In-group bias within the team

Four awesome tips for team development

The self-aggrandising in-group bias leads your team astray

- and I bet you've experienced this psychological bias

The effect of in-group bias in large and small teams

Where does the term In-group come from?

The terms in-group and out-group were originally used by Polish psychologist Henri Tajfel when he introduced the world to social identity theory in 1979 in his paper The achievement of group differentiation. At its core, social identity theory is about a person's sense of self and identity being rooted in their membership of a group or team. Tajfel and his collaborator Turner thus established that a team is a source of self-confidence and pride. This basically means that your team gives you a social identity, and also a sense of belonging, if your perception of the team is positive.

What does the term in-group actually mean?

The psychological in-group bias in a team context focuses on the fact that people in a given team typically change their perception of the team in a positive direction, but without being aware of it. Therefore, the term in-group bias should also be understood in conjunction with the term out-group bias. Because you tend to look favourably on the people you are in the immediate group with, an animosity and distance is automatically created towards the people who are outside the group. In other words, you create an "us" versus a "them", an "us" versus an "you". And your behaviour will tend to favour those with whom you identify.

What effects does the Ingroup bias typically have on a team?

In-group bias often leads to siloing, either between teams, or within a team. In everyday life, it is just as quietly expressed by speaking deeply and kindly to some colleagues while putting others on the back burner. You give your help to those with whom you identify, while others outside your small team have to wait until you have the time and inclination. So you favour some with your gifts - time, help, dialogue, friendship - while others are downgraded in your Santa Claus game. The long-term effect is a loss of well-being and efficiency in the big team.

“Here, I’ve saved a seat for you right next to me.

Then we can sit and have a nice time together.”

How does the team get infected with in-group favoritism?

with illusory superiority?

“Well, we decide that you 3 are in charge of the new exciting project, while you 3 are in charge of running the current project to the best of your ability. Good luck!”

That’s all it takes for people to feel a sense of team belonging, which is immediately about standing out in a positive way.

The division into teams always has consequences for the team’s perception of the outside world, but also influences the behaviour displayed.

You contribute to creating in-groups and out-groups, but you may not know it!

How the leader makes mistakes dealing with the psychological in-group bias

The leader of the team is not aware enough that an out-group atmosphere is automatically created when some are put together. The manager typically believes that the gathering of functions in a corner of the main office is the most efficient. It may be, but the favourite menu moves with it. Good intentions backfire if they are not rooted in knowledge of the likely negative psychological consequences. The group closes in on itself.

How to make the in-group bias destroy any organizational culture

Whispering and hissing in the corners. Strolls only with a select group of colleagues. The same seat at the lunch table every day of the week. Jokes and small talk with your closest mates. Accommodating and offering help to certain people. Your affiliation is not secret. But this behaviour creates out-groups, people who don't feel included in your sphere. We are often blind to the consequences of our behaviour, but it behooves every person to become self-aware about how they contribute to a trusting culture.

Your behaviour and your perception

are influenced by the in-group bias

You discriminate against those you consider to be in the out-group in order to reinforce your own identity.

If you naturally notice tension and conflict in another team, in-group bias has bitten you in the ankle.

In-group and out-group affect your perception

Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher & Wetherell stressed in 1987 the consequences of in-group bias:

“The result is an identification with a collective, depersonalized indentity based on group membership and imbued with positive aspects.” Rediscovering the social group.

So you let your brain tell you that the grouping you belong to now has some positive features that it may not have. But you do it to feel good about yourself. You simply exaggerate the positive features of your own group and overestimate the negative features of the others.

In the ambitious teams I work with, we become self-conscious about this favouritism quite early on. It’s about collectively letting our guard down and taking action that benefits the whole team.

When you automatically consider the others to be threats to your own team’s existence, then you are the problem. You’re simultaneously protecting and boosting your own ego But you’ve just fallen into the in-group bias trap.

In an unsuccessful team, you tend to focus on those aspects of the team and team members that put your own self in a positive light, so you can ignore the group’s poor performance. In the successful team, by contrast, you pay close attention to performance and the numbers that support success. Winning is everything… for successful teams.

What should we learn from in-group and out-group bias

in our own teams?

When you positively identify with your team members, you will also align your behaviour with theirs. This can be a positive thing, as it increases the security of the team.

But this security can become exclusionary. Safety shapes the perception of the team, so other groupings are underestimated. Security has a price that you should not pay at this level as a team.

Instead, you should take courage and vulnerability, and go to war with this sword and shield. In essence, it’s about the individual team member being able to play well to everyone in the team and the organisation. If you have this basic attitude, then there is no room for in-group bias and out-group bias to get the upper hand.

An ambitious team can easily address this trap embedded in in-group bias. An ambitious team is at the forefront of this.

Be ambitious in the team for the success of everyone involved. 4 tips for the successful team:

When you favour someone, be aware that you are also devaluing some others.

It is often that we forget this in dealing with other people. But you know when someone else puts you in the out-group.

Make sure you talk about what happens when you are grouped.

Everyone on team 1 should now know that they are unknowingly trying to sub-optimize for their own benefit. Preferably by taking something benefits from the others teams.

Make it easy to identify when the in-group bias is at play in your team.

"This week we reduce in-group favoritism and out-group devaluation." The behavior is right in front of each of you.

Always be aware of your colleagues' intentions...

...and their underlying why.

Deep learning on in-group and out-group trends

is playfully built into workshops and team days

Ambitious Teams gives your team...

The opportunity to create synergistic teams

With the right understanding of where you as a team want to go, in-group exercises, easy-to-understand theory and reflections are built into the designed workshop.

Self-awareness that strengthens the team in the long run

In-group and out-group awareness may only take ½ hour to anchor in the team. The question is what people do after the workshop.

This is where the workshop booklet comes in with its boosters to reduce the negative in-group consequences.

In-group and out-group awareness may only take ½ hour to anchor in the team. The question is what people do after the workshop. This is where the workshop booklet comes in with its boosters to reduce the negative in-group consequences.

The individual team member becomes aware of the shadow sides of his or her own behaviour.

When everyone becomes aware of their own unintended out-group effect signals, then it is legitimate to verbalise in plenary and purposeful behaviours can be integrated.

Evaluation of a workshop where the psychological bias in-group and out-group was addressed positively and constructively

Evaluations from a full-day workshop for consultants in a public institution welcomed the loving challenges of the in-group and out-group bias. When teams become aware of the silos, exclusions and solo rides they inadvertently create with their behaviour, the team is guaranteed to create more inclusion and effectiveness. Not just on the day, but in the months after.

209 evaluations resulted in an average score of 9.4 / 10.

This workshop was held in June 2022. References can be provided upon request.

In Ambitious Teams we adapt the learning processes exactly to you

In-group bias and out-group bias can be integrated into many different workshop booklets, including the one we make for you if you want a workshop. Of course, we’ll work it out together. The workshop booklet is used during the workshop day, but also extends to the following months, so that insights are translated into everyday behaviour. Get rid of favouritism and internal conflicts with Ambitious Teams.

Statements from the above workshop,

where the psychological in-group bias was integrated into the process: