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Psychometrics spotlight: Testing times – the FIRO-BTM personality questionnaire

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In the third of a new series putting the range of psychometric tests under the spotlight we look at the FIRO-BTM personality questionnaire developed by Will Schutz.


The Fundamental Interpersonal Relations OrientationTM – Behaviour (FIRO-BTM) personality questionnaire was developed by Will Schutz, whose wish it was to provide an understanding of the fundamental differences between people and how these differences impact on relationships. It was first developed in the 1950s and is now one of the most widely used tools for helping people to understand themselves better and their relationships with others.

Whereas most personality questionnaires examine individual characteristics, the FIRO-B questionnaire is unique in going beyond this and assessing relationship styles. It examines how people typically behave towards other people how they would like others to behave towards them. Its interpretation can dramatically increase an individual’s understanding of areas such as:

  • How they come across to others and why this may not be the real them or the impression they want to make.

  • How and why conflict can develop between people.

  • How they can understand and manage their own needs as they interact with others.

The questionnaire is based on the theory that in interpersonal relationships, people differ from one another in two ways: behaviour they demonstrate to others (called ‘expressed behaviour’) and behaviour they want back from others (called ‘wanted behaviour’). An individual’s expressed behaviour within these three needs may not be the same as their wanted behaviour. The theory further states that within these two behaviours, there are three main needs that everyone has in varying degrees. The questionnaire assesses the importance of each of these to the individual on three levels:

Inclusion
How much you like to include others in your activities and enjoy being part of social groups and how you feel about other people including you in what they do.

Control
How comfortable you feel within structured environments. For example, whether you like to exert control and influence and enjoy organising things. Additionally, how comfortable you feel within structured situations and taking instructions from others.

Affection
How much closeness you want in your relationships with other people. For example, whether you like to disclose personal information or prefer to keep this to yourself and whether you like other people to take you into their confidence.

With only 54 questions, and taking only about 10 minutes to complete, the FIRO-B questionnaire can be seen as simpler than other personality questionnaires. However, it is no less powerful and is valuable in many contexts including:

Team building
Identifying likely sources of compatibility or tension, aiding effective decision making, improving communication and resolving conflicts.

Individual development
Increasing self-awareness and interpersonal effectiveness.

Selection
Providing a structure for interviews, the FIRO-B questionnaire should only be used in combination with other assessment techniques.

For further information, please contact OPP on 08708 728727 or visit the website at www.opp.eu.com.

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3 Responses

  1. Selection amd management effectiveness
    Don’s comments are very apposite. In researching selection and performance management I think that a useful formula is:-

    The PERFORMANCE of an individual is proportional to their ABILITY X their COMMITMENT X ORGANISATIONAL factors.

    Thus right from the initial job application the individual’s motivation is increased or decreased by the way they are handled. Many a good candidate has been turned off by the off-handed ways of some of the recruitment agencies or by the dithering or procrastination of the employing managers. This effect continues through to the initial reception, induction and acclimatisation of the recruit. I saw a senior professional left waiting in the reception area for two hours on their first day because their manager was off sick and had not put in place any reception and induction plans. The impact on the individual was palpable. The process continued in a similarly desultory way and it was no surprise when they left after 18 months.

    Organisations and managers need to learn that the commitment of individuals and teams is their responsibility even more than that of the individual. Officers in many of our armed services fully understand this and shoulder the responsibility for the commitment of their troops. If you read about the psychology of military leaders you will come across many examples like Montgomery who knew that on the morning of battle, having briefed his staff officers on the strategy the night before, there was little he could do, save the most important thing of all – be visible and motivate the troops.

    How many mangers do you come across who truly take the blame for the lack of motivation in their staff?

    Bernard J M Stewart,
    Consultant Occupational Psychologist
    Integrated Performance Development

  2. Recruitment Tests.
    And I would endorse Bernard’s comments, but add another observation……….which is that there has developed a focus on recruitment and selection to ensure we have the right people doing the rights things for the right length of time, seemingly to overcome other deficiencies. What is most often overlooked is how these people are managed after being selected. In my view there is a tendency to blame selection when things go wrong, as opposed to acknowledging poor management of the people after selection. Given that the perfect candidate is usually absent from any interview process, managers take the ‘best-of-the-rest’. As a consequence, the initial ingredients of a less than perfect employment relationship are already in place. To compensate, they must be managed carefully and consistently from the day they are informed of their success in being chosen. So even though we may be in possession of every piece of information as to the candidate’s suitability, that is just the beginning of the journey. If I had a wish to be fulfilled by my fairy godmother, it would be to make sure managers manage people as they should be managed, from the moment of acceptance. Please note that moment is oftentimes days weeks or months before they actually arrive on the job.

  3. Do psychometric tests work?
    As an Occupational Psychologist, I am concerned about the continued misunderstanding and misuse of ‘psychometric’ tests. Used properly and selectively they can be a significant improvement on traditional selection techniques.

    The purpose of using effective psychometric instrumentation is to improve the management of people through better:-

    •Selection of the right people,
    •Retention of valuable staff,
    •Development of their capabilities.

    How do we achieve this?
    We can achieve this by improving on the reliability and validity of the assessment of an individual’s attributes either for selection or development by the use of well designed and validated psychometric assessment techniques.

    How good are the various techniques?
    Worldwide research to evaluate the effectiveness of different assessment techniques shows their effectiveness to vary widely. The table below summarises these differences and the graph illustrates the impact of different levels of selection validity on the prediction of job performance.

    Method Validity ‘r’( -1.0 to +1.0)

    1. Work samples 0.55 – 0.65
    2. Cognitive Ability tests 0.50 – 0.65
    3. Assessment Centres 0.35 – 0.70
    4. Personality tests 0.40
    5. Bio-data 0.4
    6. Structured Interviews 0.30 – 0.6
    7. Unstructured Interviews 0.15 – 0.2
    8. Graphology 0.1
    9. Astrology -0.1
    (Yes! Believe it or not there are a number of major city firms that use things like graphology.)
    All of this presupposes a number of things:-
    •That the users are adequately trained in the administration.
    •That there is a clear analysis of the job into specific competencies and attributes,
    •That the tests actually measure these attributes,
    •That the tests have adequate reliability and validity data to justify their use.
    In my experience, many of these conditions are not met, particularly where so called ‘personality’ tests are wrongly used as a formal part of the selection process.
    I also find that many senior managers resist the proposition of needing training in interview techniques and still hold to their cherished belief that they “can judge the candidate in the first couple of minutes”.
    Used appropriately there are great benefits to be gained in accuracy and cost in the selection and development process.
    Bernard J M Stewart,
    Consultant Occupational Psychologist
    Integrated Performance Development

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