UnderCover Waitress: Darden's Personality Test

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Darden's Personality Test


The following is my own, personal and subjective qualitative analysis of the personality test that Darden current (and would-be) servers were required to take.

The test consisted of 105 questions. While there was no time limit to the test, the software did keep track of how long it took each individual test taker to complete the test. I have been unable (so far) to find any commentary on the implications of how long a person took to finish the test.

 Two common responses to the test have been "the questions were repetitive" and "the questions were irrelevant, personal, and offensive."

Repetition

As I have mentioned in comments, repetition in assessment tests is common. This is to ensure that the test taker is giving consistent answers. If she gives inconsistent answers, the results of the test may not be valid.

Irrelevant, Personal, Offensive

Sometimes questions seem irrelevant, but are actually measuring the quality that is being tested. For example, let's say John is taking a Child Abuse Prediction test. The test asks him questions about his pet dog. Seemingly irrelevant, but a person who kicks his dog may be more likely to hit a child. In a round-a-bout way, the test is looking for John's potential for abusing a child.

If the test questions were obvious, such as "have you ever wanted to hit a child?" then John would know what is being tested, and simply lie to pass the test.

The questions were very personal, which may seem inappropriate for a work test. (At least they were honest and said, "personality test" instead of "assessment of managerial skills.") And I can understand how some people may have been offended by some or all of the questions.

Likert Scales

The first 85 questions used a Likert scale. Anytime you have a scale with strongly agree one one end and strongly disagree on the other, this is a Likert scale. Many doctors offices have posters with "I feel fine" on one end and "I am in severe pain" on the other. Patients are asked where on the poster their pain falls. These posters are good examples of Likert scales.

Qualitative Analysis

Again, the interpretation of the test questions in this blog post are mine and mine alone. If I am mistaken about anything, then the mistake is mine and mine alone. 

Looking at the first 85 questions, I attempted to place them in general categories. Questions in any given category may be worded in the positive or in the negative. One person (let's call her "Jill") will give different answers for questions in the same category. For example, "I am careful to avoid making mistakes" and "I am not a perfectionist" belong in the same category. If Jill strongly agrees that she avoids making mistakes, she will strongly disagree that she is NOT a perfectionist.  Jill is a perfectionist. 

Most of the first 85 questions seems to easily fit into the following categories:

* Work Ethic
* Mood
* Ability to Focus
* Leadership ability (or lack thereof)
* Extrovert/Introvert
* Stability and Company Loyalty; and
* Personal Relationships. 

There is most likely overlap in these categories; for example, some questions about Personal Relationships may belong in the same category as Extrovert/Introvert questions.

I separated Ability to Focus from Work Ethic because I had the distinct impression that some questions were an attempt to weed out people with ADHD qualities. For example, "Sometimes words just pop out of my mouth before I even know what I am saying," and "I sometimes lose focus at work." The first has to do with impulse control, the second has to do with focus. Lack of impulse control and inability to focus are common characteristics in people diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.)

Mood

Questions such as "I never lose my temper" and "I sometimes get upset for no apparent reason" I put in the Mood category. Similar to some of the ADHD questions, these questions seem to be looking for emotional stability vs. mood swings. There was even a question about getting sweaty palms that may have been an attempt to weed out people with high anxiety.

Another question was "I am deeply moved by others' misfortunes." While I would guess that the test scorers were looking for evidence of emotional stability, this question and others like it gave me pause. They may be looking for care givers with this type of question. Or, being highly affected by the moods of others may be a bad thing because moods of others' becomes a distraction and can throw a waitress off of her game. I wasn't certain, but I decided to put the care giver questions in with the Mood category.

Work Ethic

These questions ran the gamut from "Pure luck plays a bigger role in most people's success than they will admit" to "I believe that people can control 100% of what happens to them at work." These seem to be looking for a person's chances of working hard. A person who believes they will be rewarded for their work will do a better job, or so the theory says.

Some of the care giving questions, such as "I am always ready to assist others" could be categorized into Work Ethic or Leadership.

Extrovert / Introvert and Leadership 

Questions such as, "I maintain high energy through the day" and "People do not usually look to me for direction" address extroversion and leadership ability. I would guess that corporate was looking for extroverts who enjoy and are good at juggling multiple tasks and interacting with many people.

Some of the Leadership questions seemed to overlap with Work Ethic. For example, "I often complete tasks at work before being asked to do them." Saying "Agree" to this statement certainly denotes a good work ethic. It also shows initiative and leadership ability. I am not certain whether I think corporate is looking for leaders among wait staff, however. There is an expression, "Too many chiefs, not enough indians." Everybody can't be the leader. So, I am unsure just how much leadership ability they wanted to see in wait staff.

Stability and Company Loyalty


Stability in this case means physical stability. Questions such as, "During the next two years, I do not plan on leaving the job for which I am applying" address physical stability and company loyalty. There were questions in this category about moving and length of commute. While some of the questions regarding moving may seem irrelevant, I think they all get grouped in to one category that is testing how likely it is that you will stay, or how long before you quit.

Personal Relationships 


Questions about making friends at work confused me. While friendly people probably make better waitresses, I think it is detrimental to rely on the workplace for your social life. It is okay to make friends at work; I would not refuse a friendship on the sole grounds that I work with the person. But in the end, work and friendship must remain separate. If we are friends outside of work, and I (for example) steal from the till, you can't lie for me just because we are friends. (Not the best example, I admit.) I wonder if corporate was looking for middle ground, here.

Last Twenty Questions

The last twenty questions were organized in a different way. Each question had five possible answers, but instead of a true Likert scale, each set of answers was specific to the question. For example:

How far away from home is the job for which you are applying?
A. More than a 45 minute drive.
B. Between a 30 and 45 minute drive.
C. Between a 15 to 30 minute drive.
D. Between a 10 to 15 minute drive.
E. Less than a 10 minute drive.


Most of these last twenty questions did fit into the above categories. Those that didn't asked about high school education and family.

A nineteen year old may not think twice when asked about her high school grades. A forty-five year old, on the other hand, might wonder how it could possibly be relevant today. If that forty-five year old earned additional education, then being asked about high school grades seems downright surreal.

There were two questions that asked about family, "How far away is the family member that lives the closest to you?" and "How many family members live within 25 miles of where you live?" There are so many reasons that people move. I can't imagine these two questions should have any weight in the assessment, or should really have been asked. 


Conclusion


I don't know if any of this helps Darden servers and SAs. I dissected the test some in an attempt to shed a little light on the shenanigans at Darden corporate. My analysis is most definitely NOT an attempt to say that any of this is okay. It must have been a demeaning experience, and I am sorry for those of you who went through it. 


The thing that throws me the most is that the test was given to current workers regarding their current positions. Usually, assessments given to current employees are testing the worker's potential for promotion. For example, a waitress may take a test to see if she would make a good manager. Once a person is hired, employers don't (usually) give them an assessment to see if they are any good at the position they are already working in. Employers look at the employee's record and speak with the manager to see how people are doing, or so I thought. 


At this point, I guess it's academic. And since I'm just a stupid waitress, I probably got it all wrong. ;-D

11 comments :

  1. I feel bad for the servers that got demoted...it kind of makes me wonder what D has in mind for its concept that I work at.

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  2. I was one who got demoted. The test was given specifally to demote servers. There were 8 in the restaurant I'm at. The oldest being me, 66, with 15 yrs at Darden, one is 40ish w 25 yrs, another in med school w 9 yrs. Others were younger with less years. I believe the hidden agenda would be saving even more $ by catching in their web people who still have vacation pay. If you've worked there long enough, you get 3 wks per year. Which inc tips and hourly. They stopped giving that perk to new hires several years ago. I took pretty much the whole hour for the test as I had heard all the comments about different answers. I do NOT believe my answers were inconsistent at all. I am not only offended by the whole test, but the fact they asked me about high shool grades. That was never asked when I started there. Our lives are turned upsidedown by Darden...how to pay my rent when I work 2 1/2 hrs as an SA? To say nothing of car ins,utilities and food. Many have left or will be, mood of restuarant is somber, servers w less experience are guilty. And oh, yes, the humiliation we had to feel on our first shift as SA. And the so called "standards they go by" They can write caring and respect right off. They will do anything to save the buck and they don't care about loyal employees at all.

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  3. I ask the question... what right does this company have to run their employees through tests like this?

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    1. Off the top of my head, I think if it is not forbidden or illegal, then it is legal. There are no laws (that I know of off the top of my head) that forbid an employer from giving assessments.

      Whether or not this type of personality test is an appropriate assessment is a valid question, and perhaps best answered by organizational psychologists. The psychologists, however, will most likely craft an answer that whoever is paying them will want to hear. And so we run in circles.

      I am not certain what precedent a plaintiff would have to set or claim in order to make the case that the test was inappropriate. Perhaps we need new laws.

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  4. It is like they are looking into our souls as a way to "work these types of people" with a special instruction manual that comes with employees who "pass" the test...sick.

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  6. I took that test and my thoughts on the 'how close are your relatives' question were that they wondered how many of your relatives would come visit you at work so you could give them free food. I may be paranoid but I don't think I'm wrong. The whole service assistant (heaven forbid you call them 'server assistants') idea was bad from the start.

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    1. Lol -- that is insightful re: free food for families! I didn't think of that. I'll bet some of the other questions were considered to show whether it was likely that a person would give away stuff.

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  7. I just took this in applying for work at my local OG. I thought this blog is about the application assessment. Then I scroll down to find that they put current employees through this, also?

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  8. I suspect these tests might be more of a quantitative measure of personality characteristics and not qualitative like "Good" or "Bad" (though some questions might be). For instance, I would disagree that if I were hiring a waitress that I would not want her to be a good leader.

    I think all teams need great leaders, but the key is knowing when to lead and when to back off. So if my waitress does her job well, BUT can also lead?! That is an amazing employee and a very desireable characteristic trait in an employee.

    I'm familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and these tests are SOOOO useful for everyone! I think they are vital to working together as a team because it identifies our own characteristics and those of others, which translate to overall better communication and team functionality. Its kind of a "best guestimate" of where to begin communication and leadership styles.

    All of these tests are very subjective in their interpretation, though, and so it would be a mistake to "automatically" act on the results of a single test alone (like any other test).

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  9. I just recently finished working for Red Lobster for 7 years. I guess it was about 2 years ago when they remodeled the busser position into the SA (Service Assistant). At the time, my entire 5 years of working there had been as a Server. I knew the restaurant better than a majority of the other servers and had arguably some of the better sidework and a other routine habits. Anyways...

    They all servers had to take this personality test to see if they "should" stay servers or move down to the SA position. There were 5 factors and i cannot remember them all.

    The personality test - being a psychology major at the time, i was quite familiar with how these tests work and did my best to answer honestly.

    Performance reviews - these were bullshit. Everytime i got mine it (ratings of 1-5 on different things) it was 3's all the way across the board. I always wrote that i thought they weren't paying attention to the amount and quality of sidework (actually making sure the tea gets STIRRED) i do but it never matted. Threes, all the way, every time.
    So obviously these were not a reliable source for judgement.

    And i don't remember the others, but long story short i got demoted and everybody agreed it did not make sense. Luckily they let me become a bartender when this happened, though i did still SA a couple times a week... which was kind of relaxing honestly.

    I just took another personality test for a different corporation and it really got me thinking... i highly question the morality of them judging people and denying/accepting jobs based on someone's answer to questions like these. It just seems way too variable and the way that people will try to get around the questions seems confounding.

    It ALMOST seems like they are counting on people not having a firm grasp on logic for their test to work... but i dunno. I would really like to see a key for one of these.

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Please share your thoughts.