Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Personality test

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that a judge has reaffirmed that it's inappropriate for employers to administer the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (a test often used in penitentaries to measure a prisoner's sociopathy) to determine an applicant's fitness for a job or promotion. That employment law has forbidden the administration of "psychological tests" since ADA was adopted in 1990 is apparently not widely known, and employers feel fairly free to administer whatever litmus tests they want. BarbaraEhrenreich, in Nickel and Dimed, discusses some of the tests low-wage works are routinely subjected to; they serve the dual function of forcing you to lie, thus binding you in an unspoken covenant of shame, and of humiliating you, demonstrating unequivocally to the disenfranchised that no boundary shall be respected and your very personality belongs to the boss.

I was confused by a distinction employment testers cited in the article wanted to draw: They say that their tests "seek to find out who would be a good leader and wheher propective employees would get along in the workplace. 'There's nothing psychological about them,' [the counsel for an employment testing service] said." Is psychological a term of art in this instance. Isn't leadership deeply imbrucated with psychological matters? These tests seem extremely sinister to me; their purpose in employment contexts seems to be a matter of giving hirers an out on any hires they don't like, implied leverage over any employee betrayed by unknown aspects of their own subconscious. Employers hope ideally to be able to teach to this test, I'm sure, use it to slowly shape the personality perfect for subservient compliance. Maybe Bush should mandate its use in high schools, so that no child is left behind.

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