This informal CPD article, ‘Do Personality Colours Really Define Who You Are at Work?,’ was provided by iAM Learning, who are transforming the way your workforce trains and retains, using high-end animation, lovable characters and captivating stories to make even the most serious subjects appealing and unforgettable.
We've all taken those online quizzes to determine our ‘personality colour’ - are you ‘green’, ‘blue’, ‘orange’ or ‘gold’? According to some studies, 80% of Fortune 500 Listed companies use personality colours, so maybe there's something in it for other businesses? People who use them claim they can reveal core aspects of who we are and how we interact with others. They are a simple, accessible way to think about our personalities, and can help build more effective teams because they help us understand each other. But do these colours really define us, especially in the workplace? Let's take a closer look.
Do personality colours stereotype people?
While personality colour systems portray themselves as scientific, they tend to stereotype people into limited categories. For example, ‘orange’ people are characterised as outgoing, high-energy risk-takers. But in reality, human personalities are far more complex. Few of us fit neatly into a single colour or category. When oversimplified systems are applied too rigidly in the workplace, they can lead to faulty assumptions about individuals.
How do colour systems categorise behaviours?
Most colour personality tests break behaviours into four categories that supposedly align with the primary colours. ‘Greens’ value logic, ‘blues’ value harmony, ‘oranges’ value action, and ‘golds’ value responsibility. However, again, this system obscures the nuances of human behaviour. The same behaviour might arise for different reasons in different contexts. Categorising someone as a particular ‘colour’ risks pigeonholing them. That’s something that companies usually try to avoid.
Can colours limit workplace behaviours?
When employees or managers buy into personality colour systems, it can impose artificial limits on workplace behaviours. People may feel pressured to act in rigid ways that conform to their designated colour. This can prevent exhibiting the full range of skills and traits that contribute to a healthy, productive workplace. We should try and understand that people are more complex rather than limiting them to categories.
Do colours create excuses?
Personality colours may provide excuses for inappropriate workplace behaviours. For example, the ‘orange’ risk-taking person might justify reckless decisions because that's just “embodying their colour”. The ‘green’ logical person might fail to empathise with others and claim it's due to their personality colour. Colours shouldn't define us, our own actions should.
In summary, while personality colour systems can be fun, they often oversimplify human complexity. Yes, they can provide a common language and framework for discussing differences. They can help foster appreciation of diversity by highlighting different strengths, and they can even encourage self-awareness of people's preferences. That’s likely why large companies persist in using them. But ultimately, personality comes in more hues than a simple ‘quiz’ can capture. Rather than boxing people into categories, managers should get to know the unique talents and needs of each employee – a diverse workplace will benefit from that nuance, not colour codes. Ultimately, we are defined by our character and contributions, rather than some self-enforced colour.
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