Corporate personality tests. And the greatness of Achievers.
Updated: Aug 1
One time several years ago I got to have lunch with Penn and Teller. I was working at an agency and I was on one of those committees where you try to come up with ways to inspire people. One of our more obvious tactics was a speaker series and a lot of times we tried to snag interesting (and more importantly, affordable) entertainers who happened to be passing through town. So when we learned that Penn and Teller would be performing at the nearby Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, we reached out. I think it cost us $2000.00 and we had to provide them with lunch beforehand.
Now firstly, Teller talks. He’s a lovely man. And I think he requested the salmon. But just like in their onstage lives, Penn Jillete talks more and I wouldn’t describe him as lovely. I’d go with something more along the lines of brilliant and incredibly engaging. He’s a self-educated, high school drop-out who is a voracious reader and most likely has a photographic memory and an IQ in the Mensa range. He’s obsessed with science, averse to religion and is driven by an insatiable desire to debunk anything that is dishonest or untruthful. I think he had the portobello pasta.
There were probably six of us total. As the agency gathered upstairs for the presentation, we finished lunch and chit-chatted about this and that. Somehow, the topic of astrology came up and we start going around the table telling our signs. It gets to Penn and without even looking up from his pasta he says, “Sorry. I don’t do astrology.” Someone asks, why not? This time he does look up from his pasta and says, “Because I’m not a racist.” Awkward silence.
He then proceeds to point out the eerie similarities between judging and placing expectations upon a person based on what month they happened to be born in and doing the same to people based on what skin color they happened to be born with. Let’s just say I don’t brag about being a Leo anymore.
Now being a creative in a creative department, you get sheltered from a lot of corporate bullshit. And for good reason. Smart agencies don’t put their creatives through too much of the business BS that a lot of other people have to go through. It messes with our brains and not in a good way. We’re not hassled about our GPAs, we don’t get drug tested and for the most part we’re just not put through a lot of corporate shit. So I don’t know tons about the business world and things like Myers-Briggs tests or professional development assessments and lame ass shit like that. Which is how I ended up sort of being tricked into taking something called The Clifton Strengths Finder test.
It happened at one of those horrible team building exercises that I’ve luckily gone most of my career without having to do, but at this particular agency I had little choice. And like the total and complete idiotic moron I am, I answered each question completely honestly.
At the end, we were forced to share our results. The best thing you could be, at least in this context, was an Achiever. That’s what the CEO got. That’s what the head of strategic planning got. Ditto for CCO and nearly all of the VP account folks. Another good one was if you got Futurist. This means that you are inspired by what could be and are able to energize others with your vision of the future. For obvious reasons, the Futurists were almost as well regarded as the Achievers.
I can’t remember what the other good ones were but I didn’t get them. As is usually the case, I was the odd duck. I got Empathy. I was the only one. Before you knew it, a spreadsheet was created and break-out sessions were planned. The Achievers. The Futurists. The Activators. They all got to partner up and discuss what made them special. I was told to take out my reader and sit quietly in the corner.
I felt dumb. If I had known what this damn thing was I could have answered the questions differently. I could have gotten Achiever. Or at least Futurist. I know I could if they just gave me another shot. But I was stuck with Empathy. And I didn’t even have a fellow Empath to lean on for support.
I don’t think there’s much difference between the results of these bullshit tests and the astrology that Penn Jillette denounced as a form of racism. I think they’re just another way of compartmentalizing people. We love to put labels on. They make life so much easier because they conjure up a sense of predictability in a world that is far from predictable. It makes executives feel warm and cozy. It’s easy. It’s lazy. And it made me want to quit on the spot.
I’ve only really ever quit one job in my life. It was a summer job I got when I was in college at a furniture store. I had to put together all the accessories that went into the different room displays. One time, I had to put together this massive lamp that had all these different arms. The directions had been lost and I was told to just figure it out. I couldn’t. So I went to lunch and never came back. An Achiever would never do something like that. They’d figure that fucking lamp out. Or better yet, they’d figure out a way to get someone else to figure it out and then take the credit. Within six months they’d be running that store. Fucking Achievers. I hate those assholes. I think they should all be round up and put into a…