Quiz: Are You Hiring and Breeding Greedy and Selfish Employees?

For those managers worried they are staffing their teams with a bunch of jerks, we have this handy quiz! Answer truthfully and learn if you are a leader of obnoxious superstars.

EGOS Survey (Evaluation Gauge for Obnoxious Superstars)

Answer true or false to each statement below. The people who get ahead at my workplace:

  1. say "we" but think "me."
  2. see their peers as competitors, even "the enemy."
  3. remove subordinates' names from good work before passing it up the chain.
  4. belittle others' triumphs and successes.
  5. hoard their ideas because, after all, there is no reward for sharing them with colleagues.
  6. are chronic credit hogs.
  7. stomp on others on the way to the top.
  8. often ask for help from colleagues but rarely return the favor.
  9. are world-class backstabbers, remarkably adept at destroying the reputations of peers, subordinates, and bosses whom they see as competitors.
  10. stockpile resources and won't share, no matter how badly others need them.
  11. routinely rip apart colleagues—not just their ideas, but their reputations and self-confidence, too.
  12. are such all-star ass-kissers that their superiors adore them, but they are despised by peers and subordinates.
  13. negotiate for more and more goodies for themselves but never go to bat for others.
  14. conveniently "forget" to invite colleagues to high-profile meetings.
  15. do what is best for themselves first and rarely what is best for their team or the organization.
  16. say nice things to their bosses' faces but rip them to shreds behind their backs.
  17. don't waste time teaching or mentoring others.
  18. are black holes of information: it only goes in, never out to colleagues.
  19. insist on being "in the loop" but don't return the favor.
  20. live the 30 Rock mantra—"I'm going to get mine!"

Scoring the EGOS

Add up the number of statements that you marked as true. This isn't a scientifically validated test, but here is how I would describe your workplace:

0 to 4: Help others succeed or get the hell out. If you are telling the truth, your workplace selects and breeds unselfish stars, and reforms (or drives out) selfish creeps.

5 to 10: Help others succeed, but watch your back. Your workplace is at the borderline between anointing collaborative versus selfish stars. People collaborate and there are rewards for doing so, but enough selfish behavior happens that anointed stars grab goodies and credit for themselves and protect themselves against getting screwed—especially by their most selfish and devious coworkers.

11 to 15: Watch out for number one, otherwise you are screwed. Your people are playing a competitive, "I win, you lose" game every day. Selfishness and backstabbing abound, and collaborators are crushed by the system. Even the most naturally cooperative people learn to become selfish and do a bit of backstabbing in such places, otherwise survival is impossible.

16 to 20: Kill or be killed. You are in a dog-eat-dog world where the only way for people to get ahead is to treat their coworkers as enemies and to crush their spirits and reputations every chance they get. No one lasts long in such a place without becoming an overbearing and selfish jerk who screws colleagues at every turn.

Are You Working With Energizers or Rotten Apples? Read the article

This is an excerpt from GOOD BOSS, BAD BOSS: How to Be the Best ... and Learn from the Worst by Robert I. Sutton, PhD. Copyright © 2010 by Robert Sutton. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

[Image courtesy of NBC]


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  • Dr. Joseph Harder

    Bob, thanks for this article. Several of my M.B.A. students in Spirit of the New Workplace have chosen "The No A$$hole Rule" as their book to read before the course begins, and have liked the way you quantify the cost of such individuals in organizations.

    David raises an interesting question about labeling, in particular greedy and selfish, but however we label these behaviors, the questionnaire points toward some good indicators of a culture of something many of us would not want to be a part of.

    I'd be curious what your advice is to Jesse's question, but I would think in a mostly good culture you could simply make people aware of these dimensions, and open up the question to some representative group about continued improvement on the few problem items.

    All best,

  • David Molden

    Rather than label people as greedy and selfish, I would highlight the pattern of behaviour - very internally referenced and independent. Trouble with labelling is you alienate people who do not see themselves in this way. I don't believe many people actually are so greedy they don't care about others - it's more of a deeper habitual way of interacting with the world that focuses on self primarily and the accumulation of wealth, information, resources etc. Generalising behaviour with labels such as 'greedy' may make an interesting article but doesn't encourage people to change their behaviour. Are financial market dealers all greedy? There are more subtle approaches these days.

    David Molden


  • Mike White

    Hi David - You're SOOO SWEEET ! ! ! - You are either one of the biggest perpetrators of these offences, or your mommy just doesn't let you see the "bad people" in this real world ! WAKE UP and GROW UP !!!!!!!

  • Michael McKenna

    Too many organizations allow arrogant and selfish types to exist in exchange for the perceived gain in operational ability, etc. The reality is that unbridled arrogance among a few leads to distrust among many...and widespread distrust will bring down even the mightiest of organizations.

  • Scott Byorum

    I pity anyone working in a company that scores higher than "0"... and I would seek another job if I worked in one as they are clearly out of touch with how to live and are stellar examples of what is wrong with this world.

  • Jesse Goldman

    Dr. Sutton, thanks for a very handy quiz! Many people I know will benefit from it so I've shared it around.
    My workplace scored pretty low, in the 0-4 range though there were a few statements that I marked as true. What's your advice for removing these roadblocks? Would it be the same advice for groups that score in the higher ranges?