Loving the Labels?

As humans, we have an innate tendency to label things.

Labels often help us make sense of the world. Many of us thrive on the things around us being tidy and organized. Labels provide us with a great way to keep those things where we need them to be, and they help us find what we think we are looking for.

We do it with things. We do it with people.

How often have you arrived at a training or learning session and, as you register, you are given a badge or a label with your name on it? When you wear your name on a label, it does help for others to know who you are and, from an organizational sense, it confirms whether or not you are participating in the session to which you were assigned.

What happens when labeling is designed not just to indicate your name, but to describe who you are? How would you react if, instead of your name on the tag, you were asked to provide your personality type based on an assessment such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? This might be too much information (TMI) for many of us to share.

Personality assessments, tests, or indicators are often interesting and productive tools that help develop understandings of how or why we behave in certain ways. These tools have been, and continue to be, used within organizations to help develop professional growth plans for individual employees. While most people enjoy learning more about what makes them tick, these assessments come with a cautionary note when used or applied within a workplace setting.

The limitations of applying this type of personality assessment in the workplace are explored in an article from Canadian Business magazine.

Click here to read the article.

The Human Resources practitioner is typically charged with managing an organization’s training and development program. This responsibility comes with the challenge of making the program interesting, interactive, and relevant to individual employees. While nothing may be more interesting for individual employees than figuring out more about themselves, as Human Resources practitioners we need to ensure that the professional development programs we design keep the organization’s interests at the forefront in any planning process.

We need to ensure that we are providing the right resources that encourage continuous personal growth within the context of the organization. More importantly, we need to be aware of the potential risks of crossing the line into too much personal information, and the unintended consequences of attaching labels to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As an HR practitioner, how could you use a personality assessment, such as Myers-Briggs, to develop a performance plan for individual employees?
  2. A supervisor wants to use the Myers-Briggs assessment as part of a professional development session focused on team building with her employees. How will you respond to her request as the HR practitioner responsible for designing the session?
  3. From your perspective, why are personality tests used as training tools in the workplace?
  4. If you completed a Myers-Briggs test in the past:
    1. How did the results coincide with your own assessment of yourself?
    2. What types of insights were revealed to you/about you?
    3. Did you agree or disagree with the results?

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