CBR Briefing #40

Mar 04, 2018

Why teams think they’re giving 140 percent
People are more likely to think they’ve contributed more than their share to a project as groups get larger

As groups get larger, other people’s contributions may be more easily overlooked.
  • Individuals tend to overestimate their relative contributions to a project, so that their estimates taken together usually add up to more than 100 percent. This tendency to “overclaim” grows as the size of a group increases, according to research by Chicago Booth’s Juliana Schroeder, Eugene M. Caruso, and Nicholas Epley.
  • As groups get larger, other people’s contributions may be more easily overlooked, say the researchers. In an experiment, they find that MBA students’ perceived contribution to projects ballooned as the number of team members grew. Reported contributions exceeded 140 percent in some teams with eight or more people (see chart).
  • Calling attention to other people’s contributions can reduce overclaiming. The researchers also find that when the students were first asked to estimate how much others had contributed, then asked how much they themselves had contributed, overclaiming decreased. It also decreased when participants were asked how many team members there were and to list their team members’ names before estimating their own contributions.
  • The findings suggest that dividing rewards in a way that feels equitable to everyone may be harder for large groups than for smaller groups. Larger groups may also be more prone to the dissatisfaction that comes from perceived inequalities in workload or recognition.