Cans, Not People

Recently over lunch, a client explained to me that her company once tested its employees to find out what "type" of person each of them was. The test asked a series of hypothetical "What if..?" and multiple-choice questions (for example: "You win the lottery. What do you do first?"). How that individual answered the questions—for example, either emotionally ("Throw a party"), or analytically ("Call your accountant"), and so on—determined the person's type, particularly related to the employment. The company revealed the results to the employees, and everyone in the company learned a little bit about most of their co-workers. My client found the test to be enlightening, and talked about how she came to better understand some individuals as co-workers based on their test results.

I gave some thought to this from my perspective as an employee of a large multinational. If presented with a similar test, would I want my employer to know (or better yet, to think they know) what type of person I am based on an arbitrary test of my hypothetical reactions in differing situations? I concluded no, I'd be uncomfortable revealing personal information that might lead to my employer making a decision about me.

My thinking is simple: if I were to reveal aspects about myself to my employer that I would otherwise not reveal in a professional setting, then I might be judged on something that never happened. If a test found me to react emotionally to hypothetical questioning, who's to say that I would react emotionally in a professional setting? My employer may be making an incorrect assumption about me without basing it on my actual performance. This would trouble me as an employee, even if the test results matched my actual performance on the job.

Another fault I found was that we think we know how we would react to the news that we had just won the lottery, but until we're actually faced with that scenario, we will never actually know the correct answer. It's the Minority Report problem: until someone commits the crime, they shouldn't be convicted of it.

I took something called Myers-Briggs in college and found it to be mostly nonsense. Have you ever taken a test that revealed your "personality type"? If so, did you find it to be an accurate indicator of who you really are?

Moreover, I'd like my employer to understand me by my performance—to the point that they'd find a personality test useless after years of their own knowledge gathering. How would you feel about sharing your personality type with your employer?