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October 31, 2016

Do you work harder than your colleagues? Probably not.

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on May 16, 2018.

Sometimes we feel like we're surrounded by people who aren't doing their fair share of the work—but it's likely everyone else thinks they're doing all the heavy lifting, Art Markman writes for Fast Company.

Our minds like to "make martyr[s]" of ourselves, Markman writes, because of something called "construal level theory." In short, the theory goes that we tend to think more abstractly about things we don't feel psychologically close to. So our brains feel, with frustrating immediacy, all the times we've pulled a late night at the office—but because we don't experience our colleagues' actions firsthand, we don't tend to note when they burn the midnight oil.

Studies also show that people tend to overinflate their own value on their team, believing they do a larger share of work than their peers and deserve to be paid more. "And when you ask a group of people to estimate what percentage contribution they've made to a group effort, you're likely to find that the total figure far exceeds 100 percent," Markman writes. "Almost everyone [overvalues] their own influence."

Keep it in perspective

"The problem with overestimates like these is that they prevent you from recognizing how much other people contribute to a project's success," Markman writes. "You may come to believe that your wins are largely the result of your own efforts," and you may even resent your coworkers for not picking up their fair share.

To avoid this perception bias, Markman says it's important to consider all the steps that go into your colleagues' accomplishments, rather than just focusing on the end results. "By assuming somebody else's perspective, you can begin to see the overall effort of the team in more accurate proportions," Markman writes.

And if you're still having trouble grasping the extent of the work your colleagues do, chat with them, Markman suggests. Grab coffee with a co-worker and "get into the nuts and bolts" of his or her work on a project, he adds. "Chances are you're not the only hard worker," and you'll be better equipped to realize this when you can step into another person's shoes (Markman, Fast Company, 10/24).

One way to get work done? Have great meetings.

How to have a great meeting

There are about 11 million formal meetings in the United States every day—and more than half of them may be unproductive. Why? Because many meetings are inefficiently run. They don't set or achieve clear goals. And we hold them out of habit.

It's clear that many meetings are unnecessary. But if you do have to assemble, there are simple solutions to make that meeting a success. Drawing on best practices—as well as lessons from across our own organization—we've created this useful infographic to guide if you really need a meeting (and if so, how to maximize everyone's time).

Download Now

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