The Benefits of Personality Tests in the Workplace

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Surrounded by Idiots" by Thomas Erikson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are there any benefits to taking a personality test? How can understanding different personality types help you become a better communicator?

While not all psychologists agree with the benefits of personality tests, Thomas Erikson (the author of Surrounded by Idiots) believes that personality type knowledge is power. Erikson says that understanding the personality types of others is like understanding another language.

Continue reading for the benefits and uses of personality tests, particularly in the workplace.

Why This Knowledge Is Power

How will knowing your personality and others’ help you in business and communication? According to Erikson, the short answer is that all communication happens in the listener’s language, not yours. He argues that by learning how to communicate in the listener’s language, or style, you’ll become a better teammate and leader within your organization.

You Will Learn Other “Languages”

Erikson says that one of the greatest challenges of communication is how little control the speaker has over what the listener hears. Think of each color or personality type as having its own language. If you’re not speaking in the listener’s language, he will not understand you. However, Erikson asserts that if you adjust your behavior and communication style to the listener’s way of hearing, your intended message will be more accurately communicated. 

Erikson doesn’t claim to have the silver bullet for effective communication. Rather, he says this book aims to educate the reader enough to avoid major blunders when it comes to communication basics.

(Shortform note: Learning how to effectively listen is equally as valuable as learning how to speak in another person’s “language.” One strategy for engaging in active listening is to ask thoughtful questions that solicit detailed answers. People are usually willing to go deeper with their answers and share more information if they trust that you haven’t already made up your mind about the topic. As a result, you might receive additional information that can open your mind and strengthen your relationship.)

You Will Become a Better Teammate and Leader

One of the biggest benefits of personality tests is that you will learn to become a better listener and communicator. Erikson explains that because there are four personality types, the majority of people you work with won’t be like you. They won’t think or behave in the way that you do, and this can cause frustration on both ends. He says that once you’re able to recognize other people’s personality types, you’ll be able to collaborate with greater ease and efficiency. You will see that your weaknesses are their strengths, and vice versa. Erikson adds that you will also become better at predicting how others will react in certain situations, as well as recognizing where they’ll struggle and where they’ll shine.

If you manage employees, you will find these tools helpful when creating teams. Erikson stresses that when you put the right group of people together, there are fewer disagreements, greater employee retention, and higher quality of work. 

Workplace Conflict Carries a High Price

Erikson argues that this book will help you be a better employee, leader, and colleague because it will cut down on workplace conflict. How valuable is this, exactly?

The Uncommon League, a business training organization, estimates that each year, private companies in the United States spend more than $350 billion on conflict management. Conflicting leadership methods, work style differences, and personality clashes between co-workers were listed as three of the five most common types of workplace conflict. These conflicts cause employee disengagement, more absences, higher turnover, and greater risk of lawsuits.

Things to Keep In Mind 

Erikson acknowledges that the process of categorizing people can feel like an oversimplification and rub some people the wrong way. For this reason, he’s clear about a few things before diving in:

  • This work analyzes mentally stable personalities. Mental illness, addiction, trauma, and abuse are not taken into consideration.
  • How you behave is a combination of genetic inheritance and environment. Where you grew up and who raised you play a pivotal role in shaping the personality you were born with.
  • This is a general form of categorization and analysis designed to help you understand yourself and others better—it’s not an exact science.
[Shortform note: Erikson mentions that environment plays a role in personality development, and culture is a big part of that. In some cultures, personal space is highly valued, whereas in others, displays of affection are abundant. Some countries value individual freedoms over group comfort (such as the United States), and other countries believe the opposite (Japan, for example). Knowing a person’s cultural background would be an asset if you are considering typing their personality.]
The Benefits of Personality Tests in the Workplace

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Here's what you'll find in our full Surrounded by Idiots summary:

  • A detailed look at Thomas Erikson's four personality types
  • How to navigate conflicts with coworkers
  • How to effectively communicate and collaborate with bosses, employees, and colleagues

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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