There are a wide range of different personality tests in existence. From assessments like DISC that were developed by industrial psychologists to Buzzfeed quizzes with names like ‘Is your personality more like tea or coffee?’ (yes, that’s a real one), humans seem to be obsessed with learning about our personalities.
It makes sense, too: better understanding our own personalities and those of the people around us can help us grow as people, communicate better with others, and succeed in our careers.
However, it’s clear from the Buzzfeed example that not all personality tests are made equal. Which personality assessment is most valuable for use in the workplace? And which ones should you skip? Here’s an evaluation of the most popular personality tests and whether they can benefit your team.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
One of the most famous personality tests in existence, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was developed by an American mother-daughter duo Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. The test uses four categories in which there are two options:
- Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
When taking the test, an individual is presented with pairs of statements and they must choose the statement that most resonates with them. At the end of the test, their result consists of four letters which indicate their personality type. For example, a person may receive the result INFJ, which indicates that their personality is made up of Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), and Judging (J).
Pros of MBTI
The main advantage of the MBTI is its popularity – most people have heard of Myers-Briggs and many know their own Myers-Briggs type. This means that many people have some understanding of the different personality types and how the assessment works.
Another advantage of the MBTI is its complexity. With 16 different personality types to identify, this assessment goes some way to acknowledge that every person is unique.
Cons of MBTI
Complexity is also a disadvantage of Myers-Briggs. ENFP, INTJ, ESFJ… the letters all quickly blur together and it can be hard to remember what they all mean. Even if you do a MBTI in your workplace, it’s not easy to remember that your colleague is an ISTP and your manager is an ENTJ, or what those letters even mean! This limits the usefulness of the personality assessment as a tool for increasing communication and teamwork in an organisation.
The second major disadvantage of the MBTI is the personal nature of some of the questions. Each question asks you to choose between two often opposing options with no middle ground or opportunity for explanation. For example, ‘Is it worse to be a) unjust or b) merciless?’ Because of the abstract and intense nature of these questions, some people may feel uncomfortable doing these self-questionnaires around their coworkers or sharing their results. Because the MBTI’s results are not always directly relevant to the workplace, more private people may feel that their deepest beliefs and personal lives are being judged, making them reluctant to engage with the personality assessment around their coworkers.
The Big 5 Personality Test
Also known as the OCEAN or Five Factor personality type model, the Big 5 personality assessment argues that every individual can be categorised in line with five core personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. First proposed in the 1960s, this test asks individuals to rate statements on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how much they agree with them. This determines how high they score for the five different personality traits:
- Openness: how open you are to new experiences and knowledge – sometimes also called imagination or intellect
- Conscientiousness: how much care you take in life and work – your organisation levels, for example
- Extraversion or Introversion: whether you draw energy from being sociable or recharge by being alone
- Agreeableness: how well you get along with other people and your ability to compromise or put others before yourself
- Neuroticism: your emotional reactions to the world around you and the intensity of these
The results of this test are sometimes given as a score for each category, comparing your results to everyone else who has taken the test.
Pros of the Big 5
The Big 5 is another popular personality assessment, although it is not as commonly known as the MBTI. One benefit of it over the MBTI is that it shows individuals where they fall on a scale instead of grouping them by binary categories. For example, while Myers-Briggs insists that each person must either be Introverted (I) or Extraverted (E), the Big Five test recognises that many people are in the middle or don’t fit neatly into either category.
Cons of the Big 5
While the Big 5 Personality test can be useful for evaluating different aspects of a person’s personality, it isn’t well-suited to a workplace setting. Identifying a high score for agreeableness or neuroticism, for example, doesn’t necessarily help inform hiring decisions or help a person reach their full potential in a leadership role. Thus, if this is to be used in the workplace, it’s important to bring an additional framework to contextualise how these personality aspects relate to work.
Moreover, like the MBTI, a disadvantage of the Big 5 is that the scores are relative and it doesn’t use memorable names or labels to help people understand the results. For example, you’re unlikely to remember that your manager has low scores for neuroticism and conscientiousness but is high in extraversion, openness, and agreeableness. It’s too complicated and doesn’t lend itself well to team-building.
Enneagram Personality Test
From the Greek word ennéa (nine) and gram (something written or drawn), the Enneagram personality test sorts people’s personalities into nine personality types. Individuals take a questionnaire which identifies nine personality types:
- Reformer or perfectionist
- Helper or giver
- Achiever or performer
- Individualist or romantic
- Investigator or observer
- Loyalist or loyal sceptic
- Enthusiast or epicure
- Challenger or protector
- Peacemaker or mediator
Pros of the Enneagram Personality Test
The biggest advantage of the Enneagram personality assessment is that it assigns memorable descriptive titles to each of the nine core personality types, making it easy for people to remember and compare results. Many people enjoy using the Enneagram personality test for personal or spiritual growth.
Cons of the Enneagram Personality Test
While Enneagram theory is sometimes used in a workplace setting, this type of personality assessment may be better suited for individual self-discovery. The personal and sometimes private nature of the questions and results makes it far from ideal for categorising people in the workplace.
Moreover, given that the test does not specifically focus on performance in the workplace, it is not well suited for use when deciding how to structure teams or whom to promote or hire. For use in the workplace, different personality tests may be preferable to the Enneagram test.
The DISC assessment is based on the theories of psychologist William Moulton Marston, who argued that personalities could be understood through the lens of four main personality types: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. Another psychologist, William Clarke, built on this theory by creating the first ever DISC assessment, the forerunner to the advanced DISC assessments that millions of people now use each year.
The terminology of DISC has changed since Marston’s days. Modern assessments now use the following four personality styles and their characteristics:
- Dominance: assertive and goal-focused, people with the Dominance personality style are big-thinkers and risk-takers who love leading people to success or achieving great things independently
- Influence: enthusiastic and people-oriented, these friendly individuals have great communication and negotiation skills and love working in a team
- Steadiness: dependable and agreeable, Steadiness types love a harmonious work environment where they can collaborate with others due to their supportive and democratic nature
- Compliance: analytical and methodical, people with the Compliance type prioritise accuracy and extensive research and love working independently to do things as effectively as possible
The DISC assessment helps individuals identify which behavioural style or combination of styles they fit into, providing useful insights into the strengths, weaknesses, goals, and fears of each personality.
Pros of DISC
Designed specifically for use in the workplace, DISC is the perfect personality assessment to use as an individual or team at work. The four main categories that make up DISC are easy to remember, providing everyone with a common language for easily talking about their own and others’ personality types. However, this type of personality profiling doesn’t over-simplify, acknowledging that many people may be a combination of two personality types – they may be Steadiness-Compliance (SC) or Dominance-Influence (DI), for example.
Moreover, a few DISC assessment providers go further by offering customised DISC assessments that particularly highlight the leadership style or teamwork style of different DISC personality types. This can be useful for putting together a new project team or deciding whether a hire would be a good fit for your organisation.
Cons of DISC
There are few real downsides to the DISC model. The main problem that some people have with DISC is that they assume that some personality types are better suited to different roles or jobs. For example, some people (incorrectly) assume that people with the Dominance profile are always leaders. However, in reality the DISC types do not determine a person’s career or whether they are suited to different roles; they simply help people better understand how they and others act in those roles. This means that the DISC assessment is both pragmatic and fair – nobody should be promoted or hired on the basis of a personality test alone and the test recognises this.
Which test should my workplace use?
Although there are many different personality assessments with various pros and cons, if you’re looking for an assessment to use in your workplace, DISC is the obvious answer. Designed to help people work better together, the easy-to-use DISC model provides vital insights into your team’s collaboration, leadership, and communication styles to help them grow in their careers.
To use DISC’s actionable insights in your workplace, visit DISC Group. With a range of different tailored DISC profile reports, training, and consulting options, DISC Group can help you implement the personality testing that works for you.