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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

Are assessments in your office doing more damage or good?

Personality assessments are widely used in the workplace, but are they telling us the truth or just giving us more labels? Do they add to clear communication with each other or just provide another layer of clutter? If you have ever given or taken a personality assessment at work, you want to read this article in detail to learn the truth about how assessments can cause more damage than good and more confusion than clarity, all based on how they’re used and delivered. (In the last two weeks we have provided two eBooks on two personalities and how they can become better leaders. For the Commander eBook, click here. For the Organizer eBook, click here. Look for eBooks on the Relater and Entertainer in the next two weeks.)

Most of Them Lie

This could apply to both the assessments and the people taking them, but they’re not doing it on purpose. 54% of the population does not know themselves well enough to accurately report their own behavior on an assessment tool. The tool will then analyze and make recommendations on inaccurate data. For example, your boss might really want others to believe he is a Red, Driver, Commander, or the personality often put in charge, but in his off time he is laid back and compassionate. Because he’s practiced the Commander behaviors at work, he’s going to identify with those on the initial assessment, but this doesn’t make them authentic or an accurate description of what he will do when stress is high. We all go back to what is natural when we’re stressed, so use a profile that uncovers the conditioned behaviors and then validates the results of each person with a one on one conversation. Inaccurate data or lies about who you lead or who leads you won’t help you become a better leader.

Labels are Limiting

The companies who utilize assessments and then put signs outside each person’s door or identifiers on their name tags are missing the entire point of using profile tools. First of all, we all have all four of the personality preferences at our disposal and hard wired into our brain. How much we use each of them is sometimes conscious and more often by default or habit. Secondly, three words and a color on someone’s door does NOT in any way describe them well enough for you to know how to modify your communication with them. It does NOT describe how they will react under stress. And it does not accurately reflect this person’s secondarily most dominant set of traits, those in the tertiary stage of development or dormant traits. No human being fits neatly and cleanly into a box, color, dog name, or personality. Raising overall awareness of ALL four of the personalities and conducting training on emotional intelligence and how to apply this awareness is a must when using profiles…that is if you want people to actually DO something with this data, beyond decorating their door and labeling people with bigger, more cool sounding words.

Application Takes Practice

I love the companies that bring in an assessment to FIX those who “don’t get it”. They do “get it”, they just don’t do it the way the boss or HR does. Having different personalities on a team makes a team stronger. Want a high performing team, put all four personalities on it and then give them time to learn how to work with each other. Applying the knowledge of HOW others are different is not an overnight operation. The most effective and successful leaders know that training is but one piece of the leadership development puzzle. After training they need time to practice and change and develop. A strong Analytical, Green, or Organizer is not going to become jovial, talkative and expressive tomorrow, but they can learn to be a bit more expressive with practice when talking to those who are uber expressive such as the yellow, Influencer, or Entertainer.

The use of personality assessments or profiles in the workplace can be wrought with any number of lies, labels, and miscommunications, but when used in ways that help, not hurt, and as part of a culture of inclusivity and self-improvement, the results can be quite astounding, positive, and revenue producing. How you use them in your workplace is up to you, but I can tell you that avoiding the mistakes listed above is what the very best leaders do.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


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