Self-Serving Bias: Examining its Effects on Workplace Dynamics

CoachHub · 16 January 2023 · 6 min read

A healthy workplace dynamic is one where people are comfortable enough to speak up about things and share their thoughts, views and opinions on events in the workplace.

Other things that constitute a healthy workplace dynamic is when people are able to admit to their errors and be held accountable for them. Many people do not acknowledge the freedom to gain, however, its absence can be very detrimental to the wellbeing and psychological dynamics of a workplace. When this accountability is absent, people become incapable of admitting their errors and instead blame other people or factors in order to protect their image in that setting.

This phenomenon is called a self serving bias. The person perpetuating this bias may not see it as a problem because the goal is to try to look good and competent in the work environment. It is a common thing but the impacts on the workplace can be negative.

The self-serving bias could be detrimental to the overall psyche of the workplace. It can also affect relationships and the dynamics among individuals. It can also negatively affect self esteem and career advancement.

In many instances, the self-serving bias is also regarded as the self-serving attribution bias. It is used to qualify people who regard their successes as personal wins and see their skills and talents as reasons for their victories in the workplace. On the other hand, their failures are blamed on external factors. They are unable to take responsibility for their failures and mistakes.

This bias can make it hard for progress to occur in the workplace and it can breed a lack of trust. People become less able to learn from their errors and advance their skill or career.

What is self-serving bias and how does it manifest in the workplace?

A self serving bias is a very common thing that occurs in the workplace. It makes people mentally separate themselves from negative consequences of errors by blaming their faults on external factors. Rather, they take responsibility for positive events.

The self-effacing bias is the antithesis of the self-serving bias. Here, people take their faults or mistakes personally and blame themselves for errors while downplaying their achievements. Neither the self-serving bias nor the self-effacing bias are based on truth.

One of the examples of self-serving bias could be a worker coming in late. Rather than admitting that they could have done something different to get in earlier, a self-serving person would blame their lateness on other factors like their car or traffic. In the event that such a person comes in early, they take responsibility for their early arrival.

self serving bias

The negative effects of self-serving bias on individual and group performance

The main reason why people perpetuate a self-serving bias in the workplace is to make themselves look and feel better. However, it can be very disadvantageous in the long run. It gets worse with time and is fueled by an absence of self awareness. In your head, you start to feel invaluable or above reproach, making it difficult for you to adjust and learn from your mistakes.

1. Psychological insecurity

When a person perpetuates a self-serving bias continuously, other people stop feeling safe around them. This makes it difficult for others to voice their opinions and feedback. It feels harder to give contradictory feedback. For the person perpetuating the bias, they may start to experience imposter syndrome.

2. Lack of trust

A self-serving bias reduces trust between managers and coworkers. It gets harder for anyone to provide adequate feedback on issues. People start to feel distrustful of others intentions and criticisms come across as a personal attack.

3. Stunted growth

It’s hard to learn from your mistakes and grow when you refuse to take responsibility for your mistakes. People with a self-serving bias focus more on avoiding mistakes than they do on actually learning and becoming better at their job. This can hinder chances of career advancement.


The role of self-serving bias in shaping organisational culture

It’s quite easy for the workplace to become toxic when coworkers get used to a self-serving bias. It becomes harder to be objective when giving reports or credit for anything.

In cases where an employee receives negative feedback or criticism from a supervisor, they may refuse to focus on their faults and instead blame their mistakes on someone else. In the end, everyone begins to think others are out to get them. This makes it hard for cooperation to take place as employees may start to sabotage one another.

A self-serving bias also makes it hard to conduct training in the workplace as employees may find it harder to correct their mistakes. The first step to getting better at anything is admitting that you need help. A self-serving bias makes it impossible for people to admit to their problem areas or focus on training exercises that could help them get better at their jobs.

It also becomes more difficult to create a more diverse and inclusive work environment as employees become reluctant to share their thoughts on things that could be done to improve work relationships and performances.


Digital coaching for addressing self-serving bias

A self-serving bias could be difficult to unlearn. This is why it is important to implement tools like digital coaching to help people understand their motivations and actions better.

Digital coaches can work with both supervisors and coworkers to understand the need to take proper responsibility for their actions. People need to see that anyone can make mistakes and errors are an opportunity to grow and learn in the workplace. Digital coaches can provide an unbiased view to help workers understand that their mistakes are not direct reflections of their abilities.

The ability to take responsibility for both positive and negative outcomes creates an atmosphere of respect and trust in the workplace. It also makes it easier for people to air their thoughts and views without misconceptions. Digital coaching can help with this.

Digital coaching also shows superiors better ways of dealing with employee mistakes without creating a toxic environment. People need to feel safe when owning up to their errors and when they don’t, they may perpetuate a self-serving bias.

Digital coaching is effective in ensuring that healthy communication techniques are practised in the workplace to foster an air of transparency, trust and openness among workers.


Strategies for recognizing and combating self-serving bias

A work environment that promotes personal development is a key factor in eliminating self-serving bias among workers. Digital coaching programs are useful in this regard. The coaches help people learn the difference between personal development and growth as opposed to failure. It encourages people to celebrate their successes while they gain the ability to learn from their mistakes.

Another way of combating self-serving bias is by aiming for accuracy. People need to be able to take responsibility for their mistakes without turning to a self-effacing bias. It is important to learn the distinction between controllable events and those that can’t be controlled. Digital coaching can help workers accurately evaluate themselves to strike a proper balance.

Feedback is also necessary to promote a positive work environment. People need to be capable of saying what they mean about projects or changes without fear that their input will be misinterpreted. Digital coaching helps both supervisors and employees develop healthy communication and problem solving techniques to aid their professional relationships.

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It is necessary to fully address the issue of a self-serving bias among workers. It will be difficult for any organisation to grow if its members consistently feel too afraid to admit their faults. For growth to occur in a company, there needs to be a balance in the relationship between employees and supervisors.

Digital coaching can help workers learn how to promote a fair and objective work environment for the growth and stability of the company.

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Samuel Olawole
Samuel Olawole is a freelance copywriter and content writer who specializes in creating exciting content across a wide range of topics and industries. When he’s not writing, you can find him traveling or listening to good music.

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