What type of MBTI is most obsessed with?
The psycho godparents
Those were the days. When the badly ailing computer company Hewlett-Packard was looking for a determined, determined new CEO in 1999, all candidates had to undergo a personality test. Carleton Fiorina also logged on to a website and in less than an hour answered the 342 questions drawn up by psychologist and organizational consultant Richard Hagberg from California. The former Lucent manager wanted to know whether she agreed or denied statements like these: "I am better than most of my employees"; "I think I would like to work in show business"; "Sometimes it is okay to break the law as long as no one is harmed"; "If I run into a piece of furniture, I usually don't get angry"; "I keep working on a problem even if I have a severe headache."
Fiorina's test result confirmed Hewlett-Packard (HP) in its conviction that it had found a “visionary evangelist” - exactly what the group was looking for: the 48-year-old manager was appointed as CEO of HP. The decision-makers were certain that they would not have been able to identify the candidate more precisely than with the test that has now become part of the standard repertoire of many HR managers in the USA.
Unlike in this country, where the suitability of employees and managers is also checked with tests, but is usually determined in a personal conversation or in the assessment center, hardly any company in the United States likes the tools of modern test psychology dispense. Everything that makes the decision for or against a candidate appear more certain is checked and queried. In America, which is keen to experiment, an industry has established itself over the years that gives companies more and more sophisticated tools.
The internet made the sounding out of candidates even easier, faster, more precise and more forgery-proof. But while most companies in the past were still concerned with identifying the best from the mass of applicants using psychological tests, the goal has recently changed: Since the fear of terror has been around in the USA and corporate scandals like Enron or Worldcom die Shaking the American economy and public, a new generation of personality tests and 360-degree tools is looking for the dark side of executives. Now it is no longer about tracking down the good ones, the bad in the applicant should be identified and sorted out. More and more often, companies want to know whether the newcomer is honest or whether they can enjoy bullying. That is why people sometimes ask whether the colleague “appears smooth, slick and charming”, whether he “directs most of the conversations to his own person”, whether he “lies in the face of employees and customers” or “uses an influential network to his advantage ". Even more: A new procedure is to track down the psychopaths in the executive suite in the future. Welcome to the brave new corporate world.
No HR manager relies on his gut feeling anymore
In the USA, measuring instruments from psychology have a long tradition. Developed for the hunt down of criminals, personality tests were introduced by the FBI in the early 1930s. The psychological tests were designed to help identify criminals when the kidnapping of family members of wealthy celebrities threatened to become a regular business in the underworld.
The application of the tests in business was not long in coming. However, the search was not for criminal energy, but for character traits of the applicant, which should help the employer in assessing the suitability, motivation and performance of the candidate. They are now commonplace and - properly used and applied - can help to identify the most suitable of the applicants and to objectify the subjective assessment of the decision-makers.
Today in the USA hardly any HR manager can rely on his gut feeling or conversations alone. Applicants have long since got used to it: When looking for a job, they have to overcome a wide variety of test hurdles, some are quite simple, others time-consuming, from the inexpensive online aptitude test for a few dollars to comprehensive, complex consulting modules including consultants for Five to six-digit amounts are all available on the American instrument market.
The demand is enormous. Large test and consulting companies report double-digit growth rates. The psychological audit of their management team is now considered by supervisory boards and executive boards as an insurance policy against later allegations of insufficient supervision or against possible threatened shareholder lawsuits. The lower levels are also checked and screened. Steven Stein, CEO of MHS Verlag, which, according to its own account, sells the world's most widely used test for emotional intelligence, the “BarOn EQ-i”, has meanwhile sold his instrument thousands of times. A good million people have already answered the 133 questions about interpersonal relationships and moods in more than 20 languages. The number of corporate customers who fill out their EQ test online, Stein says, rose from 3.1 percent in 2001 to 32.4 percent in 2003.
Over the years, the procedures have become more refined. Simple tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers in the 1940s, which is based on the personality types of Carl Gustav Jung and has served as a standard tool for many corporate leaders in the past, are no longer sufficient . In addition to the professional qualification, the new tools primarily try to analyze the applicant's personality. “There is no single ideal profile for any candidate or position,” says Richard Hagberg, head of the Hagberg Consulting Group. "Anyone who wants to prepare their offspring for a leadership role looks for many qualities that develop over time in several jobs."
Evil is always and everywhere
Over the years, the procedures became fine-grained and complex - and in the attempt to illuminate the personality more and more, one border after the other fell. The connection to criminology has remained since the early days. Again and again the newly developed methods of profiling criminals seeped into commercial applications without, however, changing their objectives. It is no coincidence, however, that the focus of management tests is turning right now. The atmosphere that has dominated the country since September 11, 2001, plus the fear of scandals, are causing unrest in the executive suite. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which provides for jail sentences for balance sheets that are frivolously drawn up, marks the provisional turning point in the development of the instruments: Couldn't criminals lurk everywhere in companies, even in management? Didn't the bankruptcies of the past few years prove that board members, driven by criminal energies, can plunge companies such as workforces and shareholders into disaster? Don't we have to stop evil?
It is in keeping with the spirit of the times that the Canadian Robert Hare, professor emeritus of psychology, together with his American colleague, the organizational psychologist Paul Babiak, are just now launching a new 107-point test, the "B-Scan: 360", to detect introduced black sheep to management.
Hare comes from the experiential world of the morbid. For 35 years the psychologist studied the behavior of people with mental deformation. The researcher, who taught at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver for a long time, is known as a developer of clinical test series, recognized diagnostic tools that are used worldwide to track down psychopaths among criminals. The results of his tests are used in criminal proceedings in court. Hare is a member of an FBI research group dedicated to solving child abductions and hunting down serial killers. The man is a luminary.
And he is convinced that there are good reasons to psychologically test corporate managers or teachers and police officers for potential criminal predispositions. What Hare and his colleague Babiak think of executives, they have summarized in a meaningful title, under which they will bring their book together with a new test to the market this year: "Adders in pinstripes". B-Scan: 360 is supposed to help track down the “psychopaths in the workplace”. The time is ripe, Paul Babiak is quite sure: “Scandals like the one at Enron have strengthened us in our plan. We felt confirmed. Now companies are really afraid that their executives will deceive them. "
In the test, the two inventors transfer their analysis methods from clinical and forensic work to the suspicious business world. Babiak and Hare believe that what has been tried and tested with psychopaths in hospitals and behind bars can also be transformed into a management tool. “The concept of psychopathy is by no means restricted to criminals. It can very well be transferred to the people in a company, ”says Hare. For legal reasons, the test does not pretend to be a watertight clinical diagnosis. According to Hare, the questionnaire is intended to show "problematic character traits" before costly misconduct or even criminal acts can occur.
The psychologist is convinced that there are psychopaths on the executive floor. And the executives with psychopathic traits, emphasizes Hare, are by no means insane. You might very well distinguish between right and wrong and obey rules. In fact, they conformed, were masters at manipulating subordinates and superiors, and could easily climb the corporate ladder. Her primary motivation, however, is self-interest. And the resulting damage to companies and society is considerable: bullying, dysfunctional teams, lost orders, embezzlement, fraud, bankruptcies. According to the scientist, one to two percent of the normal population in an industrialized nation are psychopaths - compared with around 15 percent of prison inmates in North America.
Arrogant and callous? Parasitic and Dramatic?
The crucial personality trait that Hare and Babiak's analysis found allows their test to be carried over to managers is a lack of conscientiousness. "Personality tests have shown for years that there is a clear correlation between conscientiousness and performance," says Babiak. And now it is important to track them down with the help of colleagues. To this end, the employees of a company should in future answer 107 questions online in 30 minutes. They are asked to rate their peers in four categories:
_ personal style (insincere, arrogant, untrustworthy, manipulative);
_ emotional demeanor (callous, unrepentant, shallow, reproachful);
_ organizational maturity (impatient, unpredictable, unreliable, aimless, parasitic);
_ Antisocial behavior (dramatic, unethical, harassing).
In extreme cases, a manager can receive the “red flag” for each of the 16 aspects - a clear warning signal for his bosses.
The psychologist admits that the test results obtained in this way are problematic. “Everyone has at least one of these 16 character traits in their life, but never several at the same time and over a long period of time. Anyone who bursts their collar at the traffic light is far from being an irascible, manipulative superior. It only becomes pathological when one of the characteristics or even several become a constant in work and private life. "
In addition, the researchers believe that there are environments in which "snakes" thrive particularly well. In particular, an unstable, slightly chaotic organization attracts psychopaths - for example, fast-growing companies in which hierarchies and rules are missing and in which unconventional promotions take place. Companies that have been taken over or have recently merged and whose organization is in flux are also a good breeding ground.
All of this will be judged by the interviewed, barely objective colleagues in the future? No problem, says the psychologist: “We only record facts that employees have already observed. There are ample anecdotal and case study examples of psychopaths in management. In addition, we don't blacken anyone; we only show a company where the problem areas are. What the HR department does with the analysis is a different question. "
Hare does not accept the objection that even the professional human resources department of a company, which is trained on the instrument and its subsequent interpretation, could be overwhelmed with the task. And the criticism voiced loudly by colleagues and observers of the development ricochets off him: "With the test you open the door to abuse in the business world," says Richard Hagberg, for example. At the same time, he fears that the B-Scan will become a hit.
This is also ensured by the marketing strategy that the two developers and MHS publisher Steven Stein, who wants to bring out the test, came up with for the middle of the year. In order not to ride too much on the negative wave of fear and paranoia and not to deter the clientele in boardrooms and HR departments, B-Scan should be marketed positively, says Stein: as a barometer for conscientiousness.
Hare and Babiak are currently working with MHS to win the first companies from all over the world as beta testers. You should try out the 360 degree evaluations for half a year in the coming months. No more than five to seven participants should be necessary in each case to arrive at a meaningful assessment in the opinion of the authors. According to Stein, around 300 to 500 data sets are still required for validation, then B-Scan can be launched on the market for $ 200 per test person. In addition to the American continent, the publisher is particularly interested in Australia and Germany as sales markets. The instrument will be a hit, inventors and marketers have no doubts.
The critics, however, refer to those American winners who made it to the top precisely because of their special personality. Weren't the otherness, the obsessed, the delusional, the real heroes of the US economy? Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, wouldn't they all have to be declared insane and imprisoned? In any case, the former Intel boss Andrew Grove declared his own abnormality to be the secret of his business success a few years ago - and urged other "sick" souls to do the same: "Only the Paranoid Survive" is the name of his book.
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