Hema worked as a guidance counselor at her local school. Along with her colleague, Sukrit, she organized workshops and events for students so they can enjoy some time off from schoolwork.

For an upcoming event, Hema suggested that they invite parents because they were notified that the principal would be attending. Sukrit refused her idea at first—but later he felt that this was a good opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the principal. He went over Hema’s head and invited the parents himself.

Sukrit’s self-serving bias negatively impacted his relationship with Hema and put him in a bad light at work.

  1. What Is A Self-Serving Bias?


  2. Self-Serving Bias: The Good, Bad And Ugly

What Is A Self-Serving Bias?

The meaning of self-serving bias is to hold yourself in higher regard than others. When you favor yourself over other people and only seek to satisfy your needs, you exhibit a self-serving bias. It’s a type of cognitive bias that’s driven by personal motivations and intentions.

For instance, you get a new client account at work. You’re more likely to give yourself credit than your team members. But if you lose a client, you’re likely to blame others.

A self-serving bias is linked to your self-esteem and locus of control.

  • Self-esteem defines your evaluation of your self-worth and how you perceive your abilities and sensibilities

  • Locus of control defines the amount of perceived control you have over the outcomes in your life

Both of these factors can affect the way you work and how you interact with your coworkers. If you believe that your internal locus of control is higher than others, you may consider yourself as the only source of authority. However, it may even mean that you’re a lot more confident about taking initiative and raising your voice.

Let’s explore self-serving bias examples so you can keep a check on your bias before it negatively impacts your personal and professional life.

Self-Serving Bias: The Good, Bad And Ugly

Imagine you work in a team and each person has defined tasks they need to complete before the quarter ends. Even though the tasks are clearly defined, they’re still interdependent. But you feel that you’ll achieve better results if you do everything your way. So, you decide to take the lead and assign tasks as you see fit.

Now, this doesn’t sit well with your coworkers. They feel it’s unfair, claiming that you’re trying to take credit for all the work. This will end one of three ways:

  1. You may have a falling-out with your coworkers over who gets to do what, depending on how important the task is. You end up ruining your relationship with them because you weren’t ready to relent or work collaboratively.

  2. You decide that you can’t work in a team and decide to pick up tasks that can be worked on independently. This way you get to maintain your relationships and get what you want i.e. be in control.

  3. You make room for others, listen to them and understand where the problem is. You find ways around working as a team and divide tasks fairly without letting your emotions or ego get in the way.

Your self-serving bias is only as good as your self-awareness. Allowing it to run how you engage or communicate in the workplace may not be the best way. Keeping yourself in check and thinking about things before you make a decision is something that’ll keep your biases at bay.

Here are some ways to check your biases:

  1. Process and evaluate information before you make decisions in the workplace. This will help you understand the situation before jumping to conclusions.

  2. Consider multiple perspectives rather than relying on just your own. Your coworkers will have opinions on important matters that’ll help everyone get on the same page.

  3. Assess your actions before you draw conclusions or make judgments. Take a step back to consider whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.

Self-serving bias is at the heart of individualism, making it important for our personal development. But it needs to be monitored regularly to make sure you don’t end up stepping on others to serve your interests.

Harappa’s Thinking Critically course will teach you how to think before you act. With frameworks like mental models, you’ll learn to simplify information and understand things with more clarity. Your self-serving bias may work against you in the workplace, which is all the more reason to be careful!

Explore topics such as What is Confirmation BiasCognitive BiasOptimism BiasHindsight Bias & Unconscious Bias from Harappa Diaries and learn how you can benefit from various biases in your professional setting.

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