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Dealing with social loafing in the workplace (Proceedings)

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Nov 01, 2009

Social loafing describes the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group. Because all members of the group are pooling their effort to achieve a common goal, each member of the group contributes less than they would if they were individually responsible.

What is social loafing?

Social loafing describes the phenomenon that occurs when individuals exert less effort when working as a group or team than when working independently.

The Ringlemann Effect is an experiment that identified social loafing by a French agricultural engineer, Max Ringlemann in 1913. In the experiment, the participants pulled on a rope attached to a strain guage. During the experiment, he noted that two individuals pulling the rope only exerted 93% of their individual efforts. A group of three individuals exerted 85% and groups of eight exerted 49% of their combined individual effort. In summary, as more individuals pulled on the rope, each individual exerted themselves less.

I. Causes of social loafing

    A. Lack of commitment from entire team

    B. Well defined goals

    C. Lack of evaluation

    D. Lack of appreciation

    E. Lack of belonging

    F. Forcing projects and assignments on individuals

    G. Lack of motivation

II. Effects of social loafing

    A. Disappointed team members

    B. Less productive team members

    C. Loss opportunity for individual talents to surface

    D. Employee burn out

    E. Negatively reinforces poor participation and/or effort

III. Preventing social loafing

    A. Develop rules of conduct

    B. Establish individual accountability

    C. Encourage group loyalty

    D. Select complementary team members

    E. Minimize teams

    F. Establish ground rules

    G. Define the task

    H. Highlight accomplishments and achievements

    I. Inspect what you Expect