Personality tests. Some swear by them, convinced that they improve team performance. Others consider them a complete waste of time. So, are personality tests worthwhile? And can they really promote teamwork on your service desk? Read on to discover more.

Personality tests over the years

The first personality tests were conducted at the end of the 18th century. According to the doctrine of phrenology, personality traits could be deduced from the shape of the skull. This branch of psychology, however, was later dismissed as quackery.

During the First World War, the US Army conducted personality tests to assess soldiers’ susceptibility to shell shock: a post-traumatic stress disorder that results from combat and typically manifests in anxiety or insomnia.

In the 40s and 50s, the tests were used to scientifically determine the basic characteristics of human personality, such as extraversion and receptiveness. These days, personality tests are often used to test a candidate’s suitability for a particular position or team. Some companies even employ personality tests as their sole method of candidate preselection.

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Well-known personality tests

Numerous personality tests have been developed over the years. I’ve listed some of the best-known below:

  • Myers – Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This test examines your behaviours and matches them to 4 basic characteristics, each indicated by a letter: (I) introversion, (E) extroversion, (T) thinking, (F) feeling, (J) judgement (P) perception, (S) sensing and (N) intuition. The 4 letters that emerge from the test reveal what you prefer to focus on (outer world or inner world), how you process information, how you make decisions, and how you deal with the outside world and communicate with others. These are subsequently matched to 16 personality types.
  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). This test is often used in clinical and forensic investigations to diagnose mental health problems. The subject is assessed according to 10 clinical scales: hypochondria, depression, psychopathic deviation, femininity/masculinity, paranoia, psychasthenia, schizophrenia, mania, and social introversion.
  • Big Five. The Big Five is one of the most popular personality tests. It analyzes 5 personality traits, the results of which provide insight into your levels of:
    • Openness – you enjoy learning new things and are open to new experiences;
    • Conscientiousness – you have a high degree of self-discipline and are reliable, organized, methodical and thorough;
    • Extraversion – you enjoy interacting with others and are energetic, talkative and assertive;
    • Agreeableness – you’re friendly, cooperative, kind and compassionate;
    • And neuroticism – you experience emotional instability and negative emotions, and are moody and tense.

Can personality tests enhance the performance of your service desk?

Personality tests are a valuable tool for service desk managers. Why? Because each test sheds light on the various personality types of your service desk team members and the best way to engage them. Conducting personality tests enables your team to get better acquainted and understand what makes each other tick. In other words, it broadens your perspective. Perhaps one of your team members doesn’t contribute much during team discussions? This isn’t necessarily a sign of disinterest. A personality test might uncover that the person in question is afraid of conflict and responds to that fear by keeping their opinions to themselves.

You also learn to appreciate your employees for who they are. Maybe you’re frustrated with a team member’s lack of initiative? Take a closer look at that individual. There’s a good chance they excel at something else, something equally valuable, such as time management for example. Fostering teamwork in this way demonstrably improves your team’s effectiveness and produces happier service desk employees.

Personality tests shed light on the various personality types of your service desk team members and the best way to engage them.

Personality tests: useful, but not the be-all and end-all

Personality tests also have a number of drawbacks. Some use their test results as an excuse for poor work habits. ‘The test says that I’m chaotic, so there’s nothing I can do about being late for meetings.’ Another danger is that you start to label your employees. If you continuously approach a particular team member in a specific way, then that employee will begin to behave accordingly.

People also tend to view the outcome of such tests as indisputable. I do believe that personality tests add value, but you should always consider those aspects that might influence the results. Think of social factors, or the possibility that candidates choose to present themselves in a different light, because they have a certain result in mind.

So, you shouldn’t take the results at face value. In my opinion, they mustn’t become the guiding factor in how you engage with your team. Don’t think: ‘According to the test, that person is unassertive, so they’ll never give their opinion.’ Because if you gently persist in asking, they’ll eventually make their views known.