Wednesday, May 04, 2016

People often over-claim their own contributions to the team

Public Release: 7-Mar-2016
I'd like to thank...myself
People often over-claim their own contributions to the team
University of California - Berkeley Haas School of Business

When Leonardo DiCaprio accepted his Oscar for Best Actor in "The Revenant" this year, he acknowledged the hard work of the movie's entire team. But such generosity isn't always the case. On large teams--such as big film production crews--size can lead people to inflate their own contributions while diminishing their team members' work.

A new study finds that the bigger the teams, the more individual members of a team "over-claim" their contributions. It's not that people intend to take more credit than due. Instead, people inadvertently fail to account for everyone's contributions because they are naturally egocentric. It is harder to consider everyone's contributions when groups are larger.

"People were surprised about the extent that over-claiming occurs. They think their reporting is accurate," says Juliana Schroeder, an assistant professor of management at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.


Schroeder suggests ways to reduce over-claiming. "When you have large groups, you might want to consider breaking down the group into smaller teams," says Schroeder. "It is also important to make the workflow very clear. If assignments are clearly divided, it's easier for people to remember who is doing what."

While the participants of the study's four surveys were anonymous, what happens when group members in the real world learn that their colleagues are over-claiming their contribution to the team? Schroeder says asking people to report others' contributions before their own tends to force people to be more accurate about self-reporting and ultimately, not "thank" themselves too much.

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