Original Story — The Personality Test

In February, I mentioned the nice folks at Bewildering Stories published another short story of mine in issue #701 (http://bewilderingstories.com/issue701/personality_test.html).   If somehow you couldn’t access it then, I’m repeating it here today.



The Personality Test

“Ah!  Mr. Young.  I’ve been looking forward to this.”  The diminutive man sporting a tasteful suit and huge smile came to the front of the desk in three quick strides.  Then he thrust out his hand.

Mr. Young rose deliberately and shook hands. “Nice to meet you, Mr….”

“Bill.  Bill Carnegie, of Best Practices, Inc.  I understand you’d like to see your company become a bit more efficient, is that correct?”

Mr. Young hesitated. “Well, yes, sure, I think everyone can do a little better.”

“Exactly!”  Bill’s fist punched the air.  “You know, there can be a fine line between success and failure.  And we at BP have been helping companies move across that line for over a decade now.”

Mr. Young nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes, there can be a fine line there.”

“Certainly!  Now, let’s start out with a quick question.  How comfortable are your employees in their jobs?”

“Well, they all seem to be well adjusted…”

Bill leaned forward and his voice dropped to a near whisper.  “Of course!  But how do you KNOW?”

“I, uh, talk to them all the time.  And I try to get out among them as often as possible….”

Bill smiled.  “Sure you do!  That’s just good management.  But our experience is that doesn’t provide the complete story.  Sometimes you have to go a LITTLE BIT deeper to really know what they’re thinking.”

Mr. Young simply nodded.

“Good!  Now, as a first step, we have developed a little personality test to find out exactly how well your people fit their jobs.  We can tailor it to your business, and I promise it will give you a real insight into improving each person’s efficiency.  Okay?”


Simon stifled a yawn, took a long drink from his mug of coffee, and stared at the booklet in front of him.  The title said “Personality Test”, but he had worked at this company for seven years and had never seen anything like this.  What were the instructions again?

“All Personnel,

Please complete the attached Personality Profile as soon as possible, and return it to Human Resources.  Thank you in advance.”

That was it.  Well, if that’s what they want, best to get this over with.  He turned to the first page.

“For each question, mark Agree, Slightly Agree, No Opinion, Slightly Disagree, or Disagree.”

“1. I have clear goals in life.”

Aw gee, it’s one of those touchy-feely things.  And I’ve been working so hard lately, I can hardly concentrate.   I wish I could forget about this job when I get home so I could sleep better.  Wonder what would happen if I just marked them randomly?  I bet they want me to put agree.

“2. I make friends easily.”

Another agree.  Okay, perhaps this isn’t so hard after all.

 “3. It doesn’t bother me when people are rude.”

Well, yes, it does. That’s gotta be disagree.  But I bet that’s not what they want, so I’ll make that agree. Or maybe slightly agree.  Yes, that would sound better.

 “4. I am honest in all of my business dealings.”

Now that’s an interesting question.  We’re getting into ethics now?   So that’s where this is going!  Normally, this would be a slam-dunk agree.   But in this company, if I were always completely honest, I could never make my sales quotas.   You just have to fudge the truth a bit.   Quote a low price and ‘Oh, you want that, too?  I’m afraid that’s extra.’  Or ‘Sure we can fill that order by the 1st.’  Then something always happens, a strike, a natural disaster, and ‘Sorry, but that’s out of my control.’  Management knows you have to do that.  Of course they do!  So the safe answer is slightly agree.

“5. I do my job with confidence.”

Darn right.  Agree!

“6. I am loyal to my employer.”

Whoa, what?  What kind of question is that?  Simon closed his eyes and sat back in his chair.  They would never ask a blunt question like that.  Or would they?  He cleared his mind.  They want agree, of course.

“7. Everything must be organized for me to work well.”

Another obvious answer.  I’m sure that’s a disagree.

“8. I owe money to my employer.”

I what?  What is that supposed to mean?

Simon pushed away from his desk and thought.  You don’t suppose this is a trick?  Sure, everyone bends the rules a bit, don’t they?  The important thing is to bring in the business.  Our code of conduct can’t cover every situation.  You have to be able to use your own judgment, sometimes.  Management realizes that, I’m sure they do.  So I just have to stop worrying.  And the right answer is agree.

“9.  I work well as part of a team.”

Why would this follow a question about owing my employer?  Is there a pattern here to get me to admit something?  Do they suspect I’m breaking the rules?  I’d better make this another agree.   But all the answers but one so far have been agree or slightly agree.  That doesn’t seem logical.  So what is this about, really?

Simon eyed the booklet warily.  Let’s get this over with, give them what they want, then think about what this might mean.  I wonder what everyone else thinks of this?  There’s going to be some lively lunch conversation!  Wait, what if that’s what they expect?  Who might be listening in the cafeteria?  Maybe I’d better suggest we all go out to lunch today.  Hope that wouldn’t look too suspicious…


“Hello, Chet.  Come right in. “

“Good morning, Mr. Young.”  Chet took a seat in front of the big oaken desk, arranged a stack of paper on his lap, and looks up expectantly.

“So what does Human Resources have to report today?”

“Well, sir, we have implemented the pilot program for that personality survey from Best Practices, Inc..”

“Oh, yes,” Mr. Young leaned forward eagerly.  “This survey is bound to give us better insight into job compatibility.  I’m anxious to hear how that is going.”

Chet shifted uneasily, then read from the first paper in the stack on his lap.

“We have administered the survey to twenty people in Sales.  In analyzing the results, it seems everyone is well adjusted and pleased with the corporate environment.”

Mr. Young smiled.  “Good, good.”

“But there is one puzzling development,” Chet continued.  “Three of them abruptly resigned within a week of taking the survey.  No specific reason was given, they just quit.”

Mr. Young lurched backward in his chair and frowned.  “Oh?  I… I didn’t expect that.”  He paused.  “Why would people leave after taking a simple test?  Did you get any specific feedback?”

Chet slowly shook his head.  “No, sir.  It could be they were offended by the survey, although that  wasn’t mentioned.”   He paused to let his boss react.  There was none.  “It could be just a coincidence.”

Mr. Young brightened.   “Yes, I think that’s the most likely explanation.  After all, I’m out among all the employees every day.  If there was something really wrong, I’m sure I would know about it.  Okay, Chet, let’s go ahead and administer the test to the rest of our people.  I’m sure we’ll learn a lot.”

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