SQL SERVER – The Self Join – Inner Join and Outer Join

Self Join has always been an note-worthy case. It is interesting to ask questions on self join in a room full of developers. I often ask – if there are three kind of joins, i.e.- Inner Join, Outer Join and Cross Join; what type of join is Self Join? The usual answer is that it is an Inner Join. In fact, it can be classified under any type of join. I have previously written about this in my interview questions and answers series. I have also mentioned this subject when I explained the joins in detail over SQL SERVER – Introduction to JOINs – Basic of JOINs.

When I mention that Self Join can be the outer join, I often get a request for an example for the same. I have created example using AdventureWorks Database of Self Join earlier, but that was meant for inner join as well. Let us create a new example today, where we will see how Self Join can be implemented as an Inner Join as well as Outer Join.

Let us first create the same table for an employee. One of the columns in the same table contains the ID of manger, who is also an employee for the same company. This way, all the employees and their managers are present in the same table. If we want to find the manager of a particular employee, we need use self join.

USE TempDb
-- Create a Table
Name NVARCHAR(50),
ManagerID INT
-- Insert Sample Data
SELECT 1, 'Mike', 3
SELECT 2, 'David', 3
SELECT 3, 'Roger', NULL
SELECT 4, 'Marry',2
SELECT 5, 'Joseph',2
SELECT 7, 'Ben',2
-- Check the data
FROM Employee

selfjoini1 SQL SERVER   The Self Join   Inner Join and Outer Join

We will now use inner join to find the employees and their managers’ details.

-- Inner Join
SELECT e1.Name EmployeeName, e2.name AS ManagerName
FROM Employee e1
INNER JOIN Employee e2
ON e1.ManagerID = e2.EmployeeID

selfjoini2 SQL SERVER   The Self Join   Inner Join and Outer Join

From the result set, we can see that all the employees who have a manager are visible. However we are unable to find out the top manager of the company as he is not visible in our resultset. The reason for the same is that due to inner join, his name is filtered out. Inner join does not bring any result which does not have manager id. Let us convert Inner Join to Outer Join and then see the resultset.

-- Outer Join
SELECT e1.Name EmployeeName, ISNULL(e2.name, 'Top Manager') AS ManagerName
FROM Employee e1
LEFT JOIN Employee e2
ON e1.ManagerID = e2.EmployeeID

selfjoini3 SQL SERVER   The Self Join   Inner Join and Outer Join

Once we convert Inner Join to Outer Join, we can see the Top Manager as well. Here we have seen how Self Join can behave as an inner join as well as an outer join.

As I said earlier, many of you know these details, but there are many who are still confused about this concept. I hope that this concept is clear from this post.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.SQLAuthority.com)

48 thoughts on “SQL SERVER – The Self Join – Inner Join and Outer Join

  1. SELECT e1.Name EmployeeName, ISNULL(e2.Name, ‘Top Manager’) AS ManagerName
    FROM Employee e1
    LEFT JOIN Employee e2
    ON e1.ManagerID = e2.EmployeeID


  2. Getting Group By Count In Self Join

    SELECT e1.ProductModelID ,count(*) TotalProductModelID,avg(e1.ProductDescriptionID ) as avgProductDescriptionID
    FROM Production.ProductModelProductDescriptionCulture e1
    inner JOIN Production.ProductModelProductDescriptionCulture e2
    ON e1.ProductModelID = e2.ProductModelID

    group by e1.ProductModelID


  3. I don’t quite understand this. A ‘self join’ is a concept. Just like a ‘join’ on multiple tables. It is divorced from any notion of the ‘type’ of join. They are separate concerns.

    The ‘self’ part refers to how the tables relate and the ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ part refers to the implementation you employ depending on business requirements.


  4. Well said Kam. This example is as much an exercise in realizing the need for an outer join as it is an exercise is the concept of a “self join”.

    Separate the two facts:

    1: The outer join is required because a record we desire in the result set is being trimmed by using an inner join. When joining two sets of data, an inner join requires the field(s) being joined on to have corresponding values in both sets of data for those records to show in the result set.

    We desire to see the complete list of employees, but one employee has a NULL value in the ManagerID field being joined on….so that employee record would be trimmed from the result set using an inner join. Hence, the need for the outer join.

    Use set based thinking – don’t get caught up on the fact that the two sets of related data are from the same table.

    2: The “self join” concept is expanding the database programmer’s thinking to include the fact that you can join a table to itself, and will need to if the data in the table is hierarchical. (Employee – Manager, Child – Parent, etc…)


  5. Hi All,

    How can we join two tables which having no common column. For ref:
    Table 1:
    ID, Name

    Table 2:
    Phone, Address

    I want to create a view to produce the data as like:

    ID, NAme, Phone, Address

    pls help me regarding this.



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  7. i’m looking for a query which can fetch all the employee in-detail where employee id is given as an input and the expected result should be his name, id[team member], his manager name, id[team lead], again his manager name, id[project manager], again his manager name, id[director]. the result should be from top hierarchy or all level of managers.


  8. Hi, i wold like to know how can we retrive Manager who is having more than 2 employee reference . According to the above table it should display

    mary – david
    joseph – david
    ben – david

    how can we do this using self join


  9. Pingback: SQL SERVER – Puzzle to Win Print Book – Write T-SQL Self Join Without Using LEAD and LAG « Journey to SQLAuthority

  10. how can i change product category and product subcategory and product tables into one parent child table using select statement is there a way to do these


  11. Hi,

    I want to know what is the impact of INNER JOIN with OUTER JOIN / OUTER APPLY. Also need to know the impact of adding the inner join inside the outer apply instead of using it outside the outer apply

    select few_columns
    from table1 a
    left outer join table2 b
    on b.col1 = a.col1
    inner join table3 c
    on c.col2 = b.col2


    select few_columns
    from table1 a
    outer apply
    (select col1, col2, col3
    from table2 b
    where b.col1 = a.col1
    inner join table3 c
    on c.col2 = z.col2


    select few_columns
    from table1 a
    outer apply
    (select col1, col2, col3
    from table2 b
    inner join table3 c
    on c.col2 = b.col2
    where b.col1 = a.col1

    Please let me know the difference in the performance & the resultset


  12. You dont need to use IsNULL when ur using outerjoin
    select a1.name as employee, a2.name as ManagerName from employee as a1
    left join employee as a2
    a1.managerid = a2.employeeid


  13. My query is as below :

    select b.Booking_id,booked_by,Datetime,FP_no,Name,co_name,
    Card_no,av.av_item,av.av_rate, food.Food_menu
    from Booking_details b, av_details av, booking_food_details food
    where b.Booking_id=@Booking_id
    and b.Booking_id=av.Booking_id
    and b.Booking_id=food.Booking_id

    Now the problem here is that av_details and booking_food_details have different number of rows,Suppose
    booking_food_details has a,b,c and, av_details has d,e,f,g,h

    so when I run it with data it shows me 5 lines of entry and av_details rows repeats itself 5 times, like :

    booking_food_details av_details
    d a
    e b
    f c
    g a
    h b
    Rather it should display:

    booking_food_details av_details
    d a
    e b
    f c


  14. hello all,
    I have data in following format

    id productID price1 price2 price3
    1 100 4.0 null null
    2 100 NULL 8 null
    3 100 null null 12
    4 108 18 null NULL
    5 108 null 28 null
    6 108 null null 20

    However requirement of data is in following data..

    id productID price1 price2 price3 IDLIst
    1 100 4.0 8 12 1,2,3
    4 108 18 28 20 4,5,6

    Thanks In Advance


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  16. There are specific breeds lower susceptible to chocolate however never give your dog chocolate
    by choice. Often described as “a large dog in the body of a small dog,” it iis simipar to the Norwegian Buhund and related to modern Welshi Corgis as well
    aas Shetland Sheepdogs. Territorial aggression is common in


  17. Select A.ID, A.FirstColumn, A.SecondColumn,SUM(B.FirstColumn) + SUM(B.SecondColumn) As Total
    From Employee A, Employee B
    Where B.ID <= A.ID
    Group By A.ID, A.FirstColumn, A.SecondColumn



    Suppose I have 2 Tables

    1. Transactions(Transactionid(pk),Transactiontypeid,Relatedtransactionid(which is also a transaction id from Transactions table))

    2. Transactiontypes (Transactiontypeid,Transactiontype_name)

    I want the result as follow:

    (Transactionid,Transaction name,Related TransactionType_name)

    PLZ suggest the Query.


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