Many of the popular assessments, quizzes, frameworks and inventories that folks are encouraged to rely on in the coaching, entrepreneurial and helping professional industries are influenced by socialization, colonization, capitalism and systemic oppression.

The Feminist Coach Academy previously hosted a Breaking Free From the Box ‘fireside chat’ with Team FCA (including Co-Founders & Co-CEOs, Cameron Airen and Naomi Arnold, plus Faculty & Advisory Board members Lena West and Sharyn Holmes) to discuss how personality tests and other diagnostics (e.g., Myers Briggs, VIA, Love Languages, etc) can be problematic and harmful. During this approximately 90-minute discussion, Team FCA discussed how such diagnostics can be problematic and provided insightful prompts and questions to help inform your use (or disuse) of them.

In this post, we thought we would share 4 questions that you might like to explore about the personality tests, personal development assessments and other diagnostics you use (or are thinking about using) in your practice.

1) Who created and/or founded the test/assessment/diagnostic?

FCA Faculty & Advisory Board Member, Sharyn Holmes, reminds us during the Breaking Free From The Box Fireside Chat to always take the time to research who created and/or founded the personality test or diagnostic we plan on using.

What is the history of the test? Who created it? Who did they create it for? Where did they get their idea or concept from? What values or beliefs did the creator/s hold?

Often, when you research the history of personality tests and other assessments, for example, you will discover that the person who created them either (a) held problematic beliefs (e.g., racist, ableist, sexist, etc) and were involved in harmful practices or behaviours (e.g., were eugenicists!) and/or (b) appropriated their ideas from cultures they were not part of.

We recommend that you access the free Breaking Free From the Box video and/or transcript to hear Team FCA discuss a number of concrete examples, as well as provide tips on search terms you can use to research this topic thoroughly.

2) How are the results of the test/assessment/diagnostic influenced by socialization and oppression?

During the Breaking Free From The Box fireside chat, Team FCA discussed the many ways that personality tests (including how they were created, how they are taught, the results they reveal and how these results are used) are influenced by socialization, colonization, capitalism and oppression. Despite the influence of the ‘isms’ on the creation and use of personality tests and diagnostics, it is a factor that many do not consider when discussing and implementing them.

When you are considering the use of personality tests and other diagnostics in your practice we, therefore, invite you to reflect on how that test (and the results it reveals) are influenced by socialization and oppression. How might it be reinforcing systemic oppression? How might social justice frameworks inform your analyses of the test?

3) How might the results of the test/assessment/diagnostic be harmful and/or limiting?

In the fireside chat, Team FCA discuss a number of different personality tests and diagnostics and how they can be harmful, exclude people, limit folks and put people in unhelpful boxes. FCA Faculty and Advisory Board Member, Lena West, for example, shares a story of taking a popular personality assessment with a qualified assessor and how traumatic the process was for her.

When we start to ask questions like those mentioned above, more questions are unearthed.

How might the process of undertaking this test and/or the results it reveals be traumatic, harmful, or limiting? Who does it include or exclude? Is it grounded in binaries (including the gender binary)? Does it reveal who you really are and/or does it reveal who you’ve been socialized to be? How is the test used to reinforce systemic oppression and power imbalances in workplaces, families and communities?

We invite you to access the full Breaking Free From The Box recording or transcript for examples to help inform your own exploration of these questions with the tests you use.

4) How can these analyses inform my use (or disuse) of the test/assessment/diagnostic?

Once you have undertaken a critical analysis of these tests using the questions asked here (and others raised in the full Breaking Free From the Box fireside chat), the next question is whether to continue using the test or not?

If you choose to continue using the test, you then need to reflect on how you can do so in an ethical and informed way. How can I insure this will include and not exclude people? How can I ensure that my process supports people in recognising the role that socialization and oppression might be playing here? How can I take measures to ensure people are not harmed or traumatised throughout the process? How can I make sure people are aware of the limitations of the test? How can I (and is it even possible to) use this test responsibly?

And how can you use your due diligence here? Because as Lena West says during the fireside chat, these inventories and assessments are used to avoid the emotional labour of actually getting to know people and doing your due diligence.

Finally, we LOVE this infographic…

This infographic was created by Jennifer L Phillips PHD while watching the full Breaking Free From the Box chat. Head over here to read Jennifer’s infographic and full blog post about their takeaways.

And don’t forget to access the full FREE recording and/or transcript…

In our free Breaking Free From the Box fireside chat, you can learn more about the issues with personality tests, personal development quizzes and other diagnostics – and suggestions for approaching these.

You will learn how:

  • Colonization is tied to the origins of personality tests, frameworks and assessments like the Meyers Briggs and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • To question who created diagnostics in your field and who they created them for – as well as who is included and not included
  • White supremacy and racism often influence how and why diagnostics are made
  • Sexist and gender binary social conditioning influence the questions asked and the results we get from many diagnostic tests
  • Some of these assessments and tests appropriate Indigenous culture
  • Capitalism and individualism is prioritized and used in relation to these inventories
  • Being boxed in to one particular type can be traumatic and reinforces systemic oppression
  • Many diagnostics are used to discriminate against marginalized folks, and how that applies to the coaching + business industries too
  • To apply such discussions to diagnostics across industries including entrepreneurs, helping professionals, as well as employees, companies, organizations and the corporate world


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