Are you a user of Harrison Assessments? Have you ever wondered what the scores for Traits to Avoid reveal? Quite a bit it turns out. Traits to Avoid are used in our Job Success Formulas for recruitment, promotion, succession planning and employee development.

Understanding how the Traits to Avoid are measured and what they indicate will deepen your insights into the Harrison Assessment.

Traits to Avoid

Understanding Traits to Avoid

One of the unique features of Harrison Assessments is its ability to measure tendencies for traits that hinder the performance of individuals. These are useful in recruitment, succession planning, career planning and staff development. We don’t only want to know what a person is good at – we also want to identify behaviours that will negatively impact their performance. For example, it would not be helpful for an Accountant to have a tendency to be Fast but Imprecise. In Customer Service positions it could hinder performance if a person is Blunt.

Traits to Avoid are used in Job Success Formulas (JSFs). The Traits to Avoid (TtA) included in our researched JSF templates are traits that
  • are common to people who are not successful in that job, or indeed are failing in that job,
  • but are not common to people who are high performers and good performers.

Traits to Avoid represent a relationship between two traits

The first thing to know is that each TtA measures a relationship between two traits that have the most positive impact on performance when both are strong. Thus a TtA score will specifically indicate when an imbalance exists – when a person has a lower preference for one trait over the other. If there is a low preference for one or both traits then there is a potential negative impact on performance.

Some of the pairs of traits are easily identifiable from the name of the TtA. Fast but Imprecise, for example, is a TtA that measures the relationship between the traits Tempo and Precise. Many of the TtAs represent imbalances that show in the Paradox Graphs. Eg the TtA called Permissive measures the relationship between the traits Enforcing and Warmth and Empathy. These are the two Paradoxical traits of the Driving Paradox.

How is the Score Calculated?

The score for each TtA is simply the difference between the scores of the two traits. For example, using Fast but Imprecise:
  • The score is 0 if the individual has an equal preference for Tempo and Precise, or a stronger preference for Precise.
  • Otherwise the score is the difference between the two. If Tempo is 7 and Precise is 4, then Fast but Imprecise is 3.

What does the score for a Trait to Avoid reveal?

The score helps us to understand
  • if there is a preference for one trait being measured over the paired trait
  • the degree to which it will take preference (ie the degree of imbalance)
  • thus, the degree of negative impact of the TtA on performance in the role
  • and the likelihood of the existence of Flip Behaviours, their intensity and frequency

If the score of the TtA is 2 or less there is a more or less equal preference for the two traits being measured. It does not indicate how strong either trait is, just that the TtA behaviour will not have a negative impact on performance. To gauge the strength of the preferences check the score of either trait. This will indicate whether individual traits are strong enough for the role

If the score of the TtA is over 2 (or over 3 if measuring a passive imbalance) there will be a preference for the paradox behaviour being measured over the other. The higher the score, the greater the preference and therefore the greater the imbalance. Lower scores of 2 – 3 indicate that the person will begin to use the higher trait first, and the second trait will “kick in” to bring balance when needed. With scores over 3, the imbalance is more obvious.


When a person’s Permissive score is 3, they will empathise with an employee’s situation when there is a performance issue. However they are likely to balance that with the needs of the business by finding a solution that satisfies both. Likewise when the score for Harsh is 2 or 3, a person will first consider the needs of the business, and perhaps feel a little frustrated if someone is unable to meet commitments. But then the need to maintain engagement and connection with the individual will kick in and help to ensure appropriate solutions to the issue.

However, when the score is greater than 3 there is a potential strong negative impact on the job, depending on the importance level of the TtA in the JSF. The balancing trait will not kick in. The negative impact will show as a yellow or red bar on the Job Success Analysis Report.

They also shows the propensity for flip behaviours

Flip Behaviours, or emotional responses to stressful situations, are likely in the TtAs when the score is over 2 or 3 (as explained above). The intensity of the flip is indicated by the score of the TtA – the higher the score, the more intense the flip.

The frequency of the flip is indicated by the Stress Management Trait. If a person Manages Stress Well and is Relaxed at work, then they are less likely to have emotional reactions under stress.

In Summary:

The score for a Trait to Avoid gives us a surprising amount of substantial information. We can see if there is a preference for one trait over the other and whether the preference is so strong that it will have a negative impact on the job. We can also assess when and where flips will occur, and how intense they are likely to be.

I would love to hear your stories of success in using Harrison Assessments.

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