Could you explain what I am missing here?
April 24, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Taking part in a mandatory personal growth/customer excellence/self-actualization type course at work, feel like I am missing something.

The 3rd party session leader, and developer of the material, has explained how all people are one of two types and also that all people are at one of 18 sublevels.


What I keep asking co-workers when we discuss the course back at our desks is: "Two types of people? 18 levels? According to who? What is the data? Where is this coming from? What is this based on? Says who?" etc, etc etc

People seems to mostly just stare and don't really have any response. What am I missing here? If the answer is really just that this is all off the top of this person's head then am I wrong to have an interior monologue all day of "...says you..."?
posted by Cosine to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it mandatory that you attend, or that you care? Are you being paid to be there?
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nope...sounds like total BS...that being said if it's a work related mandatory course the best course of action is to fake your way though it, get your certificate, and forget everything you "learned", and go home.
posted by Captain_Science at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2014 [14 favorites]

No, your internal monologue is doing just fine.
posted by Malla at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2014 [18 favorites]

You're not wrong, but I suspect the others are all having an inner dialogue more like "sure, whatever. When can we leave? I wish Cosine would quit asking questions so we can all get out of here sooner." That's how every one of these type classes has worked that I've been to, but it's usually me who is the question-asker and my co-workers all groan and wish we could leave.
posted by CathyG at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

Have you tried asking the course leader those questions?

Perhaps not during the course, but during a break, ask them how the classification system was developed and what the empirical basis is for it.

There's a reasonably good chance it is all bullshit, but you're asking the wrong people if you want to find out.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2014

I had a comment typed out trying to defend this, but the fact of the matter is that it's just low-content pabulum that your employer paid far too much money to some "management consultant" to have you wrinkling your forehead. Some people will inevitably find it useful or at least interesting. The same could be said for any such pseudoscientific nattering, up to and including the MBTI.

Nod, smile, and hope it's over soon.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

I've taken a few of these. (True Colors, Myer-Briggs, etc) The point is usually not that there are these types and that's it. Rather, the point is to give you a framework to relate to and work with people who do not socialize the way you do, or who do not work the way you do. (Or to see how you can improve yourself.)

And then you can say: "Oh, Bob is an introvert, so when he doesn't want to hang out and drink, he's genuinely tired and not trying to snub me." Or "I should stop getting so annoyed when Sara never quite finishes a project. Instead, she's really good at starting projects, and I should let her do that more." Or "I'm a gold, so I like spreadsheets, but maybe I should try harder to empathize with people who don't."
posted by ethidda at 11:31 AM on April 24, 2014 [44 favorites]

Yeah, our old HR director was a big fan of the DISC personality profile. All this stuff is just common sense with some psychobabble bullshit thrown in. As good corporate drones, ours is not to reason why. I just grit my teeth, go along with it, and then unwind later by griping to my friends.
posted by alex1965 at 11:32 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

On a factual level, this is obviously bullshit. Here, though, is what I have found genuinely helpful in all kinds of either chosen-by-me or forced-on-me personal development situations (including therapy, where there are some paradigm things I don't believe in that have none the less proved helpful on a practical level):

I think to myself "this is a metaphor for how humans live; it's one of many possible metaphors, each of which is useful in certain situations and each of which can be used to oppress; all of them are sort of bullshit." And then I think "what questions does this metaphor answer? What situations would it clarify so that action could be taken? How could putting this metaphor on top of a problem break the problem into workable pieces?"

Notice that this works even if the person spouting the bullshit metaphor is a true believer, because you're never saying "obviously, there ARE two types of people and 18 levels" (I mean, what is this, reductionist D&D?).

Also, of course, there are some paradigms which are so terrible that they really can't be used in any good, non-oppressive way. ("There are salesmen and there are suckers!" "Life is just bitches and money!" "You're either part of the problem or part of the solution!")

My point is that sometimes it is less godawful boring to try to use these kinds of metaphors for good than just to sit there stewing.

My sympathies, though. I was recently encouraged to take a "building your personal brand" seminar at my work, but luckily it was not mandatory.
posted by Frowner at 11:35 AM on April 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

We had this at work too.

Basically my team wasn't getting along and this was their 'make nice' strategy.

It actually worked, oddly enough.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:45 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Helpful answers, everyone.

Yes, mandatory.

No, I have not said a word in the actual sessions, it's clear the core materials are not up for discussion.

As my philosophy prof used to say "There are two types of people in the world; those who think there's types of people in the world and those who know better."

Ok, I will keep my head down, try to glean any useful bits that I can, play along.

The irk is that this course has been brought in to deal with employee dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction that was caused by cuts to benefits and pay...
posted by Cosine at 11:52 AM on April 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

You're not missing anything. Someone, somewhere once gave people a survey, analyzed the results and then came up with these "types" and "subtypes". They're not necessarily complete bullshit, but they're also not some sort of deeper truth about humanity - they're just a categorization of people based on some sort of observation. I think the main reason these get used in the corporate setting is that they're HUGE moneymakers for the companies who sell them, and so the representatives of those companies really overstate the ability of the assessments to have some sort of massive effect on the workplace and employees.

Your wondering where the data came from is a great instinct, but you're most likely not going to get a real answer from anyone because the company selling these assessments is going to keep their data and methods proprietary, so that they can keep rolling in the cash. You might try googling the names of the assessments you're taking - often times companies will publish overviews with details of how the reliability/validity of the assessment was shown. In my experience (as a grad student in Educational Measurement) these types of very broad personality assessments don't typically have great reliability, but can sometimes still feel useful for people who really feel like they fit into one of the categories.

tl;dr - You're not missing anything and your instinct that this is all kind of empty is probably good. There's no deeper level that your co-workers are understanding this course on - if it seems that way, it's just that they are taking its content at more of a face value than you are.
posted by augustimagination at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2014

This is a business cult, and judging from the fact that it's still being presented by its originator and that he seems not to have written a book yet, it is in an early stage of development.

Be careful in challenging him, because if he perceives you to be a threat, he will make a negative example of you at some point in the process, or tell a story of a bad employee he has previously encountered who is you thinly veiled, or tell management that you are a prime specimen of the sort of employee who is keeping the business back, or some combination of these.

If you have already crossed him, it is very much in your interests to stage a public conversion to the gospel he is laying down.
posted by jamjam at 12:03 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

"As my philosophy prof used to say..."

Ah, so you've taken some philosophy. Me too. And the whole time I couldn't help wondering, "says WHO? PROVE it!" I got through my philosophy classes by reminding myself that philosophy is a way of understanding the world. Just because someone philosophized doesn't make it true. And the stuff you're being taught (which, I'm with you, is bullshit) isn't the truth, it's just a way of looking at and understanding things.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:13 PM on April 24, 2014

Ah, so you've taken some philosophy. Me too. And the whole time I couldn't help wondering, "says WHO? PROVE it!"

Me too, I struggled mightily, still do, with the whole idea of philosophy, could be some Asperger type leanings going on, who knows.
posted by Cosine at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2014

I am very skeptical of the TRUTH behind these things. But I think that you can be intentional about trying to learn something and not letting it be a waste of time.

I think the biggest opportunity there is in what the exercises reveal in the people around you. How do your colleagues answer the questions differently than you did (putting them in different labeled boxes), and what does that reveal about how they see the world differently or approach situations differently than you do?

You may be able to learn things about them that will help you work with them more effectively - or it could just be a fascinating "Huh, people are SO different!" moment.
posted by amaire at 12:45 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every company hires one of these douchebags. We had one in sales training to help us understand what kind of people our customers were, and then frame our 'pitch' to them accordingly.

Eh, it boils down to, if you want better interactions with people, you need to understand where they're coming from. That's in in a nutshell.

The rest of it is hocus-pocus and a hefty fee plus travel expenses.

These things are tedius, especially if you've been in the corporate world for a few decades, and you've seen them come and go with the fashion.

Hang in there, it's a rare training/workshop that doesn't yield at least one decent nugget of infor that you can use in your everyday life.

As for brining this course in to deal with dissatisfaction, yeah, dysfunction-o-rama! As I'm fond of saying, "Rather than give me an expensive tchotchke with the company name on it, can I have the money instead?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:57 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My employer had us spend half a day doing Myers-Briggs. I truly believe that it would have been more worthwhile to have someone come in and read our Tarot cards. But I sucked it up, because the message I wanted to send was, if management thinks this is important, I will give it my full attention.
posted by thelonius at 1:18 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

The irk is that this course has been brought in to deal with employee dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction that was caused by cuts to benefits and pay...

What total crap.
The fact that you're even asking these questions inside means that on some level you are taking this course seriously, are taking your company seriously. Many of the blank-lookers will just have given up on this corporate shit.
It means you've still got some fire in you. I hope you find a better company soon!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:20 PM on April 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've been exposed to two or three different such classification schemes. The one you describe seems a bit flakey, but I doubt any of them are based on data in a true scientific sense. Still, I learned some things.

Pay attention, play along, and don't take it too seriously
posted by SemiSalt at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2014

The good news is; Your bullshit detector works well. Your co-workers may be more willing to believe, or may just not care (because there are 2 types of people ... ). My experience with any approach to personality types in the workplace is that it's a crappy approach pursued by shallow people and doesn't belong in the workplace. Smile, nod, and carry on.
posted by theora55 at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a blue according to the "test" I took at a former company. Basically you just go with it and try to get through it. You can use it to your advantage though- a couple times I talked my former boss out of doing something not wise by explaining that he was acting "red".
posted by betsybetsy at 4:25 PM on April 24, 2014

It might be helpful to keep in mind that the mere fact you've bothered to think about and analyze this exercise this much probably puts you into a specific personality type, according to exercises like this. And that personality type is probably one of the less common ones. A lot of people just won't be interested in talking about things like this with coworkers, especially if they're already miserable at their job.
posted by wondermouse at 4:44 PM on April 24, 2014

People seems to mostly just stare and don't really have any response.

People are right! This sounds really, really dumb. I feel like the goal here is to resist the urge to shoot your mouth off about how dumb it is, because that would be the equivalent of publicly calling out whichever senior managers came up with the idea and approved the funding to do this stupid thing.
posted by citron at 6:27 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are two types of people in this world, those who's eyes roll when they hear someone say that there are two types of people in this world...

Management consultants are best ignored.
posted by mattoxic at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2014

I am working on a PhD in Organizational Leadership (which I guess means I will eventually be a consultant worthy of ignoring? Mmmkay...) and I am curious about what exactly you are being taught. Some assessments are well researched and validated and some are not. All are designed to give your team a framework to view the team/interactions/problems from, but some consultants just have a packaged presentation and don't fully assess the team situation and tailor the program to the needs of the team. So you may have a dud presenter who did not adequately prepare.

However, if you don't mind MeMailing me the name of the program/assessment/types they are talking about, I would like to see if I can find any info on it or if it has been discussed in any of my classes.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:36 PM on April 24, 2014

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