​Psych the metrics of your soul

THE FIFTH COLUMN
We at the ministry of silly hats take our duties very seriously. In fact, we like to think of “ministry” in the religious sense too — we minister to our flock.

Psychometric tests are becoming more common in the workplace, and we at the ministry were asked to test them and make recommendations to the relevant bodies. After all, the Harvard Business Review, in its advice on applying psychometric tests in the workplace, says that managers should first test the tests.

So we did. I, as the most morally enigmatic person at the ministry, was given the job of taking the tests, and then I and they were evaluated for accuracy by a panel of experts — messrs Flogdoodle, Flushmittel and Flop.

“Right,” said Flogdoodle, picking up my first test. “According to this, you’re a psychopath.”

“I think we say ‘sociopath’ now,” interjected Flop, but Flogdoodle gave him a nasty look.

Flop busied himself looking something up in the Diagnostic Standards Manual. (One hopes he has the latest edition, in which despair is recategorised as reality-dystonia.)

“You are totally insensitive to others’ feelings, you ride roughshod over them, focusing single-mindedly on your goals …”

“Basically,” said Flushmittel, “you should be running a large transnational corporation. Or running for president of the United States.”

“Trouble is,” I said, “that psychometric test was for a janitor’s job.”

“Noted,” said Flushmittel.


“Moving on,” said Flogdoodle, “we have another test here … Ah, this one says you are clearly OCD.”

“Er … is that an organisation?” I asked. “Very funny,” said Flogdoodle. “As a matter of fact,” said Flop, turning to his iPad, “there is one — I just googled it. The Organisation of Concomitant Densities.”

“Well,” said Flogdoodle, “our colleague here is not applying for a posi- tion at such an organisation, though I daresay he’d make a great spokes- person for it. This psychometric test relates to … what does this say, Flushmittel?”

“Firefighter.”

“Right,” said Flogdoodle. “Let’s see … Right, you are OCD, then, as in obsessive-compulsive disorder. You may be ADHD too. Do I have to spell that out? Good. You would not make a good firefighter. On the basis of this test, you should be a bean-counter. Is that an official designation, would you say, Flushmittel?”

“No, that’s colloquial,” said Flushmittel.

“Hmmm,” said Flogdoodle. “I do wish we’d stick to the correct terms. We can’t possibly come to any defini- tive conclusions here if we’re not on the same page. What page are you on, Flop?”

“Page 423,” said Flop.

Flogdoodle pushed ahead. “I can’t even see that these tests are on the same page. This one says our colleague here suffers from waking hallucinations, but this one says he clearly suffers from psychosomatic narcolepsy.”

I couldn’t reply. I had fallen asleep.

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Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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