my boss wants us to help his coach get certified in pseudoscience

A reader writes:

I work for a successful small business that has acquired two even smaller businesses in other states over the past several years.

Our company president really wants to create a unified company culture and help the employees in all three locations feel more like a cohesive team. This has been hampered by distance and the pandemic preventing us from gathering in the same place in person.

Over the past year, the president has been working with an executive coach whom he has found very helpful. The coach has recently decided to get certified in a modality of pseudoscientific personality typing that is supposed to help people change their mindsets and become more productive at work. She needs to work with a certain number of people in order to obtain her certification and has offered to lead a program for our company for free. The president has seized on this as a great opportunity to help out his coach and do some team-building at no cost to the company.

This coaching program will require a significant time investment (two hours/week for about two months, no reduction in workload, and several employees who only work part-time) and will involve all of us taking pseudoscientific personality assessments designed to pinpoint our personal weaknesses so that we can help each other confront them and be more positive. It also requires meeting regularly with a coworker buddy to track and share our progress.

Based on our initial meeting about this, a few people are excited about the program, a few of us are horrified, and most people seem noncommittal but willing to go along for the sake of team-building.

Those of us opposed to the program have raised our concerns about its not being scientifically based and the potential for people’s results to be weaponized against them by coworkers. The president thanked us for sharing our concerns, suggested we raise the pseudoscience issue directly with his coach, and promised to guard against people weaponizing results against each other. He is a thoughtful, conscientious boss who is usually quite logical — he’s just really bought into this coach! I am not optimistic about our chances of convincing him not to do the program, especially since most of us objectors are junior employees without much capital to spend and the senior employees are either enthusiastic or neutral.

I really don’t want to do this program! I am a very private person and high performer whose primary productivity struggles are due to diagnosed anxiety, depression, and ADHD, for which I am receiving medical treatment and therapy and which no one at work knows anything about. Having my coworkers all up in my personal business reminding me not to “give in” to “negativity” sounds like my personal nightmare.

How do I get through this “training program” without either letting my coworkers in on my personal health information or being labeled a non-team-player for not participating fully? Do you have any tips for navigating personality-based testing with minimal invasiveness or friction? Are there any answers I can give that will make my coworkers continue to think, “Wow, she’s nice, good at her job, and boring”?

Before you resign yourself to having to do it, please consider trying to opt out!

Yes, the president brushed you off when you and your coworkers raised concerns earlier, but it sounds like you might not have been firm enough about not being willing to do it. You raised concerns about the program not being scientifically based and whether people’s results might be used against them … but why not raise it again and say, “I’ve thought about this more, and I am not comfortable participating. I’ve looked into the program further and it crosses boundaries that I’m not comfortable with at work. So I’m planning to opt out and wanted to let you know.”

This will have more weight if you can convince some of your coworkers to say the same thing — and then it can be “we are opting out” — but you can do it on your own if you need to.

Also, note that the language isn’t “can I opt out?” It’s “I am opting out.” If your boss truly wants to force you to participate as a requirement of your employment, make him say that … but it’s pretty likely that he won’t, since you say he’s normally thoughtful, conscientious, and logical.

I know you’re concerned you don’t have the capital to spend on this, but you’re bothered enough by it that it’s likely worth doing. If you were just annoyed but ultimately not that upset, I’d agree that you might as well play along. But you sound genuinely upset by it — you’re calling it a personal nightmare! — and have serious concerns about it violating boundaries around your mental health. It’s reasonable to take a firmer stand.

Whenever someone is bothered by this kind of thing, they’re always sure to hear from someone who feels differently, “Give it a chance! It’s not that bad! It helped my team learn to communicate better,” etc. etc. etc. But you’re being asked to spend two hours a week with no reduction in your workload on something that violates your boundaries and is potentially contraindicated with the private work you’re doing in therapy. It’s not outlandish to opt out.

If you do end up participating, though, I wouldn’t worry terribly about figuring out what answers will make your coworkers continue to think, “Wow, she’s nice, good at her job, and boring.” Personality testing is going to put you all into broad groupings and you’re not likely to end up categorized in a way that makes people think you’re something shocking (and definitely not that you’re not nice, bad at your job, or plagued by scandal). But if you’re worried, you can always pick the answers that feel the most bland or that represent traits you know are valued by your team.

I’d be more worried about the part where you “help each other confront your personal weaknesses and be more positive” and share your progress with a coworker. Without knowing exactly how this particular program works, it’s hard to advise on how to navigate that — but if you have the option, I’d choose incredibly bland weaknesses or ones (real or fake) that you won’t mind having to discuss, like “improve my work-life balance” or “disconnect from email more often” or “read more industry news.” Also — and this is important — try to ensure that your progress “buddy” is one of the coworkers who’s opposed to the program like you so you can agree to do as little of it as possible.

It also might be interesting to push to know what work you should set aside so that you have two hours a week for this. And if that doesn’t happen, you and your similarly opposed coworkers might be able to fall back on “We didn’t have time for (pseudoscience coaching) this week because we needed to focus on our deadlines for X and Y.”

But really, try just matter-of-factly opting out.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. RC Rascal*

    I had the results of an actual 360 weaponized against me. This was after my boss gave me the lowest score possible on every single question and HR did not see that as an issue.

    360 is a recognized management tool and this is not. No way I would participate.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Ugh. Speaking of weaponizing, I worked several years for a company that used a personality test as part of the hiring process. I became friends with one of the maintenance people, who told me they were understaffed because they weren’t allowed to hire any maintenance people who got a “wrong” result on the personality test.

      That was the point when I realized all the jokes about the company being cult-like… were not actually jokes.

      1. BookishMiss*

        I saw an article about a company that banned applicants from reapplying for a year after failing their lil personality test. Not even hired and it’s being used against them!

        This reminds me of a place i once worked where my department was so messed up that HR made us take the Myers-Briggs to “reestablish good intentions and communication” WHILE requiring me to go to a therapist THEY CHOSE because… get this… I was sad my cousin’s baby died.

        I no longer work there. And i do not recommend that anyone work or do business there.

    2. Media Monkey*

      i left my last job as my (pretty rubbish but mainly disengaged) boss used the 360 feedback from my team against me – basically i should have anticipated all the things they would want but never mentioned (the way that the feedback was asked for, you basically had to come up with something for the person to improve on). despite pushing him into a one-to-one each week to make sure he knew what was going on and ask if there was anything else he thought i should be doing.

      joke’s on him – i left for a promotion and 25% pay bump within 3 months.

  2. Chairman of the Bored*

    If it does end up being effectively required by the boss:
    1) Give bland responses that do not invite further scrutiny
    2) Participate to the lowest extent possible
    3) Get paid

    There’s no shame in (functionally) opting out of something like this by just doing the absolute minimum required to get the box checked while you continue to take their money.

    1. Observer*

      This is what I was going to say. One of the reasons these programs tend to be useless is because they are so easy to game. Another related reason is that they require that people actually give a lot of accurate information whose absence is hard to see. And that’s the key – no one is can know that you’re choosing not to share everything and anything.

      The fact that these programs do such a terrible job works in your favor in another way. If you keep to the basics and skip actually mentioning things like your diagnoses, these programs just won’t pick up the fact that you have issues with anxiety, depression and adhd.

      I do agree with Alison that you should try to just opt out. But if you can’t do that, you CAN protect your privacy.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Yeah, any required things like this, I would just stick to the safest possible answers. It’s what I do on the “employee feedback” things we are occasionally strongly encouraged to submit. They always say there’s no tracking, etc., but I’ve seen too many things here to believe that.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yep. When I had to do a personality test under my Awful Boss, I just… made stuff up & filled it in based on what she would assume anyway. (Spoiler alert: those questions designed to see if you’re being honest don’t work if you have any basic knowledge or understanding of Humans.)

          1. INTDGAF*

            The problem with this is still the concern about having your results weaponized against you. My first job was really in to the Strengths finder thing, and if you didn’t have one of the obvious leadership-related strengths in your top five strengths, or some specific strengths in common with one of the existing managers, then you weren’t getting any sort of leadership position.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Oh, yes. If we had been given any choice, I would have opted out.

              Tbh, that manager pretty much weaponized whatever she could.

              1. knitcrazybooknut*

                Did we work together? When someone weaponizes The Speed of Trust, you know there are issues.

            2. usually anon*

              I wish my employer used the strengths finder results this way. Mine were all logic & planning but I’m still stuck doing a lot of frontline work with rude & entitled people.

            3. Ginger Baker*

              Ooooooh thanks for this! We did one at at my current job that I quite enjoyed (not that it is science-y, but it was an interesting read and we had a good discussion after about working with people who tend to have [some other aspect] more heavily in their personality (say, those of us who consider “good morning [name], I hope you are well today [pause and wait for reply before getting into what the request is on IM]” slightly irritating fluff and those that consider it the VERY BASICS of Good Manners). HOWEVER, sharing your results is optional and some people do share them more widely on our intranet and some do not. I never have…and today because of this comment I thought “huh…I wonder what the people in [role I have interviewed for twice and never gotten] show up as…is it all the same and my lowest scored item?” AND YES, gentle reader, yes it is. Every single one except for one out of about a dozen with the same title have their highest score in [aspect] the one I am [not publicized in theory BUT…] lowest in.

              All told, this particular role and particular department I don’t consider not having that role to be missing out on much really, but well. Food for thought.

              1. My Useless 2 Cents*

                From a business perspective, I pretty much just roll my eyes as the typical descriptions or “personalities” are just so vague that they could apply to anyone. But I find these kind of things fascinating (same with horoscopes). The things people bring out, connect with, or that resonates with them that I never would have thought of is just mind-boggling and endlessly surprising.

                I did go to a communications seminar once where there were 9-10 business related issues that everyone had to rate from 1-5 on how important they are and I found out that I am in a very small minority because I rate following set procedures at a 1-very important. I guess most of y’all view procedures more as a guideline than a set of steps everyone needs to follow. Learning that has helped with my understanding and communication in the working world. (Procedures and that the average person remembers a negative interaction with a company for 20 years while only remembering a positive interaction a few months are the only things I got out of the seminar)

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  @KoiFeeder – As someone who enacts procedures – in my experience they do not. they find them annoying as hell. Until you can show results that the procedures are actually Super Important and efficient and then they grumblingly accept them and still put up a fight if it ever inconveniences them.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  @Eldritch Office Worker if you ever need a remote worker with very little experience who loves procedures and following procedures, I’m your fish ;p

                3. allathian*

                  I’m not attempting to diagnose anyone, but statistically ND people tend to think that procedures are more important than NT people do. Rigidly following procedures, even when deviating from them would make more sense, is an ND trait (probably because ND people often find it difficult to recognize when it would be appropriate to deviate from a procedure, so it’s safer to just always follow them). ND people tend to excel at jobs that require them to follow procedures, regardless of how logical those procedures are.

                  I’m NT, and my willingness to follow procedures depends a lot on whether or not I understand and agree with why the procedure exists. I’ll follow them regardless, but only grudgingly if they don’t make sense to me. In some cases I’ll be willing to expend quite a lot of capital at work to change an inefficient procedure, and once or twice in my career I’ve even been successful at changing a required procedure so that it’s more efficient and effective for everyone, not just me and my immediate coworkers.

                  Procedures are quite similar to optimization problems, increasing the efficiency of one part of the procedure doesn’t necessarily do the same for the whole, and sometimes individual employees have to put up with a procedure that’s suboptimal from their point of view, but is efficient overall. I can deal with that, as long as I understand the big picture.

                  Obviously procedures differ in importance, some are essential and deviating from them would put people’s safety at risk, and/or be illegal, whereas others are more like “we’re doing things this way because we’ve always done them this way,” and everything in between.

                4. CPegasus*

                  @allathian I thought it was the opposite, that (at least for autism spectrum) ND people were less likely to follow the rules just because they were the rules if they didn’t make sense, and more likely to question the way things were when NT people were more able to go with the flow and just accept that sometimes the rules were weird and follow them anyway.

            4. Observer*

              The problem with this is still the concern about having your results weaponized against you

              Which is a good reason to try to opt out.

              But also, if you don’t give too much information, it’s a lot harder to weaponize stuff. It’s much easier to weaponize “I struggle with basic organization” or “I have ADHD” than “I prefer to color code my files rather than alphabetizing them”.

              1. Hosta*

                I am distressed that you didn’t include the only proper way to organize files: alphabetized, then color coded by year or topic, depending on how reoccurring the file is.

            5. NeedRain47*

              My previous job had a ceo that was very into StrengthsFinder, but no ones’ supervisor had the inclination or ability to help people work to their strengths so it was entirely pointless. (I found it interesting though, I like the emphasis on making the best of what you’re good at.)

            6. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

              Yikes! I worked in a very positive Strengthsfinder workplace. I thought it was kind of culty and weird, but I thought it was useful. It was all about how we have complementary strengths on our teams and how can we leverage that complementarity to better the organization. I’m the only “Activator” type on a team of “Diligent” people, so it was really useful for us to discuss ways that our difference can help us work together better. I use that model all the time in my new job! Difference is good! Not bad! This was actually very good for me as someone with ADHD, as I work in a job that’s heavy on perfectionists and control-freaks, and people like me are often seen as anathema to my field, as opposed to a boon.

              We also used Strengthsfinder to develop and focus on our strengths, instead of worrying only about improving our weaknesses. I think that’s generally a good policy.

              I’ve seen (secondhand) MB and enneagrams used thoughtfully in businesses, too! All of psychology is just an artificial model that attempts to describe the complexity of human behavior. They are all “fake” to some degree. They are just a tool to better understand your own motivations.

              If used well in the workplace, I think they can be a benign, shared model through which the organization discusses how individual differences can interact to complete shared tasks. If used poorly, well, then it becomes a 1984-type hellscape like you’re describing.

              I echo the advice to hold off being a volunteer until it’s required. When it’s required, do the bare minimum and try to be neutral. Then, see how it’s used. If it’s used in a messed up, then leave. It’s it benign or useful, stay!

              1. cubone*

                I enjoyed StrengthsFinder for all the reasons you said. It helped me focus on things I was good at instead of not good at (also ADHD, so, you know) and I had a few nice convos with peers about how different our strengths are and how that complements each other. I think it really did help our team increase our empathy and understanding of one another. I also have a friend who is a career counsellor in a very large, well regarded university and they offer it free to students, use it as one (of many) tools for starting skills as strengths based conversations.

              2. JenLP*

                I find these types of assessments to be useful tools in discussing differences and similarities. I really think it just gives the group a common language to discuss human behaviors so that the team can work together.

                1. JustaTech*

                  This was the value I got out of the only one of these types of things we’ve done at my work. We did the “communication styles” (DiSC) and most of us were surprised to learn that no, just because we’re a bunch of nerds, we don’t all have the same communication styles. The actual class was eh (it was very rushed) but my two closest coworkers and I went off and carefully discussed the readings and how our different results meant we needed to *think* about how we communicated. It gave us a good structure to say “hey, when you need to tell me X, the best way is by email, but for Y an in-person chat is better”.

                  Having that talk made a huge difference for my two coworkers, who were forever having communication issues (and a huge difference for me, who didn’t have to spend nearly so much time mediating for them).
                  But for how we communicated with everyone else? No difference, because we all immediately forgot our scores and how we were “supposed” to communicate with people with the different scores.

                  The one good thing I’d say about that system was that it was super clear that this was not about personality types, but *only* the way you like to communicate.

              3. A Psychologist*

                Just popping in a tiny reminder that there’s no empirical basis to StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, enneagrams, etc., and no researcher in subfields of psychology, especially personality psychology, uses (or even thinks about) them. Separately from academic validity, folks are bringing up many important reasons that the use of these aren’t benign throughout the rest of the comment section – shoehorning, blocking opportunities, making assumptions in place of having on-going conversations (“Oh she’s an INTJ virgo; she won’t want this project”). We can recognize and capitalize on individual difference within the workplace without aiming to categorize.

                1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

                  Yeah, I know. I hate this crap! I’m just providing a counterpoint that sometimes it’s totally benign. As I suggested in my comment, OP shouldn’t jump ship until they have evidence that: 1) it’s required; 2) it’s permanent (will it exist after the person finishes their cert? or will it fade away); and 3) will it be used to harm people. If anyone of those becomes evident, then they should start getting things in order.

        2. Miette*

          Yep. I worked somewhere once where you had to take Meyers-Briggs as part of the interviewing process. I answered as “Work Miette,” who is a well-adjusted ENTJ. “Real Life Miette” is a lot more introverted lmao.

          1. Overit*

            I once was interviewing for a highly desirable job which got less desirable as the number of required interviews grew. The 5th of which was (without warning) to have MB administered by HR while HR watched me take it (to prevent “cheating”). HR informed me that the CEO believed in team “balance” and that the position needed a certain MB type and only a candidate with the desired test result would get the job. I was furious as I had now spent almost 18 hours interviewing and if a test result was a non negotiable, it should be stated in the ad or administered at the beginning of the first interview.

      2. fleapot*

        I would point out that gaming this kind of system not necessarily easy for all people. I have ADHD/autism, and in the kind of sessions OP describes I’m not sure I could process quickly enough to plan/execute a safe response. Especially if I were really uncomfortable!

    2. thisgirlhere*

      One way to do this: picture someone in your mind and try to guess how they would respond. Like your very put together best friend or your mom. That way you aren’t randomly selecting answers, which will likely get flagged (of course if you don’t care, just pick the middle for everything).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        … I now really want someone to do this as Parker from Leverage.

        Do it, OP! If you can’t get out of it just ask yourself “What would Parker do?” This would be the opposite of the “choose the most boring option” approach.

        1. Gingerblue*

          “I appreciate your creative approach to problem solving, Coworker, but ‘stab them with a fork’ cannot be the answer to every work issue.”

          1. Sloanicota*

            Hmm, it says here that your preferred form of recognition is “cash in non-sequential bills.” Interesting!

        2. Lucille*

          I love this idea.

          “interesting idea but rappelling down the side of the building isn’t really the right exit strategy here.”

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        My problem with these things is that often the questions are so vague that I pick the middle as the least wrong answer. “Do you enjoy parties?” I need clarification. By “party” do you mean a group of friends sharing good food and drink and discussing topics of interest? Or do you mean a dark room jammed full of people, with music blaring so loudly that conversation is impossible? The same word is used for both, so I can’t answer the question without this clarification. Oh, you won’t give me one? Then “3” it is!

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          And even that can be subdivided! If I had to choose between a talking party where I didn’t know most of the guests and a wild dance extravaganza, it would absolutely change my answer.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            de gustibus non est disputandum, but I would still take the talking party. There is a non-zero chance of a mutually satisfying conversation, and extending one’s circle of acquaintances. And if not, one can make one’s excuses and leave early. The wild dance extravaganza is pretty much my personal conception of Hell, and was even was I was age-appropriate for such things.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          And if that kind of question is aimed at the introvert/extravert dichotomy, it’s not going to work because it is so over-simplified: I am very much introverted, but I enjoy a good party. For one, I love dancing, and I also enjoy conversation with friends and good food. It can be exhausting (sometimes in a good way, like doing [favorite sports activity] exhausting), but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.

          1. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

            And I definitely skew more extroverted, and I rarely enjoy parties because I literally have no idea what to do with myself most of the time. I’d go to a quilting bee or something any day of the week, but I don’t want to stand around awkwardly in someone’s living room trying to figure out how to eat when I have a plate in one hand and a glass in the other, you know? (And my cognitive machinery has a lot of trouble processing spoken communication when there’s too much background noise in the room. Such as other people’s conversations.)

    3. Vio*

      just make sure you ARE being paid and that you’re not expected to do it in your free time. if it’s mandatory, it’s paid. if it’s unpaid, it’s optional

  3. Amber Rose*

    I’m a little surprised that you brought up the concerns about pseudo-science and clashing and not the bit about needing to take two hours every week away from a workload that is not reducing!

    If you haven’t yet, please consider, as a group, going to your manager and pointing out that you just don’t have the time to commit to this on the scale you’re being asked for.

    1. JayNay*

      and if you don’t want to flat out say “I have no time for this bs”, then keep asking what part of your workload the boss wants to put on hold for 2 months, how you should deal with slower-than-usual response time from your team members who also will get less done, and which deadlines need to be moved by how much, and… so on and so forth :)
      but yes please just say no.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, this sounds like the person running it isn’t even Nonsense Certified yet. So it’s really just a favor you don’t have time for, not something that the company is paying for people to take part in.

    2. Katie*

      Seriously. If my company decided that this was going to be a thing, I would be pushing back hard on this. I do not have 2 hours a week to give to give to things like this.
      I have huge issues with tests like these. Not because I am afraid of repercussions but because they are a bunch of mumbo jumbo garbage and a waste of time.
      I am all for team building. I am all for taking two hours a week for something but this would just be a time suck.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes, this was my biggest concern too! I could potentially be tempted into participating in something I don’t believe in if it meant that I got some things pulled from my plate, but having to squeeze it in on top of my normal workload? No thank you. And if everyone is losing two hours a week for two months, that’s going to have a big effect on the department’s ability to function.

      I hope that LW and others can get out of this, but I also hope that they don’t end up having to do everyone else’s work while they participate.

    4. Sloanicota*

      this would actually be my bigger hill to die on. As a very junior employee I just doubt I could get out of something the boss was excited about and no senior person was willing to stand up to without being labeled a problem. But I could totally suggest a piece of my workload that would have to go on the back burner to make space for these sessions.

    5. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, but the possibility is the boss will either say “this is a priority” or figure out how to get around the time constraint, and then the OP is stuck with doing the pseudoscience stuff regardless. So trying to opt out AND mentioning the time constraint is a better way to make sure you don’t get stuck with it.

    6. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I would be deeply uncomfortable about something like this because of the pseudo-science, the over-sharing and the forced buddy system which are all things I ould be noping out off at speed, but if my boss were unreceptive then the nexxt point I’d be raising ould be “I am currently over capacity and under a lot of work pressure, If I am being required to spend two hours a week (plus extra time with the buddy?) on this , that will have a huge impact on my proctuctivity. In addtiona to the actual time it’s something I feel very uncofrtable about so i anticiapte that the stresswill mean the impact ges beyod the two hours of direct activity.

      Which projects / clients do you want me to drop and who do I pass the extra work to?

      If Boss doesn’t listen and you are not able to opt out, then don’t try to make up the lost time, just keep flagging the issue with your Boss – let them know what you’ve been unable to do and ask for guidance as to who you pass it to or what elsethey want you to leave undone to complete it.

      Hoepfully, as Alison says, if you make it xlear you are opting out the Boss will accept that, but if not, push hard on the capacity issue andbe clear that you are not in a position to work more to make up the lsot time.

    7. EmbracesTrees*

      This was my first response.

      What?? Your boss wants you to commit 20 hours (2/hrs x 8 weeks PLUS “meeting regularly with a coworker buddy”) but is implying that you won’t be doing this on work time, or won’t have a comparable cut back on obligations?

      If OP isn’t allowed to opt out, they need to use Alison’s language of “if you want me to this, I won’t be able to complete X, Y, or Z. Which would you like to be prioritized?”

      1. Sloanicota*

        I would fear the meetings with coworker buddy are expected to happen during lunch. A lot of workplaces don’t have mandated lunch anyway. I really hope OP gets to pick their coworker buddy, as that seems to be a huge factor in whether this is at all acceptable.

      2. Yellow Rose*

        Whaaat?!? You’re not donating your time to further the education/career goals of the Boss’ guru? For shame! /sarc

      3. Ayla*

        I think its possible manager sees these free coaching services as a perk being offered rather than an obligation (especially if the manager is paying for coaching sessions personally). If so, that would explain the expectation that it be done on 0ersonal time and also hopefully make it easier to opt out.

        1. JustaTech*

          Gad, that’s like a boss I had who was shocked (shocked!) that no one else was excited for the idea of doing journal club at 5:30 on Friday afternoons. “I’ll bring the beer!”
          None of us drank beer.
          5:30 was after our usual quitting time (which he would have known if he could ever have been bothered to come down to the lab).
          None of us we grad students who would be expected to enjoy journal club.
          (“Journal Club” in science parlance is when someone picks a scientific paper for the group to rip to shreds as a learning exercise.)

          Just because you-the-boss like to do something does not mean that your employees will see it as a perk rather than another obligation/burden.

    8. Lacey*

      Yes, I think revisiting this with both the time and the boundary crossing as the center of it, rather than the lack of science, would work better.

    9. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this. Has the manager really processed the fact that the staff is being asked to put in extra hours with no adjustment in workload? Or has their enthusiasm for the “coach” caused them to blank out on the implications for work flow? It’s definitely worth raising the issue.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed about the time involved.
      2 hrs per week times 8 weeks times # of employees times $/hr

      Does the boss realize he is donating a chunk of change to his friend?

      There is no sure-fire way to calculate the lost work, missed deadlines, employee frustration and upset, etc.

  4. AnonForThisToday*

    Good Grief.
    I remember several years being forced to take part in a “job coaching” run by our Scrum master – that rapidly turned into pseudo therapy during work hours by a non licensed practitioner… me breaking down in tears multiple times… she deciding I needed to get a divorce because she was a divorcee herself (I’m still happily married to this day btw)…

    … and one day I walked into the department head’s office and declared I was opting out of the “job coaching”. Just like that the nightmare was over. Because I did not ask for permission, I stated a fact.

    Please try this OP, and all the best!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Holy hell, that is terrible!
      Glad you opted out.
      I can imagine the delusional job coach pointing to you as a successful “graduate” of her program. Whatever helps her sleep at night! You are free.

      1. AnonForThisToday*

        Actually, she wasn’t even a job coach per se, just a Scrum Master after one of those six week courses, running Scrum (with lots of cringe worthy Scrum games) for my development team.
        She also did the unlicensed pseudo therapy mumbo jumbo (take your statement, write down the opposite, write down the opposite of *that*, and declare the result to be your ACTUAL true statement the way you REALLY meant it) with some of my more vulnerable colleagues. Who also lokked rather haggard after their sessions.

        She didn’t lay off of me after that, either.

        She waylaid me in the hallway and declared me to be “a loner” and that being the reason I broke off therap…, ah, “job coaching”. I gave her a cutting angry answer forbidding her to *ever diagnose me again*.
        That led to a conference with Bad Supervisor – she and Scrum Mistress decided I needed to improve communication with the development team – by sitting in the office of Scrum Mistress for four weeks!!

        I fought tooth and nail against all the bullshit.
        And one day she suddenly “had burnout” and left in a drama filled exit that involved tears and wailing in a large meeting.

        I said no several times and refused the mumbo jumbo, and it was the Right.Decision.Every.Single.Time.
        We don’t do Scrum games anymore. ;-)

    2. JayNay*

      SO glad for you that you did this! job coaches who overstep their boundaries seem way too common.

    3. kiki*

      Yikes! So sorry you had to deal with that for as long as you did. Yeah, while there are good, professional job coaches out there, it’s way too easy for unqualified folks to trample boundaries and cause damage.

    4. Danniella Bee*

      I am so sorry you went through that! I had an Agile Coach once that decided I needed mentoring from her, it was a nightmare. She started randomly showing up to observe me do my job, interrupted me when I was mid-sentence communicating with team members, took over my job tasks to show me the “right way” in the middle of meetings, and would bring long lists of things I was doing wrong that were really just personality attacks to these “coaching sessions.” This went on for about two months until I snapped and told her I was no longer attending these sessions, and I removed her from every single team meeting by creating entirely new series of events and not including her. She was not missed by anyone.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Two months?! You’re a better person than I am, because I wouldn’t have lasted two days.

      2. AnonForThisToday*

        Our Scrum Mistress From Hell did very similar stuff.
        There also were regular shouting matches between her and the product owner in our Scrum reviews.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    Nopety nope nope. (Had to get that off my chest.)

    On to useful advice:
    1) Try to opt out. “Not my thing, but I know others are excited to participate! *big smile* So how ’bout those new llama colors?”
    2) If you cannot opt out and don’t want to expend more capital fighting it, lie. Pick the answers that seem most boring to you. The results aren’t that accurate? Trust me, you will not be the only one experiencing that. Possibly you can study up on how to score “mauve triangle” and possibly you will have to wing it.

    1. Observer*

      The results aren’t that accurate? Trust me, you will not be the only one experiencing that.

      Snort. So, so true!

      1. Seawren*

        I had to do a (very expensive) personality assessment for work. The results were mostly OK, but one of the big recommendations was that I had to get “more comfortable with numbers”. I’m an analyst. All I do is work with numbers. I’m the Queen of Excel. If I were any more comfortable with numbers, my husband would have to sleep in the guest room.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “If I were any more comfortable with numbers, my husband would have to sleep in the guest room.”

          Bwah! Now I have to clean tea off of my keyboard.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            Coke snot laugh!
            Note to self: do not take a big gulp of soda prior to reading answers from the gallery….

        2. Meep*

          I don’t necessarily think personality tests are entirely meritless. They actually do help figure out how to communicate with people. The main problem is that not enough people have nearly enough introspection to result in meaningful results for the test taker. This leads to people with an overabundance of confidence appearing competent and those with some self-doubt looking incompetent. In your case, the way you answered made you seem not confident with numbers.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Reminds me of the rule about physicists not trusting the abilities of anyone who claims to really understand quantum mechanics.

            The most confident are often people whose entire knowledge of a field is a half-remembered article they read a few months back.

          2. F.M.*

            I think that is a problem with the tests, though; because by now, they should have Dunning-Kruger in mind when being designed. I was far more confident in my grasp of the skill that’s the core of my entire career after two semesters studying it–I had all the basics, just needed to work on retention and some corner cases!–than I am now that I’ve studied, worked with, and TAUGHT that same skill for several years. Now I know enough to know how much I don’t know.

            If a test can’t take into account the blithe confidence of the amateur and the crisp self-awareness of one’s limitations in a professional, it shouldn’t be trying to measure that area.

      2. This is Artemesia*

        I know the scientific base is sketchy, but I was on a very dysfunctional board of a professional organization which spent thousands flying us in twice a year and then subjected us to hours of wheel spinning. Finally they hired someone who administered MB to everyone and then grouped us. One other guy and I were in a category that basically meant – results oriented, plan the work, work the plan, focus on outcomes. EVERYONE else was in the category that meant dither and blue sky and rethink and speculate and be creative and avoid actually ever DOING anything. It was like the scales fell from our eyes. It totally explained what we were experiencing — and the group as a whole was actually able to confront this and make progress.

        I’d however be sympathetic to the idea that this stuff can be weaponized. It is fairly easy to game any personality test by imagining the kind of person rewarded in your setting and inhabiting them as you answer with the things you imagine they would choose. On personality tests it is also important to admit to one or two very minor faults as those are honesty controls. So you don’t say yes to ‘I often fantasize about stabbing people’ — although you are probably doing that at that very moment — but do admit to ‘sometimes telling little lies to protect people’s feelings.’

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I had a similar experience. I don’t know which test it was, but I was both “detail-oriented” and “leader.”
          Everyone else was some version of – “I’ll avoid conflict till it kills me” and “I think conflict is anything short of saying you are perfect to everyone and I’m happy to do anything you ask every time you ask.” So that is why they felt like I was a bull in a china shop most of the time.

          The thing was, my boss’s boss fell in love with this testing and for a year BEFORE SHE BROUGHT THE TESTER PERSON IN, she assigned me tasks based on what she thought I was. Spoiler, I was not that thing.

          I think the problem for the OP is that they might be making decisions about projects and tasks based on the outcome of the testing. OP’s best option is really to opt out. For the test I took, I don’t think I could have gamed the system very effectively.

        2. allathian*

          Some tests can be useful in a work setting, if they actually measure something that’s related to how you prefer to work, rather than personality. Work preferences can sometimes be modified, but trying to change someone’s basic personality and temperament is futile at best. Temperaments can and do change, but usually only as a result of trauma, and in a bad way.

          We did a work preferences test when I’d been in my current job for about a year. My coworker was very conscientious, but I valued quantity over quality. At the time, the important thing for me was to clear my inbox of work as quickly as possible, even if it meant poor quality. I got a wake-up call, and some very necessary on the job training. It was effective too, although it really only worked after my coworker left for pastures new and it took six months to recruit her replacement. I overcompensated, and became a perfectionist. Suddenly it was hard for me to let go of my work, and I kept second-guessing myself even after I’d submitted a job as done. A few years later being this hard on myself contributed to my near-burnout, and I had to learn that in most cases 95% or even 90% is good enough. I find that some 20 years into my current career, I’ve finally reached a good place!

        3. Bert*

          It’s not scetchy, it’s nonsence.

          The only ones saying it’s in any way accurate are the people selling it.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes! One more to add-
      3) Conveniently forget or be too busy. Every other week be too busy working on High Priority Thing, but you’ll “hopefully have time next week”.

      1. L'étrangere*

        And another possibility 4) have your real therapist object as an ADA issue, that participation in forced fake psycho games would be injurious to your mental health. But really, 1 and 2, you don’t owe the truth to any employer

  6. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    So basically you and your coworkers have been drafted into spending 5% or more of your working hours doing uncompensated, productivity reducing, psuedoscientific nonsense in order to help your boss do someone else who doesn’t even work for your company a favor. Wow. I would just say no and let the chips fall where they may. Any pushback would be met with a request for some hard data on how this will improve your company’s bottom line.

    1. Clobberin' Time*

      This is key. I know we’re all horrified at the intrusion, but the truth is, Boss is forcing his employees to donate unpaid labor in order to help a buddy of his get a professional certification.

      I wonder whether that is considered ethical in whatever field she’s supposedly in.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    1) all personality tests are non-scientific because the results cannot be exactly duplicated over and over again. You may want to tell your boss that, but I’ve never met anyone who changed their feelings about personality tests after I told them that.

    2) legit personality test results aren’t supposed to be shared with anyone else but yourself. Anything beyond that is a scam or incompetence.

    3) find a buddy who doesn’t give a crap either and spend your regular meetings talking about the new season of Outlaws because it’s so good!

    4) Please go watch the King of the Hill episode where Peggy gets her PhD via mail. I’m envisioning this coach as a Peggy Hill type.

    1. Hermione Granger*

      Agree with all your points, except #1: just because a test doesn’t have 100% test-retest reliability doesn’t mean it’s unscientific. That being said, there are several well-tested personality measures that show strong reliability across tests (e.g., the Big Five Inventory). Personality tests have lots of limitations (e.g., oftentimes a respondent is asked to describe our typical behaviors, but based on their mood/experiences that day, they may remember different aspects about themselves more/less acutely). Well-validated personality measures are scientific, as they go through multiple validation and replicability tests, and can be useful for analyzing population-based correlations (e.g., high rates of psychopathic personality traits are found among CEOs).

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. In marketing there’s something called a typing tool which is used to determine groups of the population with certain values or behaviors (for example, folks that eat ice cream daily vs those that see it as a “special treat”). This measures personality aspects to a certain degree to determine drivers/deterrents, and there is a lot of science and math that goes into creating a good typing tool.

        Most “personality tests” are not this. They should be used for entertainment and reflection purposes, not for type-casting, therapy, or predicting professional success.

      2. Bert*

        Uh, no. A test that isn’t repeatable by others is by definition unscientific.

        Literally by definition.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Your 3) is spot on, but can we talk about The Sandman? I am halfway through and have been really enjoying it!

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m a little concerned for OP, that by centering this on the pseudo-science, the coach and/or owner will push back and say “well why are you qualified to judge that?”, which could lead to them suspecting that OP is getting therapy of a certain flavor. I’d be careful to emphasize the issues of workload and weaponizing of results (buddy system, ugh), and then rely just on what’s published for the pseudo-science part – and maybe let your coworkers take the lead there.

    1. Littorally*

      Agreed. Focusing on the pseudoscience parts focuses the discussion on a judgment call about the program itself — but it doesn’t matter even if it were a valid science! OP doesn’t want to take part in this highly personal thing, doesn’t want to take time away from the work they are being paid to do in order to do it, and feels it will interfere with the healthcare they’re receiving. Those are all compelling regardless of the validity or lack thereof.

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah, if I were in this situation, I think I would get hung up on the pseudoscience, too. It’s unlikely to be the best angle for OP to push, though. There’s always some study (usually with terrible methodology) that backs up whatever flavor-of-the-month management theory is. Honestly, it risks OP looking unreasonable, since the neutral co-workers might say, “Well, coach says there’s a study so at least some of this true.”

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I’ve used the “actually it’s not” approach to shore up colleagues when a presenter is going on about how this blah blah has been proven blah blah. (I reviewed the company’s own website and the sample size is tiny, most of the study participants were excluded for not doing it properly, the age range is wrong and I didn’t do the math, but the the improvement reported has got to be smaller than the confidence interval). It’s a nice feeling to have that in your back pocket in peer discussions, but I don’t think I’d have the courage or capital to stand up and throw that at a presenter (outside of my daydreams).

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    A huge problem with this is the focus on publicly identifying your personal weaknesses so your coworkers can confront you about them. That is just begging for trouble. To the extent that I am now sketching a Leverage-based fanfic in which the coach is secretly in the employ of a competitor and wants to increase friction.

    OP has tried to point this out to the boss and he seems to believe it won’t be a problem. But this isn’t like a learning styles test, where there is no “right” and “wrong” style just different approaches, and if you know Gladys likes to look at a bunch of examples and then generalize that’s useful when you work together, especially if your own approach is very different.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      That would be a great Leverage episode. Sophie or Harry as the dissension-sowing coach, Hardison or Breanna ensuring that online testing gives the most awful possible results, Parker planted as a new employee throwing non sequiturs like grenades… yeah. I can totally see it.

    2. Storm in a teacup*

      Was coming here to say something similar! We have done a communication & approach styles test at work (Colours one) and everyone is v bought into it.
      It is I would say relatively successful in that we all got our own results and then there was a practical discussion on how to cater for everyone’s styles ( having a formal agenda to keep yellows on track, sending things out for review in advance to give blues time to think, knowing my red boss doesn’t need me to type pleasantries into an email etc….)
      We also looked at our overall team dynamics – what are we good at, where are the gaps so we can work better. I think the fact we’ve made some practical changes to how we work together and communicate has helped me feel the exercise was worthwhile.
      Having something where there is no right or wrong was key. I too would be horrified if asked to call out colleague weaknesses or have mine discussed.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Also to add – ours was a 2hour session at a quarterly meeting and then short follow ups every few months to check in with people on how things are going. The time commitment to this sounds ludicrous

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this is crucial. The only tests that I feel are acceptable at work are those that promote understanding without judgement, and where there’s no right or wrong way to do things.

    3. Koalafied*

      Yeah, I’ve seen this kind of thing implemented in a way that was genuinely helpful, and the testing was in no way geared to identify “weaknesses” (or “strengths” for that matter). It was oriented around communication and work styles – it’s been a while now but I remember a four-quadrant grid where one axis was ask vs tell communication preferences and one related to more of an emotional vs logical orientation. The program *was* scientifically based and had test-retest reliability, and only ask about actual observable behaviors, not thoughts or feelings.

      In the workshops, instead of being told our results and then instructed how we should operate because of those results, the results were used to prompt discussion – we split into our four groups based on the test results, then were given hypothetical scenarios we would talk about first with our own group, then the groups would come together and compare notes on how each type reacted to the hypothetical. This was great because the groups were just as likely to report that while everyone in the group agreed on X, there was a variety of feelings about Z, so the format allowed for recognition that even though we have these broad typologies, everyone is still an individual.

      None of the typologies were coded as being clearly better or worse than the others, so the net effect was really that we gained more awareness of how what seems to you like the obvious natural interpretation or course of action in a situation might not be how everyone on your team sees things, and we learned how to approach situations in a way that would meet the needs of all 4 styles. This way, too, as people leave and new people get hired, the training didn’t stop being useful, because it was never about “How to work optimally with Koalafied’s personality type,” it was about, “How to work optimally with any given diverse group of people who approach work in different ways.”

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Yes this sounds very similar to what our work is doing / has done and I think you’re spot on re:
        “It was about how to work optimally with any given diverse group of people who approach work in different ways.”

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I did a fun one with negotiation styles. The scenario is that we were 3 different communities negotiating with a company about building a factory to the region which would bring jobs and money, but have costs with land/water use, resource extraction, increased population, and pollution. They split us into 3 groups. One group was given a very direct, profit driven, winner takes all style, another was given a more consensus based style where the majority had to agree, and the last was a group that wanted 100% buy in from all before any decisions. Each group came up with a negotiations strategy and plan for what we wanted done. The facilitators played the role of the company and brought all three groups together to make a deal on 10 topics (we finished 4). It was fascinating.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Yes, especially since I would be VERY cautious about using any personality test to recognise weaknesses and certainly to recognise them in anybody else. I am no expert on this, but I have my doubts any test could accurately identify weaknesses in every single person who does it, even those who have limited self-awareness and are bad at knowing how to answer these questions.

      I’ve mentioned before that I often get students to do learning styles assessments, but it largely for themselves and some will say “oh YEAH, THAT’S why I find such a subject so difficult.” (I had one student who got a low score on aural learning and pointed out, extremely accurately, that that was why he was having difficulty with particularly class because the teacher, while excellent, generally used methods very much aimed at that particular learning style.) Others get nothing at all from it. I have only ever pointed out a weakness if a) it was something that confirmed what I already noticed and b) was something that the student was concerned about. For example, a student who was very worried about how he was struggling in woodwork getting a low result for kinaesthetic learning and high for reading and writing. “See, that might be why you find English, History and Geography so much easier than woodwork. Because you do best learning from books.”

      Identifying a student’s weaknesses solely on a test would be problematic (and for that reason, there is some pushback against learning styles as they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if a student just decides “well, I’m not a kinaesthetic learner, so I’m not going to be good at woodwork or art, so there’s no point in my trying”). And some students are clearly answering at random or with what “sounds like a good answer.” Like “how would most people do that?” rather than “what do I like best?” in which cases they are completely useless.

      Even learning styles tests have only been helpful to me as ONE tool. Sometimes they draw my attention to a pattern. Oh, THAT’S why Johnny never follows along in his book while I’m reading. It’s not that he’s daydreaming. It’s that he learns better by listening than reading, so he is just sitting back and listening to me read rather than just sitting back staring into space.”

      If Johnny gets a result that says he is poor at say kinaesthetic learning, but always gets good grades in woodwork, then either there is a problem with the result or he is motivated enough to overcome whatever he finds difficult about it or he has found a way to learn woodwork through the methods that work for him and to tell Johnny “no, you’re not allowed to choose woodwork” based on the result alone would be problematic.

      I’ve gone a little off on a tangent, but I think the same applies to judging weaknesses based solely off a personality test. In some cases, it can explain why somebody may be struggling with something, but if they are NOT struggling, then the fact that a test says their personality indicates they should…is kinda meaningless.

      The emphasis on weaknesses also strikes me as problematic even if the test WERE entirely scientific, as it’s usually more helpful to focus on people’s strengths.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        See, my middle school looked at the tests and went “oh, KoiFeeder is bad at aural learning, so we’re going to put her in more listening classes to improve that.”

        I got worse at it by the end of the year, according to their test.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, that’s a risk. Certainly there’s some merit in the idea that people, and especially kids, should try to improve in fields where they’re weak. But that said, catering to different learning styles will give more people a positive learning experience, and that’s the point of getting an education, to learn things. It shouldn’t really matter how you learn, as long as you learn.

          Thankfully, as an adult, I’m usually able to choose how I learn. I’m a fast reader, and I find watching videos to be a waste of time, and given the choice, would far rather read the script in less than half the time it would take to watch the video.

          I managed to get my employer’s e-learning procedures changed a bit. Most courses now give the option to read the material rather than to watch a video. When that’s not possible, videos include captions, so I watch it on mute and read the captions when I don’t have access to the script. I just don’t learn by listening, unless I take copious notes. But I got the scripts included by stating it as an accessibility issue. For some, it was a surprise to learn that there are people who don’t think videos are a good way to learn things.

          That said, if videos are bad, audio recordings are worse. At least I can enjoy visual entertainment, but I never listen to talk radio, podcasts, or audiobooks. I’ve only listened to one audiobook, and that was purely because I like the narrator’s voice to the point that I’d happily listen to him listing random numbers. I don’t remember anything about the contents of the book, though!

          1. Irish Teacher*

            You sound a bit like me. Well, I can learn by listening, but seeing…nope. And videos don’t work for me at all. I am often annoyed when googling instructions for something. “Can I just get a written version?!”

            I did the learning styles test myself before using it to see how accurately it would match my learning style and…I got something like 10 or 12 for reading or writing and 1 for visual. I’m aphantasic, so that probably plays a part too.

            And yeah, as a teacher I’d far rather focus on students’ strengths than their weaknesses. Of course some skills are necessary, like numeracy and literacy, but I don’t see a point to making things more difficult just for the sake of it.

            1. Selina Luna*

              I learn fine by video, but instructions over video are just bad. Like, I’m trying to repair a dishwasher, you’re moving faster than I ever could, and I have to keep touching my phone with my hands covered in goop. Please, just give me the dang steps in writing.

        2. linger*

          It would matter a lot whether the aural classes were used for material that was actually interesting to you. Interest is about the only way to motivate development of a learning style; if the lesson involves old or boring material, why would any student pay attention to it?
          On the other hand, if the classes presented material that was new and also important to the school curriculum (so that the student would need to learn it), actively choosing a presentation method known to be less efficient for that student would almost guarantee less successful learning. So lessons for developing learning styles have to find materials that are interesting, but not critical to the curriculum. It’s a difficult needle to thread: on the one hand, the teacher is under pressure to use lesson time for the curriculum, and on the other, students are less motivated to pay attention to material they know won’t help with the curriculum.

  10. Someone Online*

    I am always surprised when reading these letters that people are thinking they will have to truly disclose personal weaknesses. Your weaknesses are the same types of things you would disclose in a job interview that asked that question: minor things that can be improved in efficiency but really have no bearing on you as a person or human being. Gosh, I have trouble keeping a tidy to-do list! Sometimes I get so involved in a project I don’t check my email for three hours. In other words – what are you willing to have someone else coach you on? Voila, that’s your problem.

      1. Double A*

        Ha, it may seem like a “good” weakness but as a teacher I have to say it’s my perfectionist students that I worry about the most and think have the most amount of growth and work to do.

        1. Blarg*

          Thank you for recognizing this. My fourth grade teacher was the first one to celebrate my mistakes and dramatically improved my life. It’s still a struggle for me, but honestly, teachers who can help kids see that, no matter what’s happening at home, at school it is safe to make mistakes, and that’s how we grow, are a blessing. Thank you, and thanks to Ms. Santillo, who died 20+ years ago but I still think of her often.

        2. Ginger Baker*

          ^this 100%. I had to *ban erasers* for my then-first-grader for several years because given the opportunity they would erase and re-do for HOURS since it “wasn’t good”. Getting this kiddo to get comfortable just going for it sometimes has been a decade+ process that is definitely not over yet (and definitely impacts their life in not-great ways) and is much more difficult to work on in many ways than their anger management issues, which got mostly resolved/managed decently by 16-ish.

          1. Blarg*

            I worked for the Census in 2010, and I ended up in a role where my job was to correct the forms that the door to door enumerators submitted.

            It was … amazing. I got to sit at home on the couch erasing other people’s errors/illegible handwriting and correcting them. Sigh. That was a great gig.

          2. cubone*

            I remember being sent to like, a remedial motor skills session as a child because the teacher asked who could cut straight lines with scissors and I said I couldn’t yet. Then I get there and they’re like “’re doing it absolutely fine?” And I was like no, it’s not PERFECTLY cut on the line.

        3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Yes. It is legitimately my biggest weakness and it has negative affects on me, my growth, and the people around me.

        4. kiki*

          Not a teacher but +10000
          So much of growth is failure and willingness to do something at a mediocre-level over and over until you get better. Additionally, in the real world things can’t always be perfect. My peers with healthy attitudes about failure have far surpassed recovering-perfectionist me in a lot of ways.

        5. Koalafied*

          Yeah, the trouble with offering that as a weakness is it’s a pervasive one that would touch everything you do.

          To me, you usually want to offer up a weakness that is largely irrelevant to what your job requires, and demonstrates that you’ve correctly chosen a job that aligns with your strengths and weaknesses, rather than describing the ways that you’re weak at your current job. Think about a job you would be terrible at that’s very different from your own, and then name the skill it requires that your job doesn’t as your weakness. If you’re a designer, maybe you would hate being a salesperson because you’re not comfortable with pressuring people who are on the fence about a decision. If you’re working/applying to a consultancy firm, maybe you would hate being in-house somewhere because your weakness is that you get bored when you work on one issue/account for too long and do better when there’s regular variety in your work.

        6. This is Artemesia*

          This — perfectionism and the accompanying self blame is basically a flaming marker for immaturity. Such a person is a poor candidate for leadership generally.

        7. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Absolutely this! My perfectionists are the sweetest young humans and come up with the coolest projects (mitosis pizza, viscosity measuring robots), but holy moly! they take up so much of my teaching time because I have to reassure them that yes, they understood the question; yes, this is what I wanted and yes, you did it right. You can just see the total distress on their faces when I try to encourage them to trust their gut or add a next step. I hate to do that to them and make them work it out on their own, but I also have kids who won’t put pen to paper unless I’m working with them. It’s really hard to balance the needs, especially when you have the sinking feeling you’re enabling the anxiety instead of helping.

      2. cubone*

        Sweet lord no it is not. Perfectionistic thinking and behaviours have been shown in may studies across time to have a very high correlation to depression and su*c*de.

          1. cubone*

            There is more and more research that points to using perfectionistic thinking as a mental health screening tool because it is such a strong indicator for a host of struggles, and often points to less ability to cope, adapt, tolerate distress etc. On a personal, non scientific note, I sometimes really wonder if one day we will actually understand it as it’s own illness or disorder, and not a “personality trait”.

            On a more personal note, I will say I went to therapy to deal with PTSD and a couple different mental illnesses diagnoses. All of that specific treatment was helpful, but none of it holds a candle to the changes in my life when I addressed my perfectionism in-depth with a therapist.

            Nothing makes me sadder than continuing this narrative that perfectionism is a totally normal, good, successful thing. It’s a horrible, horrible way to interact with your world and your self.

          2. sometimeswhy*

            My most difficult colleague and my most in-need-of-direction report are both perfectionists. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good to the point that it slows and sometimes stops work combined with a blank lack of understanding that not getting it done at all is worse than it not being perfect is the thing that makes me want to lay on the floor and stare/scream at the ceiling the most.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It very much is not. I’d rather have generalists on my team than a perfectionist who’ll spend far too long on a single issue.

        (Also, being a perfectionist – reformed – myself I can say it’s an incredible mental stress and not good for you at all. Even people in detail orientated professions like programming or editing need to have a ‘that’s good enough’ point)

      4. Khatul Madame*

        Whoa people, slow your roll! What happened to context? When you are asked about your weaknesses, perfectionism sounds much better than poor spelling or “not being a morning person”. He!!, one could even lie and admit to being a perfectionist when they are not.
        I am very familiar with struggles of perfectionism and am even now dealing with long-ranging concomitant effects. However, I do understand that the type of hiring manager that still uses this stupid question in interviews would not have a deep understanding of a perfectionist’s psychology and all the baggage that comes with it, so this would be an easy way to win points.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think saying you are a perfectionist in a job interview usually doesn’t come across well as it’s sort of known as what people say when they don’t want to admit to their real weaknesses. I admit I am not a hiring manager, but I’ve heard that suggested as a “way to claim you’ll be a really good worker while pretending you are answering the question” that if I were doing an interview and somebody said that, I’d probably assume they were lying or at least just giving a set answer without thinking it through. I assume people who do interview are even more used to hearing it used that way and more likely to roll their eyes at it.

          Like I said, I’ve never hired anybody, but personally, if I were doing so, I would far prefer to hear “poor spelling, so I always take care to proofread,” than “perfectionist.”

    1. Not a regular*

      I think in part it has to do with how these sorts of things are presented. In my opinion they often overstate what they’ll find and the impact to your life in a way that’s almost cult like because part of their power comes from being able to claim draw insights into people.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It sounds quite time consuming, and so I assume the tests are much more vague and lengthy than “State your greatest work challenge.” That doesn’t take 2 hrs/week for a few months.

      I can understand OP’s fear that if she answers a bunch of questions along the line of “Are you an iguana or a penguin?” “Rate these seven personality traits in order of importance to the business” and so on, it will come back “Your problem is anxiety!” or something else that hits close to home. That the path to “Your problem is that your to-do list is untidy” will not be at all evident from the 16 hours of multiple choice tests.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        To that end, though, these tests are so often garbage that through layers of multiple “are you an iguana or a penguin” and “which pizza topping is your personal key to unlocking the secrets of productivity” and “what’s your Hogwarts house” tests…lots of people are going to score on things that are almost a relevant as a horoscope. And typically the actual results are so vague and nebulous that “you will be contacted by a mysterious stranger” is really just a stranger who has been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty, and “You’re really anxious” can just be spun as “Of course – I am worrying about how to fit in all my work along with these tests.”

        Opt out, obviously, but if you absolutely can’t, just think of them like a horoscope and connect each dot to something super boring and mundane.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          This reminds me of when my sister did this sort of association test. It was not a supposedly scientific one, it was just for fun, but it does illustrate something. Anyway, it was your associations with certain animals. What word would you use to describe a dog, a cat and a rat, among others? And the explanation was that the way you describe a dog indicates how you see yourself, how you describe a cat indicates how you feel about your SO and how you describe a rat, how you see your worst enemy. The issue was my sister hates cats and actually quite likes rats, so she said something like “cute” for the rat and “eww, get it away from me” for the cat.

          I would hope these tests aren’t that ridiculous, but…it does show something about how they can be based on assumptions and while assuming everybody likes cats and hates rats is probably ridiculous enough that most tests used in workplaces wouldn’t use it, there ARE cultural assumptions that can affect these things.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think part of the fear is that if someone has diagnosable anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, Autism, etc., is that those things aren’t really that secret to begin with. There is plausible cover and coping strategies, but coworkers etc. usually pick up that something is not within the “normal” range already. It’s pretty easy for a person without any challenges to dismiss that these tests can be very manipulative and stereotyping, even for folks who don’t have any mental or physical issues. So for the tidy to-do list example, coworkers have already noticed if a coworker is way beyond the “normal” amount of disorganized or distracted, and now we have a test result and untrained individuals “helping,” gosh I hope they don’t just tell someone with anxiety to try harder or get over it.

    4. Rolly*

      “I am always surprised when reading these letters that people are thinking they will have to truly disclose personal weaknesses. Your weaknesses are the same types of things you would disclose in a job interview that asked that question:”


      Either be more explicit about now wanting to participate, or give bland answers about things you actually want to improve on.

      “I really don’t want to do this program! ”
      Figure out how to say that. If the boss is as generally OK as it sounds, he needs this info.

    5. Sara without an H*

      Hi, Someone Online — While the thread got a bit distracted about perfectionism, I’d like to say +1 to your original point. I’m an introvert and at various points in my career, I’ve worked at places that wanted to do “sharing” — details varied, but they always involved more self-disclosure than I was comfortable with. It all became much easier when I developed a “kit” of topics that sounded personal but weren’t really.

    6. CPegasus*

      Honestly, it’s weird! I have the same tendency to just assume I have to be truthful and I don’t know where it comes from, either. It sounds super obvious when someone tells you that you can just make something up, but somehow that idea had to come from outside.

  11. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Man am I ever glad that my boss looked at the “learning types” quizzes from HR and told us to, and I quote, “Have us much fun with this as you see fit, no, don’t do this at lunch or on your own time”. And then our small department snarked our way through them and guffawed over the obvious “yeah that’s not how any of us function”….

    I vote for informing boss en masse that the workload doesn’t allow it, personally opting out by stating the fact that you will be, and “having as much fun with it as you see fit”, in that order.

    1. ferrina*

      We did a “personality test” to see what Harry Potter house we went into. That was a fun team-building experience.
      Ironically, the top two managers were Slytherins, but they tended to hire Gryffindors.

      1. allathian*

        Ha! How did the managers react to that? Granted, Slytherins and Gryffindors share a lot of similar traits, given how Harry could’ve been sorted into Slytherin if he hadn’t been so set against it. I’ve also done that test for fun a few times, although not at work, and I’m always either a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        That makes sense though – Slytherins are extremely ambitious folks with a large number of Gryffindor-esque traits. Gryffindors don’t typically have that kind of ambition – so for a Slytherin manager, it makes sense to hire someone with similar traits BUT won’t be perceived (by them) as a threat to their own position.

        Also, we used to refer to an extremely ambitious manager as The Slytherin.

  12. Bilateralrope*

    Maybe ask the provider some awkward questions. For example, ask this coach what she is doing to prevent anyone weaponizing any private information that comes out in these sessions.

    Or just look into the legalities of your employer forcing you into something like this. Just in case you need a bit more leverage when you opt out.

    1. Observer*

      Or just look into the legalities of your employer forcing you into something like this. Just in case you need a bit more leverage when you opt out.

      What legalities are you thinking of? I can’t think of any – this is not medical treatment or any other regulated type of endeavor.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        Depending on the flavor of pseudoscience, it’s *possible* that there’s a link to a religious sect or some such.

        But there’s a reason speculation is discouraged in the comments. I think OP is on firmer footing talking about this as an excessive drain on their time.

  13. Clefairy*

    Probably the unpopular opinion here, but this sounds a lot like 5 Dysfunctions, which my team does every year and I actually have gotten quite a bit out of developmentally. It’s totally possible to participate without revealing your personal medical diagnoses- I also have ADHD, and honestly I found it pretty helpful/insightful to see how my coworkers perceive me, which I’ve used to directly tackle how I try to manage my condition at work. I get that this program (if it’s the one I went through) sounds intrusive- you are totally able to participate at your level, and you only have to share what you want to share. I think it would be possible to still get a lot out of it even if you sensor what you share! I found it to be a pretty good team builder and developmental tool, so hopefully if you do participate, you end up getting something out of it :)

    I do think it’s a bit crazy that it’s going to be taking up 2 hours a week with no reduction in workload though. When we did it last year, it was only one hour a week, and our schedules already have 1-2 hours a week built in for development so there was already space in our schedule for it. I’d def push back on this!

    1. Clobberin' Time*

      It doesn’t matter if you found it helpful. The OP doesn’t want to do this and shouldn’t be forced to.

      1. Clefairy*

        …I’m allowed to share my experience and opinion. Also, OP absolutely can be forced to do this if that’s how their company wants to proceed. Pardon me for trying to share that it may not be as bad as they are anticipating.

        1. Observer*

          Except that the OP specifically asked that no one try to tell them how they need to give it a chance and it’s not as bad as they think.

          And while the boss can force them to do this nonsense, that does not mean that they SHOULD be forced. There are a LOT of things that bosses can force their employees to do, that are actually deeply, deeply dysfunctional. If the strongest defense of an action is that “the boss is allowed to do it / the boss has the power to do this” that’s a sign that the item at hand is likely to be a problem.

          1. Clefairy*

            So, if the OP said that, I totally missed it, which is my bad! I even just reread it and I’m not seeing her ask that specifically, but as I mentioned above, I do have ADHD, so I could be totally missing that. My chiming in was more based on her saying this:

            “Do you have any tips for navigating personality-based testing with minimal invasiveness or friction? Are there any answers I can give that will make my coworkers continue to think, “Wow, she’s nice, good at her job, and boring”?”

            I personally felt like my response was appropriate based on those questions the OP asked. The sad fact is, many companies WILL require that they participate- 5 Dysfunctions is a requiement at my job, and you’d be REALLY outside of my company’s culture if you refused to do it. I was trying to share a positive outlook from someone with similar challenged to OP.

          2. Stray Fatcat*

            No, OP didn’t. Alison noted in her reply that this is often people’s first response but Clefairy is speaking from the perspective of someone with similar diagnoses about the ability to maintain privacy, which is actually right in line with what the OP was asking.

            Of COURSE bosses ask people to do things that they shouldn’t. Alison offered some ways to push back, and this response was helpful in framing the experience if OP can’t. No one is arguing this isn’t a problem or that OP *shouldn’t* be able to opt out without consequence.

            1. Clefairy*

              Thank you for responding. I think people are genuinely misinterpreting my motives, I appreciate you jumping in!

        2. Rolly*

          “I’ve thought about this more, and I am not comfortable participating. I’ve looked into the program further and it crosses boundaries that I’m not comfortable with at work. So I’m planning to opt out and wanted to let you know.”

          THIS. Just say it. Say it. And get others to say something similar.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          It’s not really useful to the OP, though? I mean, you don’t know which test it is, or how the coach would handle OP trying to participate at a lower level, or any number of other variables. Just because it might be a little pinch and not a bee sting doesn’t change the fact that OP doesn’t want to do it!

          1. blood orange*

            The commenter is providing what they believe is a potentially similar experience that they have enjoyed. That could be useful to OP or to anyone reading these comments. Take it or leave it.

    2. EPLawyer*

      It’s not even for someone certified in this pseudoscience mumbo jumbo. it’s someone who is LEARNING it. Which means it will be all kinds of messed up 6 ways from Sunday.

      The OP said its her personal nightmare. Saying “oh it won’t be that bad” is actually not helping OP deal with this. It is minimizing her concerns because your experience wasn’t that bad.

      OP just flat out opt out. Tell your boss that. You can point out the effect on productivity. I mean he wants you to be more of a team, but then will do something that harms productivity.

    3. miss chevious*

      I haven’t participated in the 5 Dysfunctions, but I’ve done a couple of these and have gotten similar things out of them without disclosing any diagnoses or really personal things. These kinds of things have been valuable in understanding how other people perceive me and how they would like to be treated, and have also allowed me to focus on enhancing work skills. I completely understand OP’s reticence and the lack of adjustments to workload is not cool, but these tools can be helpful, even though they aren’t scientific. I treat them a little like horoscopes: the insight is not in the horoscope itself, but in how the recipient reacts to the horoscope.

      OP, if you can’t get out of participating, I hope that it’s something that will give you some useful work insights.

  14. Mockingjay*

    The number one question to ask about team building: what problem are we trying to solve?

    It sounds like Boss needs business alignments, not personnel alignments. The coach might be helping him focus, but personal ‘weakness’ coaching isn’t the solution for three different business units.

    If you have a good relationship and capital with the Boss, offer alternatives. “Boss, I’m opting out of the coaching program. We’ve got X, Y, and Z going on and I have little time to spare. Regarding your concern about aligning the units, how about we form a series of mini-committees to compare business processes for HR, Finance, and Production? Get a rep from the new companies and our staff, compare policies one area at a time, and draft a combined policy that works for all. Then we tackle the next area. I think we can do this with a minimum of disruption to ongoing operations, using different volunteers each time so we don’t overload anyone.”

    Sometimes managers latch onto team building because they don’t know how to solve an issue or are out of ideas. You and your colleagues can give him workable options.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I can only see “I’ve never met Gloria from the Tulsa office, but I know her personal weakness is that she isn’t willing to appear vulnerable to the group.”

      Pre-pandemic spouse did a lot of business travel, and a big reason was so that there were personal relationships underlying the business relationships. Haranguing Gloria about how she needs to be more vulnerable with you is going to have the opposite effect.

    2. Seal*

      Nothing worse than a manager with a solution looking for a problem to solve! Our new director just put the entire staff through an all-day team-building retreat, complete with several pseudoscience personality tests. They haven’t been here long enough to actually get to know the staff and where the issues are or whether or not they exist, nor did they offer a plan to put what we learned into practice. My take is that our new director, who is already over their head in this role, thinks that having the results of all these personality tests will magically solve all of our problems, real or imagined. It did provide a bonding experience for those of us who are planning to leave, so there’s that.

  15. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Sounds like they’re trying to make you eat the Toxic Positivity Sandwich so that you will begin to barf rainbows.

  16. Heidi*

    What I want to know is exactly how mandatory is this? When “opportunities” like this have shown up at my work, it’s always on an opt-in basis. The letter didn’t exactly say that everyone had to do it or else. If they have enough enthusiastic volunteers for the coach to fufill their requirement, maybe the boss won’t care so much about everyone else not participating. Plus, the coach probably doesn’t want to work with a bunch of non-believers either.

  17. Meridian*

    OP, I don’t know if this will help alleviate your concerns, but I have depression/ anxiety / ADHD and I’ve done these types of exercises before. I’ve never heard any medical / overly personal information come out during these tests or group feedback sessions. In my experience, these sorts of things also aren’t used as a way to dig up dirt on each other. I’m not saying these things *can’t* happen, I’m just pointing out that I don’t think that it’s likely.

    Can you bring this up with your therapist? They may be able to help talk you through how to get through this exercise in a way that you are comfortable with. You may be able to pull off going the opt- out route, but since you mention you’re fairly junior in your company it might backfire on you. I don’t agree with you being forced to do this, but if you refuse to do the exercise (even if you are polite about it), you will probably lose goodwill with your boss.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Talking to your therapist might be a great idea. She might be able to pull out a bunch of points that OP would find verry useful.

  18. Erin*

    If you do end up participating, consider voicing concerns offline to a more vocal colleague.
    We did a thing with our boss’s career coach, and I didn’t interpret the personality test things as attempting to be science, but rather just ways to name patterns/defaults. Anyway, I was more open to trying to get something out of it than my colleagues , but because of that (and because of my general personality) I was also more comfortable pushing back on the presenter without looking like a “party pooper “ or whatever. I tried to name some of their concerns, which I thought were valid even if they weren’t as big a deal to me.
    Maybe someone can do something similar for you!

    1. Snow Globe*

      That’s a good suggestion. The OP said that the senior-level people are neutral or positive about the program. It is possible that some of those neutral people would be willing to bring up the objections that some other junior staff have with the program.

  19. El l*

    OP, your best play is not to talk about Personality Typing being pseudo-scientific.

    Because pretty much every personality typing is pseudo-science. Yet it’s a common corporate thing. Eye roll, but it’s not going to change.

    If you want out, just talk about how you don’t have time to do this AND meet your targets. And stick to that.

  20. Blarg*

    My non-profit org had been using one of these tools/assessments that is I’d say, ‘quasi-scientific’ at baseline at hire and with our Board, etc. I was hired during the early days of Covid, so I didn’t even know it had been used, as I guess we only had a license for paper copies. I was surprised to hear we’d been using it, as there was a question about it on an employee survey. I wrote up a little email on why I was concerned about the assessment and how it privileged certain characteristics, ignored some strengths entirely, and was likely to increase unconscious bias in the workplace. Boss reflexively pushed back initially. And then apparently there were conversations somewhere above me, and it was never brought up again.

    Assuming your company/org professes to want to be equitable, I encourage this approach. How does the tool/program improve, include, and strengthen all coworkers? Gender, race, culture, language nativity, disability, neurodiversity, age, etc. (Hint: it does not. Think how “assertiveness” is either positive or negative depending on who you are).

    1. Rolly*

      ” I wrote up a little email on why I was concerned about the assessment and how it privileged certain characteristics, ignored some strengths entirely, and was likely to increase unconscious bias in the workplace. Boss reflexively pushed back initially. And then apparently there were conversations somewhere above me, and it was never brought up again. ”

      This is great!

    2. JustaTech*

      Yes to your second paragraph. My department did a bunch of stuff about GRIT and the moderator (paid outside person) seemed very surprised when I pointed out that the GRIT evaluation was very biased against anyone with ADHD (and probably most ND folks).

      Like, don’t expect me to like an assessment tool that says I’m unproductive/lazy/will crumble under pressure because I have a brain condition (especially when there is plenty of evidence against this assertion).

  21. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I actually find psychology tests interesting, and this one had me screaming for the exit. Identifying “weaknesses” to your co-workers sounds like a disaster in the making, and using that to enforce “positivity” reminds me of the “Where’s your sparkle?” LW. Yikes.

    1. Blarg*

      The word “confront” is a deal breaker. That’s like some Scientology or other cult type thing.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        For future reference in general, if a test has the words “Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA)” anywhere near it, that is a Scientology recruitment tool and does not belong at work or even on this planet. Shove it back up Xenu’s ass and run away.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I recommend the book “Cultish” for anyone who wants to read about how cults & cult-like groups use language to influence people. Very interesting. Also some helpful tips on avoiding pyramid schemes.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ooh thank you for the rec. *puts on wish list*
          I’ve been learning about Scientology and other cult-y things for a future project. This will come in handy.

  22. irene adler*

    OP- I an with you- this is a crock.
    Wondering: Might there be reason the medical professionals you are seeing now would to object to your participating in this stuff? Like it might be detrimental to your treatment? Can you get a doctor’s note to reinforce the opt-out?

    (OP: not suggesting that you discuss your medical issues here on this site. )

  23. Goody*

    My focus here is not on the woo aspect, but on the productivity issue. This is going to require approximate 2 hours a week with no reduction in workload. How are LW and their coworkers (especially the part timers who aren’t close enough to 40 hours to get overtime pay for this extra project) being compensated for this new intrusion on their personal time?

    I mean, the woo is definitely an issue, and there’s some serious boundary pushing in progress here. But using the work load and compensation as a focus might be an easier way to opt-out.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    It sounds like the real story is that this is a good method for the coach to get new clients – get an existing one to intro you to all their reports! Depending on how much this coach charges and so on, this could be an effective marketing/sales strategy

  25. Keele*

    I have also ADHD and feel exactly the same about these personality tests. In fact I just rejected an offer from a very well known company because their application process included tests which I had taken as part of my ADHD diagnosis. It felt very iffy that they might be using diagnostic criteria as a basis for selecting candidates. I’m sure that wasn’t their intention but it just put me right off the company.

  26. Taking the long way round*

    Well, I am the outlier (of sorts). I used to think personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs indicator were basically like astrology – fun but not useful – until I did one.
    I think it’s helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses in a way that a less complex 360 would’ve. However, I’ve only used it for my own personal development, I’d never use it or anything like it to make hiring decisions or performance-based decisions, and I certainly wouldn’t tell people to take part in it if they self-evidently didn’t want to! (I also wouldn’t do it because the coach seems like they’re on the hard sell, and that’s not a good enough reason to do it). I might ask people if they were interested and if they were, great.
    So I agree with Alison, to opt out.

    And the work issue needs addressing as well – 5% increase in work load with no renumeration or commensurate increase in time? No. I can totally see your point of view, OP.

    1. Blarg*

      I love the Myers-Briggs *personally.* I know that it is not real science, and it is silly to think there are essentially only 16 personality types. Half of which claim to be the “least common.” BUT boy oh boy did I feel ‘seen’ when I took it as part of a college class. And later seeing even joke-y listicles of ‘how does each type act at party’ kind of stuff made me giggle. But I wouldn’t want my result to be a part of my work. The T/F and P/J, in particular, seem rife for skewing perception of a colleague, at least in my own work settings.

      INFJ by the way. And at the party, I’m in the bathroom with a stranger, holding her hair and listening to her life story, and not being sure how that happened… again. ;)

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think a lot of these tests work really well for some people and not so well for others. Heck, I have a friend who I think got something out of the Pottermore test. She got Hufflepuff when she thought of herself as Ravenclaw and it made her think and finally she decided she agreed with it, that even though she was smart and valued intelligence, she actually did value human relationships and so on more and that her strengths were actually more in the interpersonal area than in the academic area.

      And I’ve mentioned the learning styles tests above and how some of my students find them really insightful and you can almost see the light go on when they get their result and they say, “THAT’S why I hate such a subject” or “THAT’S why such a teacher’s teaching methods don’t work for me, because he uses graphs and diagrams so much and I’m not a visual learner and find them very difficult to understand.” Others just look at the results blankly and it means no more to them than a “what country should you visit based on your food preferences test?”

      And that’s what bothers me about this, that it doesn’t seem to be being done as a “take this test and see if it resonates for you” sort of thing but rather “take this test so your coworkers can comment on your weaknesses, which seems to work on the premise it’s going to be accurate for everybody, which…I wouldn’t be confident about.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Absolutely! These kind of tests can be super helpful for self reflection (Slytherin, ENFJ for the record). Even astrology. They give you lenses to view yourself and the world a little differently and seeing ourselves in particular is something a lot of people are very bad at. It can be useful personally or professionally. I see no issue with the tests.

        However part of that value comes from them being REALLY subjective, and they are not at all appropriate to make determinations about who you hire or where someone fits on a team. I’m an extrovert. I like socializing, generally. I get energy from good social interactions. But I’m also incredibly anxious – you don’t want me on your sales team or as your party planner.

      2. Storm in a teacup*

        Ooh every single HP test I’ve done (including using the sorting hat) puts me into Hufflepuff and I’ve always felt more Ravenclaw. This is a good reflection on why.
        Oh I’ve done MB twice (online freebie) and have come out as ESFJ once and ENTJ the other. No idea what it means except the seem quite different and I resonate with both. Maybe I’m just a Mogwai / Gremlin

  27. Four of tem*

    Some years ago I was required to attend a mandatory training on violence in the workplace. They showed videos, etc. For some reason I found it terribly distressing and left during the presentation. I did not want to do it. I decided finally that I could be there (to get the item checked off) but not participate. I brought something else to do, sat in the back, maybe even had ear plugs in. If you’re already distressed thinking about it, it may be much worse doing it.
    This is all for boss’s coach who wants to get certified? Don’t do it!

  28. michaela*

    What about: make a spreadsheet with all the tnames of all the colleagues sacrossupposed to take part. Multiply the number of hours per person for each person’s hourly rate. Show the sum to your boss.
    I bet he hasn’t realized how much this is going to cost *him*

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think this is a good angle.

      Boss thinks he’s getting this for “free”, but if it’s pointed out that it’s actually 5% of his wage bill for several months it might suddenly look a bit more expensive.

      But I think LW’s strongest angle is along the lines of, “I cannot manage this on top of my current workload so I will opt out and prioritise [legitimate work projects].”

  29. Elizabeth West*

    No no no no no no no noooooo.

    All these things are just slickly packaged bullshit designed to make easy money off gullible corporations. They’re like versions of those stupid little 1970s horoscope personality tests and about as accurate. You are a professional who does not have time for bullshit. You have work to do.

  30. Lifelong student*

    I once had a boss who wanted me to go to a career coach type person- and was willing to pay for it. However, boss wanted to receive the reports from the coach. I said if boss thought it would help, I would do it- but no way would I ever allow communication from the coach to the boss. So it never happened. Yes, I was eventually terminated from that position.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Yeah, that’s actually against coaching ethics. The coach should absolutely not have agreed to that.

  31. Risha*

    I don’t have much advice unfortunately for you LW, but I just want to let you know I feel your pain and I’m frustrated on your behalf. At my prior job, we had to do these ridiculous daily meetings called “cultural conversations”. You would think they would be about the employees’ different cultures/races/etc, but nope. It was an opportunity for management to ask us very personal questions with everyone on the call as well (coworkers, managers, directors). The questions included things such as: how do you respond to stress at home, what do you do when someone at home is angering you, what are some things you do at home to relieve your stress. I never answered and it was held against me during my annual reviews for not being a team player. The best part is, none of the managers or directors ever had to answer these, they would ask and expect the workers to tell them everything about us.

    It really pisses me off that managers can get away with all types of boundary violations and we have no recourse unless it’s actually an illegal activity. Workers are just expected to take anything the higher ups throw at us and our only options are to just tolerate it or find another job. In my experience, most coworkers don’t want to push back on ridiculous requests/demands from management, so it makes only you look like a trouble maker. Been there, done that, became a target because everyone backed out at the last minute.

    Like Alison said, try to push back as a group or opt out on your own. Hopefully you have some coworkers who are angered by this as well. If you can’t/don’t want to push back, just give bogus answers. You can even go to your doctor and try to get an official “reasonable accommodation” to get out of it to protect your mental health. I would do that for sure because I really REALLY hate this type of nonsense from employers. I’ve had severe depression/anxiety in the past and I would get my doctor to say something like that would trigger me (which may be actually true, who knows).

    If it’s possible for you to do so, start looking for another job. I know not everyone can do this, but if you can, definitely do so. Find a place where managers understand the thick red line between personal life and work life.

  32. Down the rabbit hole*

    This is corporate astrology (in my mind anyway). I despise personality tests and it’s a big part of my current employer’s employee engagement strategy.

    I go with vague answers that are tailored to be pillars of my current job function. There is no option for us to opt out. It’s a company wide OKR to have x% participation in the test plus a weekly written check in that requires us to answer the question, “what did I loathe about my job this week?”

    If I had known that this was such a big thing, I would never have applied for the job. I intentionally remove myself from consideration when a company relies on personality tests to make hiring and career decisions.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      a weekly written check in that requires us to answer the question, “what did I loathe about my job this week?”

      Please tell me that your invariable answer to this question is “this checkin quiz.”

      1. Down the rabbit hole*

        I have responded with something along the lines of “being required to complete tasks that take away from the time I dedicate to my deliverables.” And then verbally voiced my frustration with having to participate in this program. My manager agrees that it’s annoying and not very useful.

        I only use the tool now to tell them what I’m working on in the upcoming week and at least that way it gets counted in the system as participating even if I’m not following the written prompts.

  33. Flossie Bobbsey*

    The boss is seeing the program as a free opportunity for the company because he doesn’t have to pay the coach. But he’s making it so that it’s NOT free for the employees, who have to give up 2 hours of their personal time UNCOMPENSATED, so the employees/participants are actually paying to attend. If the boss had to pay for that time (as he should, especially for any hourly employees), then this program would NOT be free for the company.

  34. Keymaster of Gozer*

    A former employer tried something similar to me and my then team. It was marked as the kind of ‘secret’ thing about how you should all visualise success and if you had any problems with that to tell your coworkers so they could help you be more positive.

    It was a 3 hour seminar, and we were still expected to get all the day’s work done.

    I know my flaws, and a lot of them are being worked on by actual medical professionals. Some ‘woo’ and ‘being negative is bad’ is going to harm that. I cannot BE positive all the time, I can barely maintain a stable mindset some days.

    So when my current firm tried something about sharing flaws and personality tests to help us ‘return to normal’ I just told my team they can go to it if they want but I won’t be – and discussing it isn’t mandatory either. I know my alphabet of mental disorders but my firm and staff do not and I’d like to keep it that way.

  35. no longer working*

    So, your boss is paying her coach to (A) practice on all of you and (B) decrease your productivity.

  36. Amy*

    You say he is a good boss, so I agree you should go back to him. You took a very specific concern to him – colleagues weaponising results. Go back and say you are a very private person, and this whole crap is stressing you out. If he says ‘it’s meant to help you’ say ‘I don’t need help. You are already aware that I am productive. This won’t help me and is causing me considerable stress’.

    He is a lousy boss if that doesn’t make him back down.

  37. HannahS*

    “Boss, I wanted to update you on the coaching thing. Caldenia and Gaston are looking forward to it. Myself, Sean, Sophie, Maud, and George will be opting out. So far, I think everyone else is undecided, so we’ll see how many we get in all! Hope it goes great for the people who do it. Anyway, sorry, I have to run to this other meeting, just wanted to give you a numbers update.”

    Behave as if it’s optional.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      From the article linked by Anastatia:

      “Personality tests are by and large constructed to be ableist, to be racist, to be sexist, and to be classist,” says the disability justice advocate Lydia XZ Brown.

      The article is mostly about Briggs Meyers but it points out that there are many clones.

      OP, please send your boss this link. This stuff was never meant for companies to use. Ask the boss if he has consulted with an attorney about doing this. It looks to me in times to come that lots of companies can find themselves in legal trouble.

      I took a Stanton test decades ago. I asked point blank if I could be fired. NO, I was reassured. They fired me the moment they got the results back. About a year later the courts had a lot to say. Seems the control group was all white and male. The smack down by the court was delicious. And I did not shed one tear when my former employer went under a few years later. See, they fired me weeks before my wedding.

      What bothered me, is that I really liked my boss and grand boss. I admired them. It was a while for me to accept the fact that these admirable people had allowed this to go on. They too were nothing more than a cog in the mechanism.

      I watched the trailer in the link above and nothing has changed I see the control group is still white and male.

      Punchline- you don’t have to speak up if you don’t want to. Not everyone is up for taking a stand for many reasons. However, for your own personal satisfaction please read the article linked above. I am dead set against any testing for any reason that does not DIRECTLY involve the work itself.

  38. Prefer my pets*

    Soooooo much sympathy!

    My new supervisor went all-in with one of these cults a couple years ago…which was fine until she became a supervisor. Now she was able to get the higher-ups to approve a 1-yr contract with her “mentor” for us all to suffer through it by calling it “efficiency and leadership training”. I had an offline conversation with her that I would not be using his system…I refrained from pointing out it’s a cult with absolutely no basis in reality. I do have to go to most of the meetings, but I keep my mouth shut except for the blandest of comments and when we need to work in small groups/pairs, I work with the other 3 people who also think the whole thing is ridiculous. Sometimes I manage to get out of the meetings by citing genuine deadlines/conflicts, sometimes not.

    Bigger picture, I’d really be watching for other signs the company is going to become not such a good place to work. Personally, I’ve lost a lot of my trust in the supervisor’s decision making ability and judgement since she inflicted this on us. I used to think she was a great coworker and was looking forward to her taking on the supervisor role…now that she’s gone full-in on the woo, I question every judgement call she makes in the back of my head. (We work in support for a science-based organization and she’s also become antivax, covid-denier, etc about the since joining her particular management cult)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I admire your self control.

      I agree with watching for other signs. OP, you say the president is “a thoughtful, conscientious boss who is usually quite logical” but this is a big step in the opposite direction from that philosophy. I believe that’s been your experience thusfar, but tune your red flag detector up to 10 because something in his logical mind is not showing through here.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, yep, yep.

        Team building???? If the boss wants real team building then figure out what the workers need to do their absolute best every day, so they can feel great about themselves and great about their work. People can bond with each other by having a strong sense of accomplishment. By seeing their projects come to fruition in a spectacular manner.

        I have an excellent example going on now. My friend does maintenance for a little NPO. The director and crew are rocking the job. My friend is willing to do hand-stands to help with the building and grounds because this little NPO is doing its absolute best. Friend wants to be sure that they have what they need to work their magic. And no one in this story took a personality test. hmmm.

        When people have what they need to do the job, they can blow us away with what they do. Personality tests are nothing but a distraction from real work.

  39. Just Me*

    OP, I have literally been in your shoes. I hate these things because they try to make everyone *bond* by talking about their feelings, not realizing that they’re putting someone with mental health issues or other personal struggles that don’t belong in the workplace in a VERY uncomfortable spot. (I distinctly remember many years ago doing a training like this where I was being pressured to talk about my biggest struggle, and I just wanted to go, “I kind of want to be dead, Cheryl, what’s your biggest struggle?” Instead I just ended up crying in front of all of my colleagues while the facilitator kept saying, “That’s good! That’s good!”) Speaking frankly, I resigned from my last job after they made this kind of thing a mandatory 12-week training (that wasn’t the only reason I resigned, but it definitely hastened my resignation). I do agree that employers need to know that this doesn’t belong in the workplace. There needs to be more forceful pushback.

    As Alison said, I’ve had some success by giving very bland non-answers (“My biggest concern is helping all of our clients succeed!” “My goal for this year is to build better communication between the departments!”) but I agree that this is a corporate trend that needs to die and everyone should push back on it more.

    1. Anastatia Beaverhousen*

      I might consider asking where they went to school to provide mental health treatment, “coaching” is not the same as “therapist”. Discredit from the start.

  40. Janet*

    My company loves the kind of personality testing where you’re told where you fit on a ‘wheel’ of personality types, arguing it helps us all work together better if we understand what ‘type’ our co-worker is and how to work well with that sort of person. It’s ridiculously simplistic, obviously, but there is essentially no way to opt out. Many of us roll our eyes at the suggestion that people are so easily fitted into simple personality categories but the good news is that the whole process is bland and (surprisingly) relatively impersonal. If your training is remotely similar, you can certainly pick middle-of-the-road answers and then just nod obligingly when the trainer explains your personality type to you and make a few bland, positive comments about how it is all so interesting. OP, if you do have to proceed, I hope there is a way to do it that is non-confrontational and low-stress.

    1. cottagechick*

      I don’t understand how you can keep the different personality types straight to even understand your coworkers better. If you think about the wheel of personality types like astrology with the 12 signs, only some people know the traits of THEIR sign and none of the traits of the other 11 signs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t understand how people retain all this also. First you have to know the groups then you have to know how to tailor your responses for every situation depending on what group the person is in. OMG. I do not have brain space for this stuff. Just do the job.

        It’s just easier to go situation by situation. “Cohort, do you have everything you need from me?” Ask relevant questions as you go along. Much easier.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I assume it’s a level of buy-in. You retain it if you think it’s important. I think the majority of us here are in agreement that it’s not worth the brain space.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, but unfortunately in the LWs case, the whole thing seems to be set up as a confrontation. It shouldn’t have to be like that, but in this case it is.

  41. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    You know how people who get into therapy for the first time, myself included, and realize how helpful it is to them, then start going around telling everybody “OMG THERAPY, EVERYBODY NEEDS THERAPY, THERAPY IS THE BEEEEST!!!”? I’m wondering if your boss is having a similar reaction to his coach given how you’ve described that he’s normally a very logical person–“OMG COACH IS THE BEST, COACH CAN HELP EVERYONE, COACH CAN DO NO WROOOOONG!!!” Of course I could be completely wrong, but that was the feeling I got as I was reading through this. (And yes, I have knocked off espousing about therapy lol, it is definitely obnoxious.)

    I say all of this because I’m wondering, depending on the relationship you have with the president, if you could try pointing this out to him? It’s wonderful that he’s gotten so much out of working with this coach, with the exception of this path that he’s currently going down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his employees will benefit the same way, nor does it mean this is the best/most appropriate way to bring everyone from the different businesses together. Anyway, if the president pushes back on you pushing back, maybe you could try this??

  42. scribblingTiresias*

    It seems like every time one of these things has actually been useful to anyone, it’s just because it gave them an easy excuse to talk about underlying dysfunction without blaming anyone in particular.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The deep secret is that it resolves nothing and puts everyone behind in their daily tasks.

  43. Logan Noonan*

    I don’t think personality tests are always pseudo-science and they can be helpful to people. However, your boss definitely shouldn’t be forcing you to do this and you being uninterested in it should be enough.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The only ones I trust are given by my psychiatrist and are way more in depth than any corporate thing. Also, I know their results are geared toward to an action plan that has a good chance of working.

        (You would not believe the amount of psychiatric paperwork I generate! But goddess has it been helpful. I do not trust a 2 hour corporate doodad to accomplish anything)

  44. Retired (but not really)*

    Years ago I was introduced to one of the personality type assessments but it was for my own personal evaluation and designed to help you understand yourself and how you relate to others. It stressed that nobody is a single type, we all have bits and pieces of each. But usually you will have a dominant one and a fairly strong secondary one.
    And it gave information on dealing with associates of the other types that are opposite to you.
    I found it quite helpful as a personal growth tool.
    The way this mess is being described by OP would have me running for the hills!
    I think I would be seriously considering having a dentist appointment each time the meeting would be supposed to happen, and going to the dentist is not one of my favorite things to do.

  45. Dawn*

    I know you don’t want to “out” your medical conditions at work and I am ENTIRELY sympathetic to that, but it’s possible that failing all else, your doctor or therapist could provide you with a very bland note which simply states that you will not be able to participate as this program is contraindicated by other treatment that you are currently undergoing (this would not be untrue.)

    It definitely means that you have to admit that you are seeing a doctor/therapist for SOMETHING, but after the last couple of years, so has like half the population of America and you don’t need to provide any specifics.

  46. Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, depends on the day*

    I usually err on the side of the denial/positivity range in my thought process to avoid the woe-is-me rabbit hole. But when I needed to appear broken enough to qualify for an exclusive pain management program, I went full on woe-is-me! (Yes, after 10 months I could truthfully answer that I did feel hopeless that I would ever improve…) Fortunately the testing and program were administered by licensed professionals, the experience was exceptional, and my results far exceeded the stated expectations. And even though it was Worker Comp, no results were shared with my employer except to document when I was eligible to return to work.

  47. Esprit de l'escalier*

    I’ve done the kind of group-sharing where everyone gives their preferred method of being communicated with (email, phone, DM, in person where that is possible, right away, asynchronous….), and the two things about it that bugged me were: (1) My own preference changes depending on the circumstances so in effect I can’t answer this, and (2) How am I supposed to remember this about all these other people (assuming they really do always want what they said today that they always want as the method)? And when these people leave and other people come in, are we going to have to do this all over again?

    I see OP’s “job coaching” setup as very analogous and as having the same weaknesses, plus all the other problems that have been mentioned, even aside from the crazy time requirement.

  48. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    This is a bold stance but I don’t think a “personality” typing test exists that doesn’t just reinforce every power structure that’s already keeping marginalized people down. It’s like astrology, it’s fun for some people to look at privately (including me!) but it has absolutely no place at work.

  49. Calamity Janine*

    i regret that i have woken up full of mischief apparently, but here’s some bad advice you shouldn’t do LW (but maybe think about this and laugh) –

    you are now in a woo-woo arms race. you must increase your pseudoscience arsenals and out-flimflam your enemies.

    it’s time to buy a pair of calipers, a big diagram of phrenology bullhockey, and then declare that before you will undergo this coaching process you must make sure the coach is properly qualified. then you begin measuring. make various tut-tutting noises as you do so. solemnly request the coach’s blood type, and pull out a big chart of japanese pop culture blood type personalities too. and when you’re done with that, well, you have a great big stack of print-outs from buzzfeed and old teen magazines with personality quizzes…

    oh, and inkblots. can’t forget about the inkblots. if the coach doesn’t see two bears high-fiving, that’s a BAD SIGN.

    really, just a wide-eyed and deadpan in sincerity “i don’t know, i think i have to consult the cards before i have an answer for you” within the workshop will get you there, too.

    for bonus points, don’t use a tarot deck. or a regular playing card deck. use some magic the gathering or pokemon trading cards. “hmmm i’m afraid that this lapras reversed is a very bad sign…”

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