In contrast to when they work alone, certain group members are more likely to be comfortable putting in less effort when they are part of a team, a phenomenon known as “social loafing” (Chang et al., 2020). Social loafers do not want to provide their best to collective projects. The effects of social loafing on the workplace might be adverse. The whole operation suffers when people in a group feel pressured to put in less effort than they can. Cultural norms, the significance of one’s job, and the expectations of one’s coworkers all play a role in preventing social loafing. This paper examines the problem of social loafing and the many remedies that have been proposed to address it.
Varieties of Social Loafing
There are two distinct forms of social loafing: the free rider effect and the sucker effect, both manifestations of the broader phenomenon of social loafing. The free rider effect occurs when a person believes other team members will cover for them if they do not do their fair share of the labour (Lount Jr & Wilk, 2022). On the other side, the sucker effect manifests itself when individuals who consistently give their all to the task are disheartened by others who have refused to work, and as a result, they are less productive (Lount Jr & Wilk, 2022).
Causes of Social Loafing
Chang et al. (2020) identified three primary factors contributing to free riding in their research. As an example, consider the phenomenon of blame being spread out. Some prominent group members may begin to feel de-individualized or stop holding themselves to the same standards of performance as they once did as the group’s size grows. De-individuation, the condition of not feeling responsible, might set in when it has been challenging to recognize one’s role in this situation.
The second reason people free ride is because they do not take full responsibility for their performance. When one of a team’s members believes they are not making a significant contribution, they are less likely to put out their best effort, as stated by Chang et al. (2020). Thirdly, people have an irrational fear of suckers. According to Chang et al. (2020), this happens when certain group members do not want to be exploited. The decision to wait and observe what other people do might be misread as a kind of protest by some.
Negative Impacts of Social Loafing
When employees engage in social loafing, it has a detrimental effect on team output and, by extension, on the organization’s overall productivity. It causes low morale and motivation when even just a few team members start slacking off and refusing to do their share of the work. Because as demonstrated by Mihelic and Culiberg, free riding may lead to biased sampling and significantly lessen the favourable outcome of social facilitation, negatively affecting group work (2018). Biased sampling occurs when a group’s members prioritize sharing information already known by the majority of the group above sharing new or different knowledge, which may lead to suboptimal decisions (Simms & Nichols, 2014).
The evaluation anxiety performance hypothesis (Mihelic & Culiberg, 2018) posits that being in the company of others may positively impact an individual’s performance, but only if they perceive that their performance is being evaluated on the basis of factors other than their own. However, it is essential to remember that social loafing negatively affects performance on group tasks. This is because the freeloaders will be seen as colleagues but not teammates.
A person is only affected by social loafing if they are the a free rider. When the endeavour is over, the individual may feel a lack of fulfillment and experience feelings of depression or disappointment. Lonely people who refuse to participate in group activities miss out on the benefits of learning from the experiences of others (Mihelic & Culiberg, 2018). The people who get things done suffer the most when social loafing is prevalent. This is because, in the end, the people will get discouraged from feeling like they are making the most significant contribution.
Ways of Reducing Social Loafing
Several strategies have been developed to discourage social loafing. Decreasing the size of the group is one strategy. In addition to regulating the distribution of responsibilities, this will also reduce the sense of anonymity that permeates the group (Gabelica et al., 2022). A second method for discouraging people from relying only on other people’s efforts is to require everyone in the team to contribute to a single, easily recognizable input job (Simms & Nichols,2014). For instance, recognizing people for their contributions to the group is a tried-and-true method of eliciting a favourable response, which in turn, maybe This is because members may make up for the expected loafing of others if each one learns that the result is significant enough to warrant a more excellent personal investment.
Another method is to bring in a devil’s advocate. The advocate will challenge everything and determine what should be relevant (Gabelica et al., 2022). Pee re-evaluation forms are one example of a tool that may be used to assess the quality of a group’s communication and consensus-building efforts in social comparison standards. Employees in a corporation often form teams to accomplish the firm’s objectives better. Only with everyone contributing their maximum effort can the organization reach its objective. Social loafing is less likely to occur if a group’s tasks can be distributed according to members’ skill sets and each member is given a due date for their contributions. Because of this, I am confident that every member will contribute 100%.
Establishing individual responsibility, reducing free riding, boosting team loyalty, and giving each team member different roles are all effective ways of curbing social loafing. One of the most effective measures a group can take to curb the phenomenon of social loafing is to limit the extent to which its members engage in free-riding. The term “free riding” describes when people in a group do not put in as much work as they might have because they know others will make the difference. It has been shown that limiting members’ ability to ride free reduces social loafing by making them take greater ownership of the group’s success. Participation in social activities may also significantly impact whether or not people engage in social loafing. Group members are more likely to contribute to its success when they feel their efforts are valued (Gabelica et al., 2022). Therefore, boosting participation in the group may increase team loyalty and lessen instances of social loafing.
Considering the adverse effects social loafing has on teamwork, it is evident that most loafers are either oblivious to their actions or acting in response to peer pressure. The strategies outlined below will thus give the best approach techniques to battle the issue. One of the significant issues with virtual teams is social loafing. This is because people who work from home are less likely to be subjected to social controls. There is no way to monitor workers’ actions since no one else is there to do so. Because of this, it might be challenging to hold members of virtual teams responsible.
We have two predictions. First, people who think their contributions are more identifiable will work harder on the task than those who think their contribution is pooled with others. Second, since prior research suggests that people tend to think that they do not engage in social loafing, we predict that regardless of individual contributions or pooled with others, people will think they worked equally hard.
Chang, Y., Hou, R. J., Wang, K., Cui, A. P., & Zhang, C. B. (2020). Effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on social loafing in online travel communities. Computers in Human Behavior, p. 109, 106360.
Gabelica, C., De Maeyer, S., & Schippers, M, C., (2022). Taking a Free Ride: How Team Learning Affects Social Loafing. American Psychological Association.
Hamamoto, H., Mizobata, R., Ishakawa, M., & Itakura, S., (2020). Examining the social influence of reputation for partner productivity level on the collaborative task performance of young children. Wiley. DOI: 10.1002/icd2213.
Lount Jr, R. B., & Wilk, S. L., (2022). Working Harder or Hardly Working? Posting Performance Eliminates Social Loafing and Promotes Social Laboring in Workgroups. Institute for Operations Research and the Management Science (INFORMS).
Mihelic, K. K. & Culiberg., (2018). Reaping the Fruits of Another’s Labor: The Role of Moral Meaningfulness, Mindfulness, and Motivation in Social Loafing. Journal of Business Ethics.