Three Popular Personality Assessments for the Workplace


Last week we considered workplace assessments.  To add some clarity to this issue, I thought I would cover three popular personality tests and talk about the psychometric properties and how best to use the assessments in your organization or as part of a comprehensive coaching program.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI is based on Jungian psychological theory and is one of the most widely used personality assessments.  Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875 and was a contemporary of Freud.  Because of the time he lived, many of his theories of personality are colored by themes of the times like; the collective unconscious, dream analysis, and psyche archetypes.  Many of Jung’s theories have fallen out of favor in modern psychology.

Using Jungian Theory, the MBTI measures four dichotomies and 20 facets:


  1. Extraversion vs. Introversion
  2. Sensing vs. Intuition
  3. Thinking vs. Feeling
  4. Judging vs. Perceiving


5 Extraversion-Introversion facets (Initiating-Receiving, Expressive-Contained, Gregarious-Intimate, Active-Reflective, Enthusiastic-Quiet)

5 Sensing-Intuition facets (Concrete-Abstract, Realistic-Imaginative, Practical-Conceptual, Experiential-Theoretical, Traditional-Original)

5 Thinking-Feeling facets (Logical-Empathetic, Reasonable-Compassionate, Questioning-Accommodating, Critical-Accepting, Tough-Tender)

5 Judging-Perceiving facets (Systematic-Casual, Planful-Open-Ended, Early Starting-Pressure-Prompted, Scheduled-Spontaneous, Methodical-Emergent

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook (the gold standard for psychological assessments) gives the MBTI decent reliability scores, but questions the test’s validity in several areas.  In addition, the Handbook cautions that the sample population used to norm the test was skewed towards Caucasian women.  The Handbook stresses that because of the basis of the assessment in Jungian Theory, it is important to have someone well-versed in Jungian Theory and practice to interpret the results (your basic MBTI certification might not be what is really needed to be useful).  While the predictive qualities of the test are questionable, it has been used successfully as a stimulus to start conversations in coaching.  However, is it cautioned by the Handbook that using the test in making clinical, employment, or forensic decisions is not recommended and could be perilous.

The Five-Factor Model (FFM or Big Five Dimensions)

The FFM originally used lexical factor analysis to identify important universal personality domains from language.  The theory for this approach argued that important dimensions of personality were embedded in the natural and emergent language of a culture.  This process of using personality terms embedded in language was initially researched by Allport who used an unabridged English dictionary to identify and factor terms.  The terms and factor process was later used by Cattell to develop the 16-Personality Factor Inventory (16-PFI).  Further factor analysis and research using self-assessment and peer observation resulted in the five-factor model and the development of the NEO Personality Inventory.

The five personality dispositions identified in the FFM are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism/Stability.  The model has recently become popular as an assessment to evaluate and predict workplace performance, particularly in leadership. Critics of the model argue that the factor analysis method and the lexicon approach could be flawed and reduce the validity of the model.

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook gives the NEO Personality Inventory -3 (based on the FFM) an excellent validity rating and that the FFM is integral in many recent dimensional personality models. Unfortunately, the norming population was predominately Caucasian and the test-retest information is also lacking, but existing evidence suggests it is adequate.  The FFM has been shown to be valuable in predicting workplace and academic performance.  The model has also been valuable in coaching relationships to show how personality influences thinking and behavior and to develop performance action plans.

Strength Finders 2.0

Strength Finders was developed by the Gallup Organization to identify personal talent and potential.  The assessment was developed through semi-structured interviews of Gallup clients over a 30-year period and synthesized through empirical processes and is based in Positive Psychological Theory. The CSF measures the presence of talent in 34 different themes.

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook has not evaluated this assessment.  According to the test manual, the internal consistency and test-retest reliability are adequate to good, depending on the theme.  However, validity of the measurement is questionable given inadequate data to assess.  Criterion validity was shown to be significantly related to the five-factor model of personality.  The primary purpose of Strength Finders is to identify possible employee strengths and weaknesses to assist in employee development.  The makers caution that the assessment, “is not designed or validated for use in employee selection or mental health screening.  Given that CSF feedback is provided to foster intrapersonal development, comparisons across profiles of individuals are discouraged.”  This disclaimer significantly limits the usefulness in an organizational setting and should be considered as appropriate only for individual and team coaching.

Find out more about using assessments in your development and your organization at TierOne Performance Consulting.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!



The Question of Workplace Psychological Assessments


Know what you are getting and why when you give a psychological assessment in the workplace.  Photo Source:

Odds are that at some point in your career you have had to take a personality assessment.  If you work in Human Resources Management or are an organizational leader you have probably used or considered using personality assessments to hire personnel or put work-teams together.  There are a lot of assessments out there with varying degrees of reliability and validity and if you are not a trained psychologist you may not be using these tools to the full potential, or worse, misusing the assessment all together.  Consider these four areas before using a psychological assessment in the workplace.

  1. Why Test

The first question you have to ask yourself is what are your goals for using a psychological assessment?  You should have a purpose for the assessment beyond being used as an icebreaking exercise.  Psychological assessments can be useful in coaching situations to identify personal orientations that can assist in coaching plan development.  Assessments can also be useful in putting together project teams and predicting how the team will function.

  1. Understand the Psychological Theory

People use assessments because of the product’s quantitative (measurable) qualities and the science behind the assessment.  Each assessment is grounded in a researched psychological theory and is designed to be used with and reflect the thinking of its unique theory.  Before giving and using these tools you must know and understand the theory.  Ideally, your purpose for giving the assessment and your intervention should match foundational aspects of the theory.

  1. Understand the Science    

Assessments are considered reliable and valid based on the product’s psychometric properties.  If you don’t know what psychometric properties are you should before you give the test and you should be able to explain the concept and the properties of the test to your client.  If the assessment is a scientifically based “real” assessment, it will publish reliability, validity, and norming statistics.  You should be able understand and critique these statistical values.  Don’t believe the marketing hype published on the assessments website; find scientifically based independent reviews of the assessment.  Try checking out the Mental Measures Handbook for objective reviews and the psychometric properties of most popular psychological tests on the market.  If you are using these assessments for hiring you really need to understand the limitations of the test.  Many psychological assessments are not recommended for hiring purposes.

  1. Put it all Together

You have the results now what?  A psychological assessment should be just one part of an overall development plan.  Since you expended the effort and money to give an assessment, make sure it is integrated into the development plan and is consistent with the development model you (or your organization) are using.  In addition, the assessment, model, and psychological theory should be aligned.  Knowing that you have a particular personality orientation means nothing if the knowledge doesn’t lead to the attainment of your personal goals.  Also, personality orientations tend to be fairly stable in adulthood, while our attention spans are pretty short.  Revisit the assessment with your clients and/or team regularly so they can see the patterns of thinking and behavior influenced by their unique personality orientation.

Go to TierOne Performance Consulting to learn more about science-based integrated coaching and development ideas. Put your mind on what matters!

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!