Do Behavioral Assessment Pigeon Hole People

When engaged in a conversation today on the use of behavioral assessments, a person made the simple comment “we don’t use behavioral assessments because we don’t like to pigeon hole people”.  The comment is merely a simple statement, but the perspective driving that opinion reveals a mindset of concern that is much bigger than the why and when to use an assessment.  It reveals the fundamental belief the person making the comment has about people.

What do you hear behind the scenes of this comment?  What are the back-story thoughts that would inspire a person to say this?  As a coach, these are the concerns and questions that go through my mind when I hear a person make such an “absolute” statement.

  • Why does this person believe assessments only reveal bad things not good things?
  • Have they had bad experiences with assessments because bad things is what they are looking for, or have they just used bad assessments?
  • Pigeon hole is a common term normally used negatively so does that infer that this person approaches people in a negative light?
  • Why is it absolute that using an assessment ONLY leads to a pigeon hole? There is no other outcome.
  • How skilled are they at implementing and interpreting assessment results?
  • They apply the term “pigeon hole” to the person, and not more meaningfully to a person’s behaviors. They look at assessment results and think “you are a…”, when they should be thinking “your natural behaviors are to….”.
  • This pigeon hole statement has an inherent lack of belief that people cannot improve challenging behaviors nor do they have control over them.
  • This statement also suggests that anybody interpreting assessment results must and will at all times pigeon hole a person based on the result and there is no other possible outcome.
  • If so many organizations and people achieve such great results from using assessments, then why has this person’s experiences not proven the same results?


A negative thought can be applied to almost anything good if that is how you choose to see it.  You could say “I never eat steak because steak knives ONLY lead to disasters”.  Or don’t use a hammer because you WILL smash your finger.  Any tool used the wrong way or for the wrong reason can be a problem.  That doesn’t automatically mean the tool is bad.  An absolute predicted outcome of something bad is more reflective of an attitude or a mindset than a reality.

A good normative assessment can provide wonderful insights on the behaviors of people.  These insights are not good or bad, they are more applicable if you see the results in terms of “what does this mean?”    Any tool has an inherent downside if improperly applied or if the wrong tool is used for a job.  To pigeon hole demonstrates more of an inaccurate mindset than a deficiency in a tool.  A hammer can smash a finger or build an entire house.  The difference is dependent on what you choose to see is the purpose of the tool.