10 Misconceptions About the DISC Assessment

DISC Post WEB210Let’s be real. No one hiring tactic, tool, process, or system is perfect. On the other hand, having nothing in place is disastrous. Having only one or two tools, tactics, or a broken system in place is just as dangerous. Or, as my colleague Marc Simms owner of Right Performance Management, suggests, “It seems that some companies jut flip a coin, but guesswork and luck are not a formula for hiring success.” Taking a chance is still taking a chance. Can we afford to take such chances with our most priceless asset, our people?

One System Component

From the title of this post, it’s obvious that an entire hiring system is not going to be addressed here and that only one tool or component of a hiring system is going to be, well assessed and that is assessments, in particular, the DISC assessment. Assessments are not a test, but rather, just as the name implies an assessment. A test is something you give people to see if they can add numbers, or load 80 bales of hay in before the cows come home, or type 60 words per minute. Assessments do none of that. Furthermore, using the term test, can set some people off into a dark place of tangled nerves where their imagination goes into overdrive and their brain stops working.

The Controversy

Almost every component of the hiring system enjoys its own controversy. Background checks, to some, are an invasion of privacy, failing to conduct interviews properly can result in charges of discrimination, tests can eliminate a class of people, and on and on.  Let’s look at a few surrounding the DISC assessment.

Misconception One – It’s a Personality Test

Many people believe that DISC is a “personality test.” We’ve already established that DISC is not a test, neither is it an instrument that measures personality. DISC measures behaviors and explains how a person behaves or does the things they do. The D behavioral style behaves in an assertive manner and is impatient. The I behavioral style behaves in a friendly open manner, talks a lot, and never meets a stranger.  The S behaves in a more predictable and patient manner. The C is detailed oriented and can sometimes be a perfectionist.

The DISC examines observable behaviors. Personality is more than behavior and includes factors like values, beliefs, sense of humor, character, ethics, temperament, and emotional maturity; and despite what is popular in the marketplace, personality can’t be scientifically measured.

Misconception Two –Assessments Are All the Same

Some people believe that all DISC models are the same and that all vendors offer the same products. This is not the case. In fact, if you will email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., put MATRIX in the subject line, I will be happy to send you a complimentary Competitive Matrix Log. William Marston, who created the DISC and the Wonder Woman comic book character, did not copyright his DISC creation. The vendor I work with does continuous research on demographics, brain reactions, and human data. In addition, all of their instruments are valid and reliable. While the DISC is a powerful tool, other assessments such as the 12 Driving Forces, Emotional Quotient (EQ), and the TriMetrix HD, can bring a more in depth and well-rounded picture of any individual.

Misconception Three – Assessments Predict Job Success

Probably the most common error made in using the DISC model occurs when someone assumes that a DISC profile will explain whether a person will succeed or fail in a job. DISC only measures common behavioral tendencies — not skills. DISC does not predict job success.

A person with any type of DISC profile can succeed in any type of profession. It’s important to remember DISC is only one part of the total picture and there are many other elements that affect job performance. The only way to accurately determine whether a person is “well suited” (behaviorally speaking, at least) to a job is by objectively benchmarking it. We call this letting the job talk.

Misconception Four –One Behavioral Style for One Job

If you want your sales force to be friendly, be able to influence the buyer to purchase your product, and to be able to interact with people of any other behavioral style, a person who has the high I behavioral style might be a good fit. However, not all high I’s meet this criterion. Some high I’s can be shallow, self-centered, disruptive, and fail to listen. This is not the person you want on your sales force. Therefore, it’s important to bring in other instruments such as the EQ or the 12 Driving Forces assessments or better yet an assessment meant to measure sales skills and there is even a sales DISC!

Misconception Five – Assessments are not Accurate

Assessments are indeed not an exact science. Having said that, this is a buyer beware market. Solid assessment providers have undergone extensive research to prove validity and reliability. While many quizzes and tests in the marketplace can be whimsical in nature, quality assessment providers go deeper by unveiling who they are as people and how others perceive them. Measuring dimensions of an individual with quantifiable, objective numbers backed by thorough research are most ideal for making a meaningful difference in an organization. Moreover, suppliers such as Target Training International, the organization I partner with, did not become the world’s third largest distributor of assessments by producing a poor product or operating in  a shoddy manner. It behooves the buyer to do in depth research on any assessment provider.

Misconception Six – Results can be Manipulated

Yes, they can. However, the instruments we use give a clear indication using a variety of indicators when this occurs. Sometimes, directions are misunderstood, people can become nervous, (especially if the word test is given), or they could want the job or promotion so badly they try to give the answer they think will win them the prize. When this happens, no blame or “mean” conversations take place. There is just a brief discussion and the respondent retakes the assessment, usually at no charge to the organization. I even had to do this with the CEO of a bank once.

Misconception Seven – Assessments Take Too Much Time to Complete

Question: “How much time are you willing to invest in your future?” or “How much time is it worth to reduce expensive turnover?” Depending on the assessment, the time varies. The DISC is relatively short and can be completed in about 10 minutes. Other, lengthier assessments might take up to 45 minutes. You get to decide the amount of time you’re willing to invest to achieve your life dreams, professional goals, or organizational strategies.  

Misconception Eight – Assessments are Discriminatory

When a person takes an assessment, demographic information is not passed along to the company or consultant conducting the assessment. Only the company who creates the assessment has that information.

Further, the company only uses demographic information for research and statistical purposes. Assessments measure beliefs, thought patterns, and predictive elements but they are not intended to measure physical or genetic attributes such as race, gender, creed, religion, or anything else that can be considered potential for discrimination.

Misconception Nine – Assessment Results are Always the Same  

We are who we are. However, as human beings, we can all experience some amazing life circumstances and events that change us forever. Traumatic events may well change the results of assessment outcomes. Further, a person who is a military sniper or who experiences combat has a totally different view of the world than a gardener who plants the seeds and grows beautiful flower beds for all to enjoy the beauty of nature. These two people have two different viewpoints of the world.

Misconception Ten – Assessments are Too Expensive

When you weigh the cost of turnover, you may gain a different perspective. The costs of assessments compared to the value they bring is truly nominal. Further, some suppliers will offer volume discounts or even set you up with your own account so you can cut out the “middleman.” When you think about the value of having the ability to see your entire team’s talents on one page to help you with strategic planning, the investment becomes crystal clear.

So just as with any product or service don’t take a chance, do your homework. Research information about a supplier and their products. More importantly, don’t take a chance on losing the valuable assets you have. Using assessments for performance improvement towards promotions and your succession planning goals can make a positive difference in strategic goals. Ensure that your hiring system has solid processes and tools to give your people, the organizations, and your customers the best start possible.

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