Psychological Testing in the Workplace

1 January 2017

Psychological tests are popular among private and public companies, government agencies and in the military as well. Psychological testing is used for several purposes, they can be used in the pre-employment process, and they can be used as an aid in regarding employment retention as well as in job placement. While the uses of psychological testing are wide spread, there are issues revolving around the validity and reliability of these tests, when a person’s employment is at risk this can be considered a heavy issue to be considered.

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Along with the reliability and the validity, there are ethical issues to be considered that the employers must keep in mind. Types of Personality Tests There are a variety of different types of personality tests. Three in particular are popular among private companies as well as government agencies; these are the Myers-Briggs type indicator, the IPIP-NEO personality test, and the Kolbe Index (Basu, 2012). The Myers-Briggs type indicator is a personality test that organizes an employee’s personality data along four scales of opposing characteristics.

These scales include whether the employees energy source comes from within or is a reflection of his/her environment, whether the employee focuses more on intuition or sensory input, whether the employee uses reason and logic or personal values, and whether the employee is an organized individual or is spontaneous in their daily activities. This personality test may be utilized for employee retention especially in allocating tasks to a group of employees finding which employee is best suited to each task required (Basu, 2012).

The IPIP-Neo personality test (international personality item pool test) measures an employee’s personality using five broad categories and thirty sub-categories. This personality test is used to see how well employees will be able to work in a multicultural setting, especially in multi-national companies that pull employees from different cultures from around the world.

The five broad categories and examples of their sub categories include xtroversion and its subcategories of friendliness and social engagement, agreeableness with its sub-categories of trust and cooperation, conscientiousness with its sub categories of self-confidence and cautiousness, neuroticism and its sub-categories of sensitivities of others opinions and openness to new experiences which includes adventurousness and how readily that individual may challenge authority. This is a personality test that seems best suited as a pre-employment test, especially when an individual is applying for a position in a multinational corporation or there is a diverse cultural background in a given location (Basu, 2012).

The Kolbe Index, named for Kathy Kolbe an organizational theorist, is based on the premise that an individual’s ability for problem solving are stable and independent of the individuals intelligence, personality and education. According to this index, there are four problem solving modes: fact finder, which relates to the gathering of information; follow-through, which refers to the organizing and scheduling of tasks; quick-start, which contains the risk taking and innovation; and the implementation of the solution. A series of multiple choice questions are given, based on problem solving scenarios.

The results will indicate which of the four modes the employee is best suited and can help in job placement as a leader, a researcher or other such tasks that suits that employee’s ability’s (Basu, 2012). Validity and Reliability The issue of validity is a major issue surrounding psychological testing. Each individual psychological test must measure what it was intended to measure. The test must contain construct validity that is it must measure the psychological construct, such as depression, that it was designed to measure.

The test must also have content validity; it must adequately sample information from the broad range that composes the construct in use. The criterion related validity is important as well, this is the type of validity that is most relative to performance psychological tests. The test to measure performance must have valid criteria that can be tested by having employees that already perform, the tasks the test is supposed to measure, well. If those employees do well on the tests then the test should be valid for those who haven’t done the tasks yet (Raymond Richmond, 2012).

In order for any psychological test to be valid, it must also be reliable. There are two types of reliability that makes up the total reliability of the given psychological test: internal consistency reliability and test-retest reliability. The internal consistency reliability measures how well all the items listed in the test relate to one another. If they relate well then the internal consistency can be found to be reliable. The most important of these types of reliability is the test-retest reliability.

This measures how well the results of one testing match up with the results of another testing by the same individual using the same test but at different times (Raymond Richmond, 2012). Given that the human mind is so complex that it is impossible to know anything with full and total confidence, no psychological test can ever be entirely valid or reliable. Even with extensive testing it is not yet possible to fully assert any conclusion with total certitude (Raymond Richmond, 2012). Ethical issues There are several ethical issues involved in workplace psychological testing; the most easily abused is that of stereotyping.

When an individual takes part in a personality test, the results classify them in one personality group or another. The inherent inaccuracies of these personality tests, that come from minds too complex to properly measure, can cause errors in the results and the results are from the majority of the answers given, as no person is entirely of one type, a person can have scored only slightly more as an introvert as opposed to being an extrovert in one testing, but can then be seen as an introvert by the manager or fellow employees. Assumptions that come from the generalization of these types can lead to job discrimination (Marshall, 2010).

There is an ethical consideration to asking employees to take psychological tests without making it clear that the results will be kept confidential. Often time’s employers will not give this consideration to their employees, making it mandatory and not giving the reassurance that it will be kept confidential. The results from these tests when shared among other employees may lead to harassment in the form of teasing and such, making the workplace feel more hostile and a less productive environment. It is also unethical to use personality tests as the basis for decisions regarding promotions and work assignments (Marshall, 2010).

Conclusion The variety of psychological testing, especially personality testing used in the work place can be a factor in a person’s career. As long as the validity and reliability of these tests are as secure as any psychological test can be and the employers utilize these test ethically, these tests can help individuals grow within their companies. When a test shows a weakness in a certain area, the individual can use those results to improve skills to help strengthen those weak points and employers can help employees follow their strengths that will help in their rise through their companies.

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