Originally Published in Today’s Veterinary Business, February 2018

It can be tempting to consider an extraverted person as a “good” employee and an introverted one as less attractive. In reality, people all along the spectrum can make outstanding employees.

Workplace culture in a veterinary practice is significantly influenced by the personalities of the people who work there. So, it makes good sense to gain a clear understanding of personality assessments and how they can benefit a practice.

In 2015, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published an in-depth piece about personality tests and their value in the workplace. The writer noted that as many as 60 percent of workers must now take workplace assessment tests, either as part of the hiring process or for career development purposes.

If you decide personality assessments would be a valuable addition to your practice, it’s important to discern which test is the right one. And are there downsides to the tests?

That question is easy to answer: Yes, there are downsides, as the quality of assessment tests varies widely and some of them might put the company in legal trouble. So, if you choose to use personality testing, investigate the best choice and administer the tests consistently using a policy you develop. Also, respect confidentiality.

The Big Five

The SHRM article referenced the five-factor model of personality testing, noting that a good percentage of workplace personality assessments are based on this model. It measures:

  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to experience.

This model is the most extensively researched to date and is explored in “The Big Five Personality Traits,” an article by Kendra Cherry at www.verywell.com.

Research indicates that both nature and nurture — biological inheritances and the influences of a person’s environment — play key roles in developing each person’s personality. As far as behavior, this is an interaction between someone’s personality and the situation at hand. In most instances, people respond to a situation in a way that’s consistent with their core personality.

How This Can Play Out

  1. If you have employees who would land along the extraversion side of the scale, know that people who rank high in this area will gain energy by engaging with other people. So, they will likely want to talk about situations occurring at work and may speak out before thinking in depth about their comment. If the extraverted person is working with an introvert, this can present a challenge, as the introvert probably won’t want to engage in much small talk and will get worn out by socializing beyond his or her comfort level. It can be tempting to consider an extraverted person as a “good” employee and an introverted one as less attractive. In reality, people all along the spectrum can make outstanding employees, although they will likely excel and interact with other people in different ways.
  2. The personality trait of agreeableness plays out differently. Agreeable people care about others and feel empathy and concern. Low on agreeability? This person isn’t interested in you and doesn’t care how you feel. It fact, he or she might engage in insulting others. So, you want agreeable employees.
  3. Next is conscientiousness. People high on the continuum prepare for tasks, prioritize and finish on time. They tend to enjoy set schedules. People low on this scale dislike schedules and structure, procrastinate and even fail to complete important tasks. Yes, you want conscientious employees.
  4. People with high levels of neuroticism worry, feel stress and anxiety, and tend to experience dramatic mood shifts. People with low levels deal well with stress and are emotionally stable.
  5. People with high levels of openness are creative and enjoy trying new things and taking on new challenges. They enjoy delving into abstract concepts. On the other end are people who dislike change and new ideas, and they don’t enjoy theoretical concepts.

Myers & Briggs Types

One of the most well-known personality categorization tests, from the Myers & Briggs Foundation, lists 16 personality types. These are based off Carl Jung’s psychological types theory, where people can be characterized by where they fall on four spectrums:

  • General attitude: extraverted (E) vs. introverted (I).
  • Way of perceiving: sensing (S) vs. intuition (N).
  • Way of judging: thinking (T) vs. feeling (F).
  • Additional way of judging: judging (J) vs. perceiving (P).

Jung believed that, in each person, one of the four functions described above predominates his or her personality. Here is what each spectrum means:

  • Extraversion-introversion: An extravert expresses energy largely externally, whereas an introvert’s energy exists largely internally.
  • Sensing-intuition: This indicates how someone perceives information. Sensing is largely from external cues and intuition is largely from internal cues.
  • Thinking-feeling: This describes how information is processed by someone. Thinking uses logic and feeling uses emotion.
  • Judging-perceiving: This describes how the person implements processed information. A judging person organizes and follows through while a perceiving person explores options and improvises.

These four criteria form the basis of 16 personality types. Someone who is ESTJ, for example, is extraverted, senses information from external cues and uses logic, then makes decisions and acts upon them. An ISFJ, as another example, is “Quiet, friendly, responsible and conscientious. Committed and steady in meeting their obligations. Thorough, painstaking and accurate. Loyal, considerate … [and strives] to create an orderly and harmonious environment at work and at home.”

Testing for Hiring Purposes

If your intention is to use personality testing in the hiring process, make sure to choose a test that is reliable and measures stable personality traits rather than evolving traits. The test should help you compare one candidate against another. Request evidence that the test provides quality predictors about work behavior.

The Harvard Business Review, in the 2015 article “Personality Tests Can Help Balance a Team,” noted that the best personality testing for workplace purposes can highlight three different elements of personality:

  • How someone behaves at his or her best.
  • How the same person acts under pressure.
  • How this person feels inside (his or her needs, motivations and personal preferences).

Well-chosen tests, the article stated, also help a practice to profile entire groups to determine “whether the group is likely to bond or fracture by examining qualities that predict both success and failure.”

“For example,” it continued, “we know that teams with members who are open-minded and emotionally intelligent leverage conflict to improve performance, whereas neurotic and closed-minded groups fall apart in the face of disagreement.”

If you choose to introduce personality tests to your practice, remember to first develop a policy about how and when the tests will be used. Share the policy with employees when it is created and during annual policy reviews. Make sure to consistently follow the policy and let employees know when changes are made to it.

H.R. Huddle columnist Dr. Charlotte Lacroix is founder and CEO of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. She serves on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.

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