I just saw a “game” on Facebook that got my attention. It said “Each of us possesses different types of personality that fall in the certain category. There are basically four types of people in this world. You can only fit into one of these four personalities; which one is it?”
The call to action was “Let’s play.”
Okay, I just can’t let that go. Granted it is Facebook which makes no claim to the authenticity or veracity of anything posted. And it is Facebook where we go these days for our news and opinions.
And it is kind of fun to see where you fall out in these “games.” Perhaps we learn a little something about ourselves, which helps us feel comfortable in our own skin. Learning and comfort can be a good thing.
So why did this get my attention?
Because it stereotypes and stereotyping limits.
Years ago, I watched an organization stereotype employees into birds. If you were an owl, you were quiet and industrious. An eagle dominated the room. A dove sought peace everywhere. And I bet you can guess the nature of the peacock!
Of course, this was applied in a workshop that started with answering a series of questions, and then plotting where your questions put you in terms of assertiveness and emotionality. You end up somewhere in a quadrant based on a two-dimensional matrix. “Somewhere” is the key. To truly believe that there are only four types in our world is, of course, ludicrous. Even in the “bird” test, there are nuances that tell a more robust story.
In this organization, HR presented the birds in an hour workshop. Fifteen minutes of the time was spent taking the assessment. The remaining time was spent telling participants about the attributes of each quadrant. So we minimize the learning and reflection in favor of a quick hit.
It’s just not that easy
And we don’t look past that. We put our owl or peacock on our cubicle and check off the box: we’ve done that silly test that HR makes us do. On the up side, we take a little insight and move on. On the downside, we write off the dove as too meek to really add much value in our decision-making process.
I like Myers-Briggs. Not because they have 16 “types” versus 4. It is because it is a process of learning and reflection that can be a helpful tool in understanding self and others. A Myers-Briggs workshop contains exercises that allow participants a deeper understanding of what the results mean, and an opportunity to explore similarities and differences.
Even with Myers-Briggs, though, it can easily be reduced to a parlor game. A quick run through of the methodology and a booklet that defines your “type” can be accomplished in an hour or so. At least, it is a little more complicated to create a stereotype.
My cynicism is probably showing, and that’s unfair. So how can these various assessments be useful?