Research has shown that the presumption of selfishness is true for maybe 30% of most populations; another 50% are reliably unselfish, and the remaining 20% could go either way, depending on the context. If a company presumes that the undecided 20% are selfish, you can bet they will be selfish—it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. But worse, the company will create an environment where the 50% of the people who are unselfish are forced to act selfishly. And losing the energy, commitment, and intelligence of half the workforce is perhaps the biggest and most tragic self-fulfilling prophecy of them all.
Source: The Lean Mindset – Ask the Right Questions, Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck, Addison-Wesley
Research source: Yochai Benkler, “The Unselfish Gene,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2011.