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Grow Your Business Your Team

When It Comes to Teamwork, Egos Win Out

When It Comes to Teamwork, Egos Win Out
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

When working in groups, team members tend to exaggerate their own contributions, while diminishing the work of others, new research shows.

The study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that the bigger the workplace teams, the more credit individuals gave themselves for the work done.

The study's authors said this isn't done maliciously, but rather inadvertently, because most people are naturally egocentric and tend not to account for everyone's contributions.

"People were surprised about the extent that overclaiming occurs," Juliana Schroeder, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, said in a statement. "They think their reporting is accurate."

For part of the study, researchers had 699 MBA students who were enrolled in a negotiations course answer six questions that measure how much work they claimed. One question, for example, asked, "Of the total work that your study group did last semester, what percent of the work do you feel like you personally contributed?" [See Related Story: Speak Up! Dissension Is Key to Successful Teamwork ]

The percentages of work that each team member took credit for frequently added up to over 100 percent, an indication of overclaiming. The study's authors found that the larger the group was, the more consistently this happened. Teams with eight or more members claimed credit totaling more than 140 percent.

Schroeder said there are several ways to cut down on the amount of credit each employee takes, including breaking down large groups into smaller teams.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.