Your fair share

Soldiers generally win battles; generals get credit for them.
Napoleon Bonaparte
1769 – 1821

Once, I was working with a couple of partners who owned and operated a small business. The partners were experiencing some friction and one called me to vent his frustration. His main complaint was that he was doing the majority of the work. In his opinion, the other partner wasn’t doing his fair share.

About a week later, I was still wondering how to deal with the problem when the other partner called and asked to have coffee with me. When we met, I was stunned to hear the same complaint: he felt like he was doing most of the work.

Each partner thought they were doing about 75% percent of the work and the other partner was only contributing 25%. So if you add up what each partner thought they were contributing, it comes to 150%. Obviously, the amount of work can’t exceed 100%, so one or both of the partners had incorrectly gauged their level of contribution.

As I begin to study the issue, I discovered the problem wasn’t limited to this small partnership. This dilemma is very common in marriage and committed relationships. In fact, it’s so common that psychologists have given it a name: relationship bias. In any relationship, we tend to be biased about our level of contribution to the relationship.

This issue also shows up in work teams and volunteer organizations. In almost any situation where people are working together, there’s a strong possibility that one or more of the participants feels like they’re doing more than their fair share.

While we have full knowledge of the work we do for the team or the relationship, we typically don’t know the full extent of the work our partner(s) are doing. This gap in knowledge contributes to the bias about our own level of contribution. And when we focus mainly on our own efforts, we build up those contributions in our minds and unconsciously diminish the efforts of our partner(s).

There is a solution. I met with each partner individually and asked him to make a list of all the things the other partner did for the business. I requested an exhaustive list and insisted each one spend adequate time to do a thorough job. By forcing each person to analyze their partner’s contribution, they came to realize how much effort they were overlooking.

If you’re in a committed relationship, I feel certain there are times when you think you’re doing more than your partner. Instead of focusing on all you do, I invite you to make a comprehensive list of all the things your partner brings to the relationship. If you lessen your responsibility bias, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for your partner.

There is immense power in acknowledging the contribution of every human being in our life.
Ashish Vidyarthi
1960 –

Copyright © 2020 by John Chancellor

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