Once upon a time, I managed a group of about 15 people. When I was interviewing candidates, my only real concern was if they would be able to do the work. Once they were on board, if they did the work, were reasonably civil to their colleagues, and didn’t smell like donkeys on arriving for work in the morning, they were good. I never even gave a thought about how a candidate’s personality would ‘fit’ into the organization, beyond looking for an appropriate attitude toward the tasks at hand.
Today, it seems, ‘fit’ is everything, perhaps even more than the actual ability to do the work. One of my old bosses sent me a psychological test the other day, and suggested that I might use it when hiring people for my business. I’m not interested.
Once, years ago, a ‘partnering facilitator’ had everyone working on one of the company’s major projects (a total of about 100, including my entire staff) do Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests. We were given lapel pins with our type (mine is ISTJ: I’m Still a Total Jerk), talked about the results for a couple of days, then forgot about it. It was an interesting curiosity.
Would I give a Myers-Briggs test to prospective employees? No: I don’t think it would tell me anything I need to know.
But why are managers now obsessing about how people ‘fit’ into the organization? Well, when I was growing up, somehow I learned what appeared to be universal truths about working:
- Work is serious. You show up with your game face on, focused, rested, and ready to face whatever it is.
- Your boss knows what he’s doing. If he tells you you’re doing something wrong, listen. He may not always be right, but he’s trying to do what’s best, which could include concerns that you are unaware of. And if he really is mistaken, and he’s a reasonable boss, he’ll respond far better to a rational discussion than yelling or pouting.
But perhaps we can’t presume those things anymore. Hence the need to test, and the obsession with ‘fit.’