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How Availability Bias Is Ruining Your Work Relationships

If we asked you to estimate how much work you put in on your last team project, then asked your coworkers the same question, and added up the percentages, we'd wind up with more than 100 percent. Why? Because the brain can only use the information that's most available to it, and your contribution is right at the top.

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 (Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr)

It's called availability bias, and it's a major reason why many of us go through every day feeling overworked and underappreciated.

"Personal experiences are especially salient and memorable simply because they're yours—and this causes issues in all collaborative contexts," writes Janet Choi at Lifehacker. "Easy access to your own thoughts and knowledge about yourself, as compared to the thoughts and knowledge of others, skews your belief about the frequency and significance of everyone's contributions. And this can have a harmful effect on how people collaborate."

In fact, studies have shown that the more people overestimate their contribution, the less they want to work together on a project in the future.

So how can we beat the bias?

1. Be transparent.

Make your work available to other team members, so that they can see for themselves what you're working on. Set up regular meetings to check in with one another and mark progress.

2. Communicate better.

Take the time to make your contributions visible -- and understandable -- to others. It might seem like a waste to translate your part of the project into terms other people can understand, but it isn't. All you're doing it contributing to the team's sense of accomplishment, which will make you more productive as a unit.

3. Appreciate the contributions of others.

Come prepared to be impressed with what other people have brought to the project. The right state of mind can make all the difference.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your secrets for working on group projects? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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