Many years ago, researchers Michael Ross and Fiore Sicoly of the University of Waterloo asked husbands and wives to estimate the percentage of the household work they did. On average, the total amount of work claimed by each couple far exceeded 100%. The husbands and wives felt they were contributing more than was actually the case—and that their spouses weren’t carrying their weight.
Since then, overclaiming of credit has been uncovered among academic authors, MBA team members, and a host of other groups. Research provides compelling evidence that people automatically and unconsciously interpret data in a self-serving manner and then arrive at moral judgments based on these implicit thought processes.
Similarly, division heads may attempt to overclaim credit when scarce resources are being negotiated within an organization. What may appear to be selfish behavior may actually be ordinary unethical behavior that lies outside the negotiator’s conscious awareness. So, before arguing that your division deserves 60% of the credit for your corporation’s recent success, take a cold, hard look at the numbers. You may be contributing less than you think you are—and others may be contributing more.
Adapted from “When Good People (Seem to) Negotiate in Bad Faith,” by Max H. Bazerman (professor, Harvard Business School), Dolly Chugh (professor, New York University), and Mahzarin R. Banaji (professor, Harvard University), October 2005.