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I’d Like to Thank…Myself

On over-claiming one’s team contributions

How much work do you contribute to a team? Less than you might think. A new study by Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder finds that the bigger the teams, the more individual members of a team “over-claim” their contributions. They don’t intend to take more credit than due. Rather, people inadvertently fail to account for everyone’s contributions because they are naturally egocentric. It’s harder to consider everyone’s contributions when groups are larger.

Schroeder, along with co-authors Eugene Caruso and Nicholas Epley, both of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, will publish their research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

The researchers conducted experiments with academic authors, museum visitors, MBA students, and a large-scale national sample—producing similar results supporting over-claiming.

With the MBA students, for example, 699 people enrolled in a negotiations course answered questions to measure how much work they believe they contributed to a recent study group. Percentages consistently totaled more than 100 percent, indicating over-claiming. Teams with eight or more members claimed credit totaling over 140 percent.

To reduce over-claiming, Schroeder suggests breaking large groups into smaller teams and defining workflow. “If assignments are clearly divided, it’s easier for people to remember who is doing what.”

Schroeder also says asking people to report others’ contributions before their own tends to force people to be more accurate about self-reporting. —PT

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Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder