- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2001

The number of shootings in offices around the country might have been averted by administering a test to determine aggression potential. At least that is what two industrial psychologists at the University of Tennessee would have us believe. Any time you hear the word psychologist, you have to take into account that you are dealing with a far-from-perfect discipline. While the test may be an indicator, I would hope the decision to hire would not be made solely on the results.

The test will be marketed at $5 starting in January. Imagine, for the lowly price of a six-pack of beer, the Human Resource manager is going to decide if the applicant should be hired on the basis of his aggression potential. Are they looking for salesmen who take "no" for an answer? Will the office be full of "Wilbur Milk Toast" individuals? How will one rise to the top in an organization that fears aggressive behavior? There are very few laid-back CEOs that come to mind.

The researchers said they tested 2,000 workers at 12 companies nationwide, and found 8 percent to 12 percent of the test takers, regardless of race, gender or age, scored high on aggression. If this is the case, would 12 percent of the work force be considered high risks for employment? I hope not, or the good times are over. We would need to know how many of the people who took the test and were working would give the same answers if they were looking for employment.

Having had some experience with personnel testing, most individuals taking tests realize that middle-of-the-road answers are in their best interest. Extreme views are to be avoided. Tests are but one tool in the hiring process, and basing judgment on one test alone will eliminate a lot of potentially outstanding employees. The skilled interviewer is the most valuable tool in the hiring process. There is nothing wrong with aggressive tendencies that are channeled the right way.

The test includes 22 questions. I cannot imagine the results differentiate between good and bad aggressive behavior. If the developers of the test are telling us 12 percent of the work force could explode at any time, I'm glad I work alone.

I wonder if we could eliminate road rage by making the test part of applying for a driver's license? I can believe that 12 percent of the people driving cars are apt to lose it on any given day, so maybe the researchers are on to something.

If employment will rest on the results of tests measuring rage potential, perhaps the test should be administered to students at an early age. What is the use of going to college for 4 to 6 years, only to find out that you have a high rage potential and are unlikely to be employed? No sense in wasting a lot of time in school when you should be seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. Have I stumbled onto something here? Could that be what this test is all about?

Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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