DISC Personality Test
Updated February 22, 2022
The DISC assessment is a behavioral test used to understand employees.
It is similar to a personality test but assesses how you act rather than how you think.
Separating test-takers into four distinct groups based on their motivations, stressors, behaviors and how they deal with conflict, a DISC assessment can help improve communication and teamwork.
DISC is an acronym for the four behavioral types that a person can be described as having.
The test itself is a judgment-free way for employers and colleagues to learn more about how everyone prefers to work, communicate and be motivated.
It also provides insight into how they deal with conflict and what stresses them.
Each DISC profile has strengths, weaknesses and different ways that they prefer to communicate. By understanding what each one means, the team can perform better together, reduce the risk of miscommunication and achieve goals without conflict.
The science behind the DISC model comes from noted psychologist Dr. William Marston.
His book ‘The Emotions of Normal People’, published in 1928, described four intrinsic drives that direct our behavioral patterns.
He labeled these as Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance, placing them in a circle that was separated into equal quadrants.
The actual measurement of people and placing them into that circle came from the Activity Vector Analysis created by Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist, who created a checklist of descriptions.
He learned from his studies in the 1940s that the outcomes of these assessments, where candidates would pick the adjectives that they felt most relevant to themselves, measured the same elements as the DISC descriptors that Marston had established.
These four traits were: aggressive, sociable, stable and avoidant.
Following the publication of these findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, John Geier improved upon the self-description assessment to create a Personal Profile System that is the root of the many versions of the DISC assessment that are published and readily available today.
A DISC profile is represented by a circle bisected by two axes.
The horizontal axis represents the motor or pace drive, and the vertical is the compass or priority drive.
On the left of the circle, profiles are more task-driven, while on the right they are more people-driven. On the top, communication is more assertive, while on the bottom communication is typically more reserved.
Type D profiles are labeled as Dominant or Driven. While only 9% of the population fit into this bracket, you will typically find D-types in the C-suites and high levels of a business.
D-types love facing a challenge, moving fast and making decisions faster. As employees, D-types thrive when they can work autonomously and make their own decisions, preferring to stay on task and get things done without interference.
Some descriptions of the D-type include:
Often considered natural leaders, Dominant type people tend to be strong and authoritarian, looking for results and being great in a crisis.
They do not need to be liked and accepted when leading and can be considered a ‘things’ leader, rather than a people leader.
Their strengths come from their ability to act without hesitation and adapt to change quickly. They are forward-thinking and do not get bogged down with details or routines.
Challenges are second nature and type Ds regularly act fast to get a result.
As they are so willing to engage with change, they often find new ways of moving forward and developing when they are given the flexibility and authority to make decisions.
As part of a team, they will work well as a leader if it supports their own goals. They will push the team to decide and keep everyone moving forward.
The weaknesses of the type-D are often to do with how they come across to others. Since they are so results-focused, thinking of other people’s feelings is not always the first consideration, and their no-nonsense attitude can come off as impatient, overbearing and rude.
Type Ds prefer to work independently and when they must get help from others, they tend to bark orders rather than ‘ask nicely’.
When a type-D communicates, they can express their opinions as facts, allowing no further discussion. Loud, blunt and efficient with words, the D-type can dominate a conversation and make it one-directional – and will often challenge others.
In any form of communication with a type D, get to the point quickly. Mindless small talk not getting to the result drives them crazy, so focus on solutions rather than problems and find that bottom line quickly.
Any feedback should be brief and actionable, focusing on the critical points. If delegating to a type D, just tell them what results are needed and give them the space to get them done. They rarely need step-by-step instructions and will ask questions if they need any clarification.
Inducement/Influential types make up around 29% of the population. They are the talkative, social types who are people-focused and create a fun atmosphere.
They prefer less rigid working environments where they can create enjoyment and are always looking for the bright side.
Often preferring creative careers where they can interact with different people all the time, type I profiles can be found in roles like PR, TV and radio, product development, and training.
Type-I personalities can be described as:
In a leadership position, type I profiles tend to lead through friendship, creating a warm and positive working atmosphere. They are typically informal and sociable.
The type I strengths come from their comfort in social situations. Because they interact openly and honestly, they can create a working relationship based on energy and fun.
They tend to see the positive in every situation, looking for creative solutions to problems. Team spirit is important to them; they encourage and motivate others with their own excitement. They thrive on contact with people.
Type I weaknesses include being over-emotional and taking things too personally. Type I personalities can be desperate to be liked, which can lead to them overpromising and struggling to deliver.
While their gregarious nature makes them great in social situations, when they talk too much they do not always stop to listen - they can have problems focusing on details and creating an effective analysis.
Type I profiles can sometimes be conflict-avoidant and might struggle to deal with negative emotions.
In communication with a type I profile, the more informal the better. Social meetings over a cup of coffee or long emails with shared experiences and stories are preferable to type-Is, and when it comes to them communicating, they use feelings and emotions to convey information.
In terms of delivering feedback, they prefer to receive high-level information with encouragement.
As they are such people-pleasers, explaining how their work affects other people is a great motivator.
They particularly enjoy group activities that allow them to be sociable and meet people. Type I profiles think creatively, so can devise a plan if just given the desired result.
Type S profiles are designated as Submissive or Steady. They make up approximately 30% of the population and are people-focused, ensuring that everyone is happy and cooperating.
They find the perfect balance between results and people in a laid-back way.
Typical roles for a Type S include teachers, social workers, HR managers and medical practitioners.
Type S profiles can be described as:
- Good listeners
As leaders, Type S profiles tend to like routines and create a stable and service-oriented atmosphere. They are more suited to leading small teams where they can guide and develop the team members through participation and patience.
As members of a team, you can rely on a Type S to provide support and be thought of as the steady ‘workhorses’. They prefer continuity and security, developing trust over time and are expressive and friendly.
Strengths of type S profiles include being attentive to their team and taking the time to praise and encourage others.
They are calm and controlled, able to stay on task without distraction. They do not make hasty decisions; instead, they listen to their team members and develop routines that have small improvements that take their team into account.
The weaknesses of a Type S can be that they are often too willing to help others and can be taken advantage of. Their reticence to make decisions can make them slow and stuck on the way things are, relying too heavily on routine and not necessarily brave enough to deal quickly with big changes.
Type S profiles tend to avoid giving feedback because of the effect on others, being unwilling to upset someone. They can have a quiet, simmering resentment within them if people do not understand what they want from the comments they do make.
Type S profiles like detail, warmth and sincerity – so any communication needs to be friendly and true.
They tend to listen more than they talk and are more confident in one-on-one situations, where they will happily discuss in detail things that they know and have personally mastered.
They create an atmosphere of trust and support because they are so steady.
To give feedback to a Type-S profile, make sure that it is delivered in person and privately, supported by reasoning and given with empathy.
Type S profiles love genuine appreciation and acceptance, and if a manager takes time to keep promises and listen, a Type S becomes a loyal employee that will always go the extra mile.
Although the Type S profiles might be seen as a ‘stick in the mud’, they make a great team member because they offer continuity and always think about how everything that happens affects their teammates.
Compliance or Clarity profiles make up 31% of the population.
They are deep-thinking, analytical problem solvers who enjoy processes and structures. Type C profiles enjoy facts and figures and are measured and logical.
You can find them in careers like IT (as technicians and accountants) operations managers and engineers.
Some descriptions of Type-C profiles include:
Type C leaders focus on quality. Driven by rules and compliance, they have little tolerance for mistakes and prefer people to follow set rules and regulations rather than using words of inspiration.
Type C profiles are a focus for a team, staying on task and acting as internal controllers. They have excellent analytical skills and keep detailed notes. They can work without the distraction of emotion and do not need a lot of social interaction.
Type C profiles are methodical and cautious, unlikely to make decisions without assessing all the available data. They want to be correct and produce high-quality work.
Comfortable with facts and figures, they are efficient at spotting mistakes and are excellent at quality control.
Sometimes, Type C profiles can suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’ – a weakness that means they spend too long looking at data and not actually making a decision.
They get stuck trying to find the perfect solution rather than allowing something that is not quite right but will get the job done, and they are sometimes too critical.
As they need a lot of information to make decisions, they can be afraid of taking risks.
As Type-C profiles prefer facts and figures, small talk is not appealing to them.
They are quiet and reserved, preferring written communication to verbal instructions. Adopting a business-like tone in meetings, providing a written agenda and detailed instructions for tasks, as well as remaining clear and factual in emails and delegation instructions keeps a Type-C on task.
Feedback should be relevant to the completion of tasks rather than personality and should be presented with data and logic. Type C profiles prefer clear expectations and boundaries and enjoy working with personal autonomy within those areas so that they can expand their knowledge and specialize where possible.
In all communication, Type C profiles like straightforward information based on detailed data, with the facility to ask questions and get clear, structured answers.
DISC assessments help employers understand their employees better and so are used at various stages of the working relationship.
In some cases, DISC assessments can form part of the initial hiring process to help determine whether someone’s innate behavior is suited to a particular role or department.
It could be that a team needs someone who can take charge, so they look for someone with a D-type profile.
DISC assessments can be used to encourage better communication as a team-building exercise and to help with training needs. It can also be used as an indicator of performance for sales positions or for promotions.
For the employee, a DISC assessment can increase your self-awareness, helping you recognize where your strengths are. This means that you can understand how you work and communicate best and learn more about your own motivators.
It is also a great way to find out what your weaknesses might be so that you can work on improving in those areas or just be aware of them in your day-to-day work.
For the employer and manager, knowing the DISC profile of the team can make a huge difference in the way the team operates as a cohesive unit.
Every profile brings a different benefit to a team and managers can use that to ensure that targets are met, conflicts are effectively resolved and communication is improved.
Understanding the communication styles of others can turn a situation that previously would have been a conflict into a productive and positive exercise.
Managers can also use the information from the DISC assessment to make sure that employee needs are being met in terms of meetings and feedback – including finding the right training methods and tools, delegating and leadership.
As a team, knowing the DISC profile of your colleagues helps you to know how to approach each other, reduce miscommunication and utilize their specific strengths to reach goals or make the team better.
Sales teams can use DISC assessments to improve sales skills, helping them to understand customers and adapt their approach to connect on a human level.
The DISC assessment is a multiple-choice test. Different descriptions of behavior feature in each question and you need to decide whether you strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree.
This is a personal questionnaire, so there are no right or wrong answers. The idea is that you know yourself better than anyone; answering honestly will provide you with more relevant and actionable information.
These assessments are usually administered online, and the answers will populate a DISC that is representative of your behaviors, stressors, motivators and ways you communicate.
From this, a personal profile and report are available, giving key areas of behavioral tendencies.
Depending on how the test is going to be used, you may be presented with the information immediately following the assessment, or your manager may wait to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the results.
In the results, there will also be information about the other DISC types so that you can find out more about the personalities of those around you too.
If you are taking a DISC assessment, the most important thing to remember is that you cannot fail this test. There is no right or wrong answer to any of the questions, so no practice is needed.
The answers are yours and are based on your honest self-assessment.
Although it might be tempting to create a ‘favorable’ image in these assessments, no profile is better than another, and every DISC type has specific strengths and weaknesses.
Whether you are taking the test as a pre-employment assessment or as part of a team-building or training exercise, it is important to be honest.
If you do not answer honestly, then the assessment is of limited use to your employer and, more importantly, to you because it is not an accurate reflection.
Any decisions, training opportunities or promotions based on a false DISC assessment can crumble around you when you can no longer keep up the facade.
If you see it as a chance to learn more about yourself, how you behave and communicate, and what makes you motivated or stressed, you can work on improving yourself for your own development and the benefit of your colleagues.
The DISC assessment is a valuable behavior indicator used in workplaces for training, team-building and conflict resolution. It can provide insight for managers, colleagues and employees about their strengths and weaknesses, and inform managers on how best to motivate and communicate with their team.
It has a long history as part of behavior assessment based on the four drives that influence behavior and communication.
The DISC assessment should not be considered a complete personality test, however. It is understood that there are many other facets of personality that are not considered with a DISC assessment; like values and beliefs, character, sense of humor, temperament, thinking, emotional maturity, and ethics, to name a few.
It also bases the profiles on what is thought of as a ‘normal’ range of behaviors, so makes no diagnosis, discussion or definition of anything outside the norm – something to keep in mind as the appreciation of neurodiversity rises.
The DISC assessment is a great way to get insights into your communication preferences, what motivates you, how you react to conflict, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.