The liking gap in teams


A new study has come out about the liking gap in teams. Do team members like each other more than they realize? If so, what are the consequences? And can anything be done about it?

What is the liking gap? 

The liking gap (Boothby et al (2018) means this: Most people underestimate how much others like them after having talked to them. We seem to have a tendency to judge ourselves quite critically after talking to others, while those others tend to be a bit more lenient about us. We do not notice enough that others signal to us that they like us and do not realize enough that they really mean this in general. Instead, we mainly focus on our own critical thoughts about ourselves. 

What's bad about the liking gap? 

It's a shame we might like each other better than we realize. We may be needlessly reluctant towards others because of this. As a result, we may, to a certain extent, pass up the opportunity to start up and develop pleasant relationships and useful collaborations with each other. And we may feel worse or lonelier than we need to. 

The liking gap in teams 

Mastroianni et al. (2020) investigated to what extent the liking gap also occurs in groups and teams. In a first study (N = 95) they showed that the liking gap does indeed develop in groups. The figure below shows that the group members liked each other more than they thought.

Study 2 (N = 140) showed that the liking bias persists in a technical team working together on a project (see figure below).

In a third study (N = 1877) they showed that the liking gap in teams has important consequences for the ability of teams to work together. This study also showed that the liking gap is more pronounced between colleagues than between managers and employees (see figure below).

Can we realize the underused potential in teams?  

The liking gap indeed also appears to exist in teams. This could have various negative effects. We may feel worse than necessary when interacting with others. We may be more reserved than necessary. We may be less satisfied and happy in our work than necessary. We may not work as well and intensively together as possible.  

Perhaps teams can become more pleasant and function better if we manage to exploit the untapped potential caused by the liking gap.