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ANNALS OF PSYCHOLOGY

PERSONALITY PLUS
Employers love personality tests. But what do they really reveal?

BY MALCOLM GLADWELL

W hen Alexander (Sandy) Nininger


was twenty-three, and newly
commissioned as a lieutenant in the
uary 12th, Nininger went to his com-
manding officer. He wanted, he said, to
be assigned to another company, one
United States Army, he was sent to the that was in the thick of the action, so he
South Pacific to serve with the 57th In- could go hunting for Japanese snipers.
fantry of the Philippine Scouts. It was He took several grenades and ammu-
January, 1942. The Japanese had just nition belts, slung a Garand rifle over his
seized Philippine ports at Vigan, Le- shoulder, and grabbed a submachine gun.
gazpi, Lamon Bay, and Lingayen, and Starting at the point where the fight-
forced the American and Philippine ing was heaviest—near the position of
forces to retreat into Bataan, a rugged the battalion’s K Company—he crawled
peninsula on the South China Sea.There, through the jungle and shot a Japanese
besieged and outnumbered, the Amer- soldier out of a tree. He shot and killed
icans set to work building a defensive snipers. He threw grenades into enemy
line, digging foxholes and constructing positions. He was wounded in the leg,
dikes and clearing underbrush to provide but he kept going, clearing out Japa-
unobstructed sight lines for rifles and nese positions for the other members of
machine guns. Nininger’s men were on K Company, behind him. He soon ran
the line’s right flank. They labored day out of grenades and switched to his rifle,
and night. The heat and the mosquitoes and then, when he ran out of ammu-
were nearly unbearable. nition, used only his bayonet. He was
Quiet by nature, Nininger was tall wounded a second time, but when a
and slender, with wavy blond hair. As medic crawled toward him to help bring
Franklin M. Reck recounts in “Beyond him back behind the lines Nininger
the Call of Duty,” Nininger had gradu- waved him off. He saw a Japanese bunker
ated near the top of his class at West up ahead. As he leaped out of a shell
Point, where he chaired the lecture-and- hole, he was spun around by a bullet to
entertainment committee. He had spent the shoulder, but he kept charging at the
many hours with a friend, discussing ev- bunker, where a Japanese officer and two
erything from history to the theory of enlisted men were dug in. He dispatched
relativity. He loved the theatre. In the one soldier with a double thrust of his
evenings, he could often be found sitting bayonet, clubbed down the other, and
by the fireplace in the living room of his bayonetted the officer. Then, with out-
commanding officer, sipping tea and lis- stretched arms, he collapsed face down.
tening to Tchaikovsky. As a boy, he once For his heroism, Nininger was posthu-
saw his father kill a hawk and had been mously awarded the Medal of Honor,
repulsed. When he went into active ser- the first American soldier so decorated
vice, he wrote a friend to say that he had in the Second World War.
no feelings of hate, and did not think he
could ever kill anyone out of hatred. He
had none of the swagger of the natu-
ral warrior. He worked hard and had a
S uppose that you were a senior Army
officer in the early days of the Sec-
ond World War and were trying to put
strong sense of duty. together a crack team of fearless and fe-
In the second week of January, the rocious fighters. Sandy Nininger, it now
Japanese attacked, slipping hundreds appears, had exactly the right kind of
of snipers through the American lines, personality for that assignment, but is
climbing into trees, turning the battle- there any way you could have known
field into what Reck calls a “gigantic this beforehand? It clearly wouldn’t have
possum hunt.” On the morning of Jan- helped to ask Nininger if he was fearless
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and ferocious, because he didn’t know data through their senses. To these three inent consulting firm McKinsey, “ ‘as-
that he was fearless and ferocious. Nor categories—(I)ntroversion/(E)xtrover- sociates’ often know their colleagues’
would it have worked to talk to people sion, i(N)tuition/(S)ensing, (T)hink- four-letter M.B.T.I. types by heart,”
who spent time with him. His friend ing/(F)eeling—the Myers-Briggs test the way they might know their own
would have told you only that Nininger adds a fourth: ( J)udging/(P)erceiving. weight or (this being McKinsey) their
was quiet and thoughtful and loved the Judgers “like to live in a planned, orderly S.A.T. scores.
theatre, and his commanding officer way, seeking to regulate and manage It is tempting to think, then, that
would have talked about the evenings of their lives,” according to an M.B.T.I. we could figure out the Myers-Briggs
tea and Tchaikovsky. With the excep- guide, whereas Perceivers “like to live in type that corresponds best to commando
tion, perhaps, of the Scarlet Pimpernel,
a love of music, theatre, and long after-
noons in front of a teapot is not a known
predictor of great valor. What you need
is some kind of sophisticated psycholog-
ical instrument, capable of getting to the
heart of his personality.
Over the course of the past century,
psychology has been consumed with the
search for this kind of magical instru-
ment. Hermann Rorschach proposed
that great meaning lay in the way that
people described inkblots. The creators
of the Minnesota Multiphasic Person-
ality Inventory believed in the revela-
tory power of true-false items such as “I
have never had any black, tarry-looking
bowel movements” or “If the money
were right, I would like to work for a cir-
cus or a carnival.” Today, Annie Murphy
Paul tells us in her fascinating new book,
“Cult of Personality,” that there are
twenty-five hundred kinds of person-
ality tests. Testing is a four-hundred-
million-dollar-a-year industry. A hefty
percentage of American corporations
use personality tests as part of the hiring
and promotion process. The tests figure
in custody battles and in sentencing
and parole decisions. “Yet despite their Eighty-nine of the Fortune 100 companies use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
prevalence—and the importance of the
matters they are called upon to decide— a flexible, spontaneous way, seeking to work, and then test to see whether Sandy
personality tests have received surpris- experience and understand life, rather Nininger fits the profile. Unfortunately,
ingly little scrutiny,” Paul writes. We can than control it.” The M.B.T.I. asks the the notion of personality type is not
call in the psychologists. We can give test-taker to answer a series of “forced- nearly as straightforward as it appears.
Sandy Nininger a battery of tests. But choice” questions, where one choice For example, the Myers-Briggs poses
will any of it help? identifies you as belonging to one of a series of items grouped around the
these paired traits. The basic test takes issue of whether you—the test-taker—

O ne of the most popular personality


tests in the world is the Myers-
Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.), a
twenty minutes, and at the end you are
presented with a precise, multidimen-
sional summary of your personality—
are someone who likes to plan your day
or evening beforehand or someone who
prefers to be spontaneous. The idea is
psychological-assessment system based your type might be INTJ or ESFP, obviously to determine whether you be-
on Carl Jung’s notion that people make or some other combination. Two and long to the Judger or Perceiver camp,
sense of the world through a series of a half million Americans a year take but the basic question here is surprisingly
psychological frames. Some people are the Myers-Briggs. Eighty-nine compa- hard to answer. I think I’m someone who
extroverts, some are introverts. Some nies out of the Fortune 100 make use likes to be spontaneous. On the other
process information through logical of it, for things like hiring or train- hand, I have embarked on too many
JOOST SWARTE

thought. Some are directed by their feel- ing sessions to help employees “under- spontaneous evenings that ended up
ings. Some make sense of the world stand” themselves or their colleagues. with my friends and me standing on
through intuitive leaps. Others collect Annie Murphy Paul says that at the em- the sidewalk, looking at each other and
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wondering what to do next. So I guess cause a boy was aggressive in the face of
I’m a spontaneous person who recog- being teased by another boy didn’t mean
nizes that life usually goes more smoothly that he would be aggressive in the face
if I plan first, or, rather, I’m a person of being warned by an adult. On the
who prefers to be spontaneous only if other hand, if a child responded aggres-
there’s someone around me who isn’t. sively to being teased by a peer one day,
Does that make me spontaneous or not? it was a pretty good indicator that he’d
I’m not sure. I suppose it means that I’m respond aggressively to being teased by
somewhere in the middle. a peer the next day. We have a personal-
This is the first problem with the ity in the sense that we have a consis-
Myers-Briggs. It assumes that we are ei- tent pattern of behavior. But that pat-
ther one thing or another—Intuitive or tern is complex and that personality is
Sensing, Introverted or Extroverted. But contingent: it represents an interaction
personality doesn’t fit into neat binary between our internal disposition and
categories: we fall somewhere along a tendencies and the situations that we
continuum. find ourselves in.
Here’s another question: It’s not surprising, then, that the
Would you rather work under a boss (or
Myers-Briggs has a large problem with
a teacher) who is consistency: according to some studies,
good-natured but often inconsistent, or more than half of those who take the
sharp-tongued but always logical? test a second time end up with a differ-
On the Myers-Briggs, this is one of ent score than when they took it the first
a series of questions intended to estab- time. Since personality is continuous,
lish whether you are a Thinker or a not dichotomous, clearly some people
Feeler. But I’m not sure I know how to who are borderline Introverts or Feelers
answer this one, either. I once had a one week slide over to Extroversion or
good-natured boss whose inconsistency Thinking the next week. And since per-
bothered me, because he exerted a great sonality is contingent, not stable, how we
deal of day-to-day control over my answer is affected by which circum-
work. Then I had a boss who was quite stances are foremost in our minds when
consistent and very sharp-tongued—but we take the test. If I happen to remem-
at that point I was in a job where day-to- ber my first boss, then I come out as a
day dealings with my boss were minimal, Thinker. If my mind is on my second
so his sharp tongue didn’t matter that boss, I come out as a Feeler. When I
much. So what do I want in a boss? As took the Myers-Briggs, I scored as an
far as I can tell, the only plausible answer INTJ. But, if odds are that I’m going to
is: It depends. The Myers-Briggs as- be something else if I take the test again,
sumes that who we are is consistent from what good is it?
one situation to another. But surely what Once, for fun, a friend and I de-
we want in a boss, and how we behave vised our own personality test. Like the
toward our boss, is affected by what kind M.B.T.I., it has four dimensions. The
of job we have. first is Canine/Feline. In romantic rela-
This is the gist of the now famous tionships, are you the pursuer, who runs
critique that the psychologist Walter happily to the door, tail wagging? Or are
Mischel has made of personality test- you the pursued? The second is More/
ing. One of Mischel’s studies involved Different. Is it your intellectual style to
watching children interact with one an- gather and master as much information
other at a summer camp. Aggressiveness as you can or to make imaginative use of
was among the traits that he was inter- a discrete amount of information? The
ested in, so he watched the children in third is Insider/Outsider. Do you get
five different situations: how they be- along with your parents or do you de-
haved when approached by a peer, when fine yourself outside your relationship
teased by a peer, when praised by an with your mother and father? And, fi-
adult, when punished by an adult, and nally, there is Nibbler/Gobbler. Do you
when warned by an adult. He found that work steadily, in small increments, or do
how aggressively a child responded in everything at once, in a big gulp? I’m
one of those situations wasn’t a good quite pleased with the personality inven-
predictor of how that same child re- tory we devised. It directly touches on
sponded in another situation. Just be- four aspects of life and temperament—
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romance, cognition, family, and work man himself. His system explained it all:
style—that are only hinted at by Myers- Lyman [Katharine’s husband], Kathar-
Briggs. And it can be completed in under ine, Isabel, and Chief were introverts;
a minute, nineteen minutes faster than the two men were thinkers, while the
Myers-Briggs, an advantage not to be women were feelers; and of course the
dismissed in today’s fast-paced business Briggses were intuitives, while Chief was
environment. Of course, the four traits it a senser.” Encouraged by her mother, Is-
measures are utterly arbitrary, based on abel—who was living in Swarthmore
what my friend and I came up with over and writing mystery novels—devised a
the course of a phone call. But then paper-and-pencil test to help people
again surely all universal dichotomous identify which of the Jungian categories
typing systems are arbitrary. they belonged to, and then spent the rest
Where did the Myers-Briggs come of her life tirelessly and brilliantly pro-
from, after all? As Paul tells us, it began moting her creation.
with a housewife from Washington, The problem, as Paul points out, is
D.C., named Katharine Briggs, at the that Myers and her mother did not actu-
turn of the last century. Briggs had a ally understand Jung at all. Jung didn’t
daughter, Isabel, an only child for whom believe that types were easily identifi-
(as one relative put it) she did “every- able, and he didn’t believe that people
thing but breathe.” When Isabel was still could be permanently slotted into one
in her teens, Katharine wrote a book- category or another. “Every individual is
length manuscript about her daughter’s an exception to the rule,” he wrote; to
remarkable childhood, calling her a “ge- “stick labels on people at first sight,” in
nius” and “a little Shakespeare.” When his view, was “nothing but a childish par-
Isabel went off to Swarthmore College, lor game.” Why is a parlor game based
in 1915, the two exchanged letters nearly on my desire to entertain my friends any
every day. Then, one day, Isabel brought less valid than a parlor game based on
home her college boyfriend and an- Katharine Briggs’s obsession with her
nounced that they were to be married. son-in-law?
His name was Clarence (Chief ) Myers.
He was tall and handsome and study-
ing to be a lawyer, and he could not have
been more different from the Briggs
T he problems with the Myers-Briggs
suggest that we need a test that is
responsive to the complexity and vari-
women. Katharine and Isabel were bold ability of the human personality. And
and imaginative and intuitive. Myers that is why, not long ago, I found myself
was practical and logical and detail- in the office of a psychologist from New
oriented. Katharine could not under- Jersey named Lon Gieser. He is among
stand her future son-in-law. “When the country’s leading experts on what is
the blissful young couple returned to called the Thematic Apperception Test
Swarthmore,” Paul writes, “Katharine (T.A.T.), an assessment tool developed
retreated to her study, intent on ‘figuring in the nineteen-thirties by Henry Mur-
out Chief.’ ” ray, one of the most influential psychol-
She began to read widely in psychol- ogists of the twentieth century.
ogy and philosophy. Then, in 1923, she I sat in a chair facing Gieser, as if
came across the first English translation I were his patient. He had in his hand
of Carl Jung’s “Psychological Types.” two dozen or so pictures—mostly black-
“This is it!” Katharine told her daughter. and-white drawings—on legal-sized
Paul recounts, “In a dramatic display of cards, all of which had been chosen
conviction she burned all her own re- by Murray years before. “These pictures
search and adopted Jung’s book as her present a series of scenes,” Gieser said
‘Bible,’ as she gushed in a letter to the to me. “What I want you to do with
each scene is tell a story with a begin-
ning, a middle, and an end.” He handed
me the first card. It was of a young
boy looking at a violin. I had imagined,
as Gieser was describing the test to
me, that it would be hard to come up
with stories to match the pictures. As I
quickly discovered, though, the exercise
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was relatively effortless: the stories just
tumbled out.
“This is a young boy,” I began. FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF ANNE VERVEINE, VII
His parents want him to take up the violin,
and they’ve been encouraging him. I think he Distance was the house in which I welcomed you.
is uncertain whether he wants to be a violin But it was in the river
player, and maybe even resents the imposition that we became cadence, there where the current braided
of having to play this instrument, which
doesn’t seem to have any appeal for him. He’s
not excited or thrilled about this. He’d rather together again, after the stone bridge stanchion parted the stream.
be somewhere else. He’s just sitting there It was to last only as long as the beauty lasted.
looking at it, and dreading having to fulfill
this parental obligation. Do you believe in the soul?

I continued in that vein for a few Words torn from the void, wet and mewling.
more minutes. Gieser gave me another Where we walked on the mountain, water
card, this one of a muscular man cling- poured around us, surged up from springs, seethed
ing to a rope and looking off into the
distance. “He’s climbing up, not climb- down in rivulets, rocky streams, and one long blinding cascade:
ing down,” I said, and went on: your kisses were an eau-de-vie and as bitter.
It’s out in public. It’s some kind of big square,
I am poured out like water.
in Europe, and there is some kind of spectacle
going on. It’s the seventeenth or eighteenth Distance is feminine in French.
century. The King is coming by in a carriage, I held a knife to a man’s throat and let him bleed quietly into a cup.
and this man is shimmying up, so he can see
over everyone else and get a better view of the What does “us” mean?
King. I don’t get the sense that he’s any kind
of highborn person. I think he aspires to be Coiled serpentine headdress of Leonardo’s woman:
more than he is. And he’s kind of getting a
glimpse of the King as a way of giving himself you wanted her. I wanted you.
a sense of what he could be, or what his own Chill sunlight flexing itself on the city river
future could be like.
We went on like this for the bet- gave me the emptiness I needed
ter part of an hour, as I responded to to write these instructions: Sorrow
twelve cards—each of people in various is a liqueur. Drink deep. We will all be consumed.
kinds of ambiguous situations. One pic-
ture showed a woman slumped on the —Rosanna Warren
ground, with some small object next to
her; another showed an attractive couple
in a kind of angry embrace, apparently the tape I had made of the session, that is, how interested someone is in get-
having an argument. (I said that the fight though, I saw what Gieser had picked up ting ahead and succeeding in life. One is
they were having was staged, that each on: my stories were exceedingly repeti- the card of the man on the rope; another
was simply playing a role.) As I talked, tive in just the way that he had identi- is the boy looking at his violin. Gieser, in
Gieser took notes. Later, he called me fied. The final card that Gieser gave me listening to my stories, concluded that I
and gave me his impressions. “What was blank, and he asked me to imagine was very low in achievement:
came out was the way you deal with my own picture and tell a story about it. Some people say this kid is dreaming
emotion,” he said. “Even when you rec- For some reason, what came to mind about being a great violinist, and he’s going to
ognized the emotion, you distanced your- was Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting make it. With you, it wasn’t what he wanted
self from it. The underlying motive is “Christina’s World,” of a woman alone to do at all. His parents were making him do
it. With the rope climbing, some people do
this desire to avoid conflict. The other in a field, her hair being blown by the this Tarzan thing. They climb the pole and get
thing is that when there are opportuni- wind. She was from the city, I said, and to the top and feel this great achievement.
ties to go to someone else and work stuff had come home to see her family in the You have him going up the rope—and why is
he feeling the pleasure? Because he’s seeing
out, your character is always going off country: “I think she is taking a walk. the King. He’s still a nobody in the public
alone. There is a real avoidance of emo- She is pondering some piece of impor- square, looking at the King.
tion and dealing with other people, and tant news. She has gone off from the rest
everyone goes to their own corners and of the people to think about it.” Only Now, this is a little strange. I consider
works things out on their own.” later did I realize that in the actual paint- myself quite ambitious. On a question-
How could Gieser make such a con- ing the woman is not strolling through naire, if you asked me to rank how im-
fident reading of my personality after the field. She is crawling, desperately, on portant getting ahead and being suc-
listening to me for such a short time? I her hands and knees. How obvious cessful was to me, I’d check the “very
was baffled by this, at first, because I felt could my aversion to strong emotion be? important” box. But Gieser is suggesting
that I had told a series of random and The T.A.T. has a number of cards that the T.A.T. allowed him to glimpse
idiosyncratic stories. When I listened to that are used to assess achievement— another dimension of my personality.
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This idea—that our personality can who he was. But let’s not forget that he
hold contradictory elements—is at the volunteered for the front lines: he made
heart of “Strangers to Ourselves,” by the a conscious decision to put himself in
social psychologist Timothy D. Wilson. the heat of the action. What we really
He is one of the discipline’s most prom- need is an understanding of how those
inent researchers, and his book is what two sides of his personality interact in
popular psychology ought to be (and critical situations.When is Sandy Ninin-
rarely is): thoughtful, beautifully writ- ger’s commitment to peacefulness more,
ten, and full of unexpected insights. or less, important than some uncon-
Wilson’s interest is in what he calls the scious ferocity?
“adaptive unconscious” (not to be con- The other problem with the T.A.T.,
fused with the Freudian unconscious). of course, is that it’s a subjective instru-
The adaptive unconscious, in Wilson’s ment. You could say that my story about
description, is a big computer in our the man climbing the rope is evidence
brain which sits below the surface and that I’m low in achievement or you could
evaluates, filters, and looks for patterns say that it shows a strong desire for so-
in the mountain of data that come in cial mobility. The climber wants to look
through our senses. That system, Wilson down—not up—at the King in order to
argues, has a personality: it has a set of get a sense “of what he could be.” You
patterns and responses and tendencies could say that my interpretation that the
that are laid down by our genes and our couple’s fighting was staged was evi-
early-childhood experiences. These pat- dence of my aversion to strong emotion.
terns are stable and hard to change, and Or you could say that it was evidence
we are only dimly aware of them. On of my delight in deception and role-
top of that, in his schema we have an- playing. This isn’t to question Gieser’s
other personality: it’s the conscious iden- skill or experience as a diagnostician.
tity that we create for ourselves with the The T.A.T. is supposed to do no more
choices we make, the stories we tell about than identify themes and problem areas,
ourselves, and the formal reasons we and I’m sure Gieser would be happy
come up with to explain our motives and to put me on the couch for a year to ex-
feelings. Yet this “constructed self ” has plore those themes and see which of his
no particular connection with the per- initial hypotheses had any validity. But
sonality of our adaptive unconscious. the reason employers want a magical
In fact, they could easily be at odds. Wil- instrument for measuring personality
son writes: is that they don’t have a year to work
The adaptive unconscious is more likely through the ambiguities. They need an
to influence people’s uncontrolled, implicit answer now.
responses, whereas the constructed self is
more likely to influence people’s deliberative,
explicit responses. For example, the quick,
spontaneous decision of whether to argue
with a co-worker is likely to be under the con-
A larger limitation of both Myers-
Briggs and the T.A.T. is that they
are indirect. Tests of this kind require us
trol of one’s nonconscious needs for power
and affiliation. A more thoughtful decision first to identify a personality trait that
about whether to invite a co-worker over for corresponds to the behavior we’re inter-
dinner is more likely to be under the control ested in, and then to figure out how to
of one’s conscious, self-attributed motives.
measure that trait—but by then we’re
When Gieser said that he thought I two steps removed from what we’re
was low in achievement, then, he pre- after. And each of those steps represents
sumably saw in my stories an unconscious an opportunity for error and distortion.
ambivalence toward success.The T.A.T., Shouldn’t we try, instead, to test directly
he believes, allowed him to go beyond for the behavior we’re interested in? This
the way I viewed myself and arrive at a is the idea that lies behind what’s known
reading with greater depth and nuance. as the Assessment Center, and the lead-
Even if he’s right, though, does this ing practitioner of this approach is a com-
help us pick commandos? I’m not so pany called Development Dimensions
sure. Clearly, underneath Sandy Ninin- International, or D.D.I. Companies try-
ger’s peaceful façade there was another ing to evaluate job applicants send them
Nininger capable of great bravery and to D.D.I.’s headquarters, outside Pitts-
ferocity, and a T.A.T. of Nininger might burgh, where they spend the day role-
have given us a glimpse of that part of playing as business executives. When I
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contacted D.D.I., I was told that I was somewhat unilaterally while lobbing sup- “self.” The Assessment Center is proba-
going to be Terry Turner, the head of the porting rationale down to the team below. . . . bly the best method that employers have
Had you brought your team closer to deci-
robotics division of a company called sions by vesting them with greater account- for evaluating personality.
Global Solutions. ability, responsibility and decision-making But could an Assessment Center help
I arrived early in the morning, and was authority, they would have undoubtedly felt us identify the Sandy Niningers of the
more engaged, satisfied and valued. . . .
led to an office. On the desk was a com- In a somewhat similar vein, but on a world? The center makes a behavioral
puter, a phone, and a tape recorder. In the slightly more interpersonal level, while you prediction, and, as solid and specific as
corner of the room was a video camera, seemed to recognize the value of collabora- that prediction is, people are least pre-
tion and building positive working relation-
and on my desk was an agenda for the day. ships with people, you tended to take a purely dictable at those critical moments when
I had a long telephone conversation with businesslike approach to forging partner- prediction would be most valuable. The
a business partner from France. There ships. You spoke of win/win solutions from a answer to the question of whether my
business perspective and your rationale for
were labor difficulties at an overseas partnering and collaboration seemed to be Terry Turner would be a good executive
plant. A new product—a robot for the based solely on business logic. Additionally, is, once again: It depends. It depends on
home—had run into a series of technical at times you did not respond to some of the what kind of company Global Solutions
softer, subtler cues that spoke to people’s real
glitches. I answered e-mails. I prepared frustrations, more personal feelings, or true is, and on what kind of respect my co-
and recorded a talk for a product-launch point of view. workers have for me, and on how quickly
meeting. I gave a live interview to a local I manage to correct my shortcomings,
television reporter. In the afternoon, I Ouch! Of course, when the D.D.I. and on all kinds of other things that can-
met with another senior Global Solu- analysts said that I did not respond to not be anticipated. The quality of being
tions manager, and presented a strategic “some of the softer, subtler cues that a good manager is, in the end, as irre-
plan for the future of the robotics divi- spoke to people’s real frustrations, more ducible as the quality of being a good
sion. It was a long, demanding day at the personal feelings, or true point of view,” friend. We think that a friend has to
office, and when I left, a team of D.D.I. they didn’t mean that I was an insensitive be loyal and nice and interesting—and
specialists combed through copies of my person. They meant that I was insensi- that’s certainly a good start. But people
e-mails, the audiotapes of my phone calls tive in the role of manager. The T.A.T. whom we don’t find loyal, nice, or inter-
and my speech, and the videotapes of my and M.B.T.I. aimed to make global as- esting have friends, too, because loyalty,
interviews, and analyzed me across four sessments of the different aspects of my niceness, and interestingness are emer-
dimensions: interpersonal skills, leader- personality. My day as Terry Turner was gent traits. They arise out of the interac-
ship skills, business-management skills, meant to find out only what I’m like tion of two people, and all we really
and personal attributes. A few weeks later, when I’m the head of the robotics divi- mean when we say that someone is in-
I was given my report. Some of it was sion of Global Solutions. That’s an im- teresting or nice is that they are interest-
positive: I was a quick learner. I had good portant difference. It respects the role ing or nice to us.
ideas. I expressed myself well, and—I of situation and contingency in person- All these difficulties do not mean that
was relieved to hear—wrote clearly. But, ality. It sidesteps the difficulty of inte- we should give up on the task of trying
as the assessment of my performance grating my unconscious self with my to understand and categorize one an-
made plain, I was something less than constructed self by looking at the way other. We could certainly send Sandy
top management material: that my various selves interact in the real Nininger to an Assessment Center, and
world. Most important, it offers the hope find out whether, in a make-believe bat-
Although you did a remarkable job ad-
dressing matters, you tended to handle issues that with experience and attention I can tle, he plays the role of commando with
from a fairly lofty perch, pitching good ideas construct a more appropriate executive verve and discipline. We could talk to his
friends and discover his love of music
and theatre. We could find out how he
responded to the picture of the man on a
rope. We could sit him down and have
him do the Myers-Briggs and dutifully
note that he is an Introverted, Intuitive,
Thinking Judger, and, for good measure,
take an extra minute to run him through
my own favorite personality inventory
and type him as a Canine, Different, In-
sider Gobbler. We will know all kinds of
things about him then. His personnel
file will be as thick as a phone book, and
we can consult our findings whenever we
make decisions about his future. We just
have to acknowledge that his file will tell
“If you’re not doing anything after work, come by us little about the thing we’re most in-
the conference room. We’re going to be cracking open some terested in. For that, we have to join him
beers and throwing some burgers on the copier.” in the jungles of Bataan. ♦
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