Summary: The reliance on external assessments removes the accountability and authority for the judgment of a persons capability to complete and do their best work from where it ought to belong, the direct Manager. Subjugating this task creates unclear expectations and evaluative judgment of the work that people should be doing. This confusion creates strife and a false belief that psychology is what managers should evaluate. Listed are 4 reasons why the use of external assessments can be damaging to your team and leadership.  


Team Building and Leadership Expert Michael Cardus

Quick note I chose to use Neuter, even though it is a Male term…the same ideas below apply to Female Managerial-Leaders as well.

Sitting is a meeting of the Organization Development Network of Western NY the topic was the utilization of assessments for Organization Development. I have long been an opponent of these tools as any form of personal and organization development. Based upon validity, confirmation bias, people believing that because you paid $12 to several $1000’s that you are offering greater value, and the challenge that they often have no connection to the work and competencies that are expected from employees.

I’m sure you have counter arguments, I argue with myself about these ideas also.

Here are 4 reasons why the use of these assessments are at best a horoscope that relies heavily upon the Forer Effect, at worst can be used to terminate someone or not have them hired for the job because they were and ENFP as opposed to the work required a ISTJ or their D was just too much for the team, that really needed S’s…(By the way I am an eNFP, I, Green, Dolphin plus several other things I don’t care to remember.)

  • The assessment procedures use unconnected batteries of tests. The lack of a coherent theory to connect the use of the assessment creates an impossibility to compare how one equates / relates to another.
  • Assessment and Interpretation of results are no better than the people interpreting the results. With assessments the people administering them have their own biases and beliefs that can lead to false interpretations. It is impossible to clarify ‘expertise’ and how that expert status was acquired. 
  • The assessments are often used only at critical points in the persons career development. Used only when the company is looking for certain psychological types or the person shows High Potential and is possibly ready for a promotion.
  • The assessment shifts the accountability to an external source.  The accountability and authority of a direct Manager and Managerial-Leadership team is removed and placed into the hands of an external source.
  • 4 areas in bold are from Elliott Jaques Human Capability 1994 p 27. 

In my opinion the final reason is the most damning to organizations, teams and Managerial-Leadership. To take the accountability out of the hands of the direct manager and subjugate it to an external assessment is demeaning and neuters any accountability and authority of the manager.

The use of external assessments that have NO correspondence to the work that has to be done places the decision making power into a piece of paper that contradicts the system for completing the work.

A dangerous misconception of people at work “The belief that you can get significant and lasting changes in people’s behavior only by changing the person’s psychological makeup and values” (Jaques 2002) leads managers and employees to believe that these personality / behavior assessments are meant to change or adjust their psychology, and that is dangerous!

The evaluation of competency and if the person is doing their best within their role of work, has the proper Complexity Processing, values the work, skilled-knowledge to complete the work and has the right normative-value of temperament. Can only be best evaluated by their Manager’s-Manager (manager-once-removed) through mentoring, with input from their direct-manager through coaching and consistent performance appraisals.

Independent evaluations (assessments) can only interfere with the relationship between manager and subordinate.

The “expert” judgments, dependent as they are upon the skills of the expert, are going to be less accurate than the judgments of the manager-once-removed and direct manager. (Jaques 1994)

What do you think?

Do you use external assessments with your Organizational Development,  team development, and managerial-leadership development? How do you best match what the assessment reports and the work to be done? Do you agree with any of the above points?

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