EMPLOYING TESTS AND DIAGNOSTIC JUDGEMENTS AS SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION
On the one hand the growing use of "objective" procedures is progress and reflects the need for differentiated bases for decision making. On the other hand studies have already shown that they do not lead to better results (Lang-von-Wins et al., 2008). Tests create a myth of objectivity and reality. In fact they are always instruments of self-assessment, which have no informative value without consideration of the biographical development and the professional and personal context of the individual person. Basically potential tests represent a great temptation to diagnose and, in the end, to judge social behavior. If these tests are not carried out in the context of a fully professional organizational development survey, but rather simply by a certified user of the test without an explicit organizational development consulting context, the results are to a great extent deprived of their context, that is, their meaning for the organization is neither understood nor communicated. The organizational consultant and psychotherapist Klaus Deissler (2008) explains that with the aid of certain methodic gimmicks: experts in diagnostic processes act as if there were social facts which are independent of observer and participant, and thus objective. Following the axiom "the Good Lord placed diagnosis before treatment" an attempt is made to construct diagnostic ultimate justifications which cannot be challenged—although there is hardly an area in the shaping of human relationships which would make the character of social construction clearer than that of diagnosis. In short, diagnoses are socially constructed stipulations by experts, which evaluate human behavior "independently of observers."
Diagnostic judgments over individuals therefore can be seen as 'socially' constructed by experts, who pretend that the instruments they use are independent of the observers influences and therefore objective. The objects of the diagnosis—the candidates—are not given a voice on the experts' judgments, to ensure the myth of the "independent observer." Thus those who are judged are not involved in the process of judgment—the experts make their decisions behind the backs or over the heads of their subjects, and a participatory scientific orientation falls by the wayside.
As we know today, so called objective personnel decisions are not always the best in practice. Since this involves not simply logical comparisons of "what should be" with "what is" but rather complex decision processes with different perspectives, objectivity in personnel decisions is not possible. Instead of objectivity there must be reflection on various dimensions in a comprehensible working context where bases for decision making can be discussed and negotiated (see Lang-von-Wins et al., 2008).
It is furthermore frequently disregarded that one of the most common causes for wrong personnel choices is faulty qualification profiles. In this case, the qualifications which are considered necessary do not turn out to be critical for success in practice. Organizations which concentrate too heavily on competence models and tests, tend to lose sight of this connection.
The more organizations commit themselves to one instrument ("We always use the XY test") the more they lose connection between the test results, people and challenges of the organization design. Personnel decisions are then based on very questionable foundations. To provide adequate quality, using tests and is a highly professional task, which requires corresponding training and reflective practice lasting a number of years. However test providers usually offer a 2-day seminar plus reflecting three tests followed by formal accreditation to use the test.
Finally we have to consider that working with people on their potential means working in the area of their personal identity. Organizational changes (whether already in process or intended) trigger a change process in the person him- or herself; this can under certain circumstances cause a lessening of reliability. Previous strengths of individuals fall away, while undiscovered idiosyncrasies move to the fore. The personal disclosure and interpretation of idiosyncrasies and weaknesses also harbors a risk for the person: he or she may be of less value for the organization or be placed in a situation of greater competition. During the consultation there is no diagnosis without a corresponding intervention. This means that during a potential assessment the person involved may be irritated about his or her self-image. The associated temporary destabilization of the self-image must therefore be organized so that it can be understood and handled with a view to the future by both the person and the organization.
Finally, to assume that an organization is fixed and the people are inserted into it rather like pieces of a puzzle is simply not consistent with reality. Often there is no one who fits the ideal competence profile. Therefore we need an iterative process to match potentials of individuals with the needs of the organization.
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