The tyranny of testing

No one appreciates being typecast, but it’s part of the program to get tested, ranked, and labeled with some convenient label. The one that has irritated me for the past ten years — ever since the new HR lady at Forbes thought it would be a good idea — was the Myers-Briggs type indicator test. This was a topic of some casual conversations at McKinsey, where everyone is an utter over-achiever and accustomed to accumulating the kind of labels mere mortals gasp at: Rhodes Scholar, Baker Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, even a Nobel prize winner or two.

The idea of identifying myself in a conversation as a ENTP is depressing and reduces me to a four-letter acronym, which, to some, is as revealing as saying I’m a Taurus and about as relevant.

Anyway, I digress. What got me on this screed was a recent radio show on Open Source, Christopher Lydon’s sometimes awesome evening NPR show, on the last art of cursive handwriting. My cursive simple sucks, wasted in the third grade at Perley Elementary School in Georgetown, Massachusetts when I completely failed the Palmer Method, was diagnosed as being a “false left-handed person” and then told to write with my right.

That didn’t work and hence I embarked on a lifetime as a writer thanks to my father giving me a typewriter at the age of nine so people could understand my written utterances.

Lydon’s guests included some calligraphy freaks, one of whom mentioned the European practice of using a handwriting analyst to examine a job candidate’s writing sample and deliver a report on that candidate’s applicability for the job. I ran into this practice when I worked in Zurich and got to know a fairly prominent head hunter for the banking industry. He thought it was second nature to request a writing sample and send it off for analysis — it made as much sense to me as asking an astrologer to cook up a horoscope and about as accurate. Granted, I can see a handwriting expert taking the stand to identify if a signature was genuine, but to predict behavior? If I had passed the Palmer Method, and wrote a perfect, controlled cursive script, then in theory I would be about as transparent as a human version of Courier 12.
The Wikipedia confirms my suspicion that handwriting analysis — aka Graphology — is about as relevant to predicting an individiual’s performance as the Myers-Briggs, only creepier.

My wife, who is expert in forging my signature, says she only has to rapidly write the words “Del Chunk” to achieve a reasonable facsimile.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The tyranny of testing”

  1. Doctors have congratulated me on my handwriting: “it’s hard to write like a doctor!”

    I would prefer the application of the I Ching as a predicator of job performance. It’s more valid, and I sure respect it a lot more.

    entj-ily yrs,
    Judah

  2. ENTP… and ambidextrous… which actually means I’m equally useless with both mi right and left hands… My handwriting has always been awful and it will remain that way. Odd thing is I like it very much!

  3. “False left-handed” sounds like something from some fake Pschologist.

    Oh what th hell, I can’t write in cursive or by printing anymore so it’s just one less thing to worrry about. but it was fun while I could.

    Jim

  4. INTJ – interesting, but not so helpful to me.

    There are also a number of workplace personality models in vogue, one uses four colors, and one used the letters D, I, S, C. This latter one I am most familiar with – still have the tests.

    Everyone had various amounts of each component, the results were graphed so you could see the relative influence of each in your “social mask” or how you see and portray yourself, and then another version which showed what happens to your personality under high stress.

    I was a high ‘D’. D was for “Dominance”, and it was characterized by trying to reform everything around you to fit your view of the world. Upon reflection, I really found this to be true, I’m constantly putting forth my ideas (heck – evidenced here) and trying to bend others round to my approach.

    But no matter the tool or model, just being able to identify (label) yourself and others was only the first step, and about as far as most workshops take these kinds of things. One of the more profound things said by the next instructor was that when you are trying to communicate effectively with someone who doesn’t speak your language, just repeating slower and louder in your own language doesn’t help bridge the gap. So, what we were supposed to take away, was the approach to understand and (label) the person you were trying to communicate with, and then shift your approach and ‘language’ to better mesh with their personality type. It was supposed to improve the ability for your points to be heard and understood with a minimum of conflict.

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