What is Social Loafing, and How to Prevent it?

What is Social Loafing, and How to Prevent it?

Have you noticed how employees, when working in groups, work at their leisure? Well, it’s not just your team. There is a psychological reason behind this.

Remember when you were in college, and every student unanimously hated group work or assignments? Somehow you knew that to get a decent grade, you would have to do all the work for your group.

The right term for this is social loafing: which simply means that the size of a group is inversely proportional to the effort individuals tend to put into the project. That means if you have an intimate team, each member will put in their best effort, on the contrary to large teams.

We hope this example sets a context for you as we unpack what social loafing is, why it happens, and five ways to avoid it at all costs.

In this blog,

What is social loafing?

Ringelmann’s Rope-Pulling Experiment

Causes of Social Loafing

  • Complex Goals
  • Easily Possible Goals
  • Aim Value
  • Deficit of Motivation
  • Large Organization Size
  • Perception of Inferiority
  • Lowered Perception of Efficacy
  • Meagre Perception of Responsibility

Effects of Social Loafing

  • Qualified prospects to Poor Team Spirit
  • Shows Negativity
  • Hinders Development
  • Demotivates Hard Working Team Members
  • Affects Decision Developing

What are the outcomes of Social Loafing in the workplace?

What impact does social loafing have on teams?

5 ways to prevent social loafing from happening in your team

  • Limit the size of the team.
  • Encourage open communication
  • Specify each individual’s task.
  • Perform regular monthly individual performance evaluations.
  • Empower your employees.

Final Words

What is Social Loafing?

Social Loafing definition: The social loafing concept refers to people being prone to put out less effort when working as part of a person than performing a task alone. Social loafing is extra evident in functions where the contribution of each group member can be combined to a group outcome, having it challenging to identify the contribution of a single someone.

Loafing can be harmful in workplaces. When everyone does not place their total volume of effort simply because they are part of friends, this can result in reduced productivity. Points influencing social loafing include targets of coworker functionality, task meaningfulness, and culture.

The Collective Effort Model (CEM) from social loafing holds that whether or not social loafing arises depends on members’ targets and the value of the group’s goal. Fortunately, there are several strategies to reduce social loafing to make teams more productive.

The Ringelmann influence or social loafing is a phenomenon that occurs in teams of individuals that limits the volume of effort that each member exerts( thus reducing specific productivity). Social loafing was earliest identified when French agricultural operator Max Ringelmann was studying personal performance and found that teams( of people and animals) did not meet all their potential, defining potential as the sum of the maximum outcome of each individual acting exclusively.

Ringelmann’s Rope-Pulling Experiment

The study into lessening individual effort in ordinary tasks— what is now referred to as social loafing— began with a French agricultural engineer called Max Ringelmann( 1861- 1931).

Ringelmann( as cited in Ingham, Levinger, Pénible,& Peckham, 1974, Kravitz& Martin, 1986) was considering the best way agricultural personnel could maximize their productivity. Ringelmann found that, nevertheless, groups outperform individuals; groups commonly do not perform to the extent they will could if each individual was working at optimal capacity.

As an illustration, in a single analysis, he had men and women pull with a rope attached to a tension gauge and discovered that the more men and women pulled, the more they could perform below their potential.

If two individuals could pull 100 products independently, together, they would pull 186, not 200. Eight men and women returning together could only pull 392, half of their sum opportunity of 800

Ringelmann( 1913) linked this phenomenon to two options: coordination losses and motivation failures.

He believed that coordination decline— “the deficiency of simultaneity from their efforts”( p. 9)— was the principal cause of cultural loafing, but also acknowledged the fact that in some cases, personnel reduces motivation caused by each man “trusting his neighbour to furnish the desired effort( p. 10).

Causes of Social Loafing

A few of the reasons which, in turn, might be held accountable for obtaining social loafing within a corporation? Why does the actual organization deal with such a problem?

This matter is deeply rooted in the company factors and group formations. Now discussed are some of what causes this social mindset phenomenon:

Expectation Of Others

If expectations aren’t explicitly laid out before a project begins, the group is more prone to engage in social loafing. When the project’s mission or goals are not clearly defined, it is more usual for people in the group to slack off, not considering their project work as a priority. If you believe everyone else in the group will do the bare minimum, you will most likely do the same rather than get stuck with the majority of the work. On the other hand, if you know you’re part of a high-achieving team with well-defined tasks and duties, you’re far more likely to bring your A-game.

Social Facilities

According to social facilitation, in some cases, the presence of other individuals really increases performance, as compared to an individual’s performance when working alone. When it comes to this psychological phenomenon, research findings vary: some have shown that social facilitation enhances performance (social facilitation), while others have discovered that it decreases performance (social facilitation) (social inhibition). The difficulty of the task determines the presence of social facilitation. If the task is simple or well-known, social facilitation is more likely to occur. If the work is demanding and unfamiliar to the individual, social inhibition is probable.

Aim Value

If the team people feel that the goals or objectives laid on their behalf don’t make a significant and won’t add virtually any value to the organizational targets, they could slack away from the given task. 

Deficit of Motivation

The demotivated staff is also a primary reason for social loafing, where the staff needs to be recharged to handle the given responsibility. High levels of motivation reduce the prevalence of social loafing at work, making motivation a key topic of focus for team leaders. When people lack motivation, they are more likely to put in less effort when they are placed to work in a group situation. Several research on social loafing has shown motivation, or a lack thereof, as having a substantial influence on group activities.

Large Organization Size

At times, the organization or team consists of an additional number of individuals than expected.

Therefore, surplus members tend to become unproductive and waste their time in social loafing.

Individual efforts appear to be more significant while working in a small group, but this is not true for large groups. Participants in larger groups tend to put forth less effort. Because being a member of a larger group reduces individual visibility, people believe their efforts aren’t as valuable.

No Individual Recognition

A lack of acknowledgment from leaders and supervisors could also be contributing to social loafing. Employee retention is heavily influenced by recognition and managerial support. When employee’s efforts are not recognized by their superiors, they are less likely to remain with the organization for long, let alone perform up to the mark.

Lack Of Accountability

Individuals are less inclined to achieve their best if they are not personally held accountable for the outcome of a project. When people believe that their efforts are indistinguishable from the general result, they will unconsciously make less effort, or none at all. Individuals are less willing to help out when there are more people there.

Herd Mentality

Another psychological concept Is herd mentality.   When people enter a workplace in which everybody is a social loafer, they will eventually wind up following everyone else and underperforming.  However, placing an individual in a group of highly driven people is more likely to boost their productivity since they will feel the urge to blend in with everyone else.

Effects of Social Loafing

Public loafing creates a negative influence on the performance of the group and, for that reason, slows down the productivity of the crew’s entire organization.

We will now understand the various undesirable effects that have on the organization: 

Qualified prospects to Poor Team Spirit

If a few members become lazy and reluctant, making the most negligible contribution to the group, the entire staff feels demotivated and demoralized.

Shows Negativity

The escaping attitude from social loafers spreads negativity among the whole group. It hence reduces team performance and output.

Hinders Development

The expansion of the organization progressively falls in the event social loafing continues for a long time. Causes Wastage from Resources: Human resource requires cost, and due to sociable loafing, the employees become ineffective for the organization.

Demotivates Hard Working Team Members

Due to free- riders effect and sucker effect, the performing staff members get demoralized. Hence, they, too, try to slack far away from the assigned task considering it a burden.

Affects Decision Developing

With proper input from most of the group members, the decision-making efficiency increases.

What are the outcomes of Social Loafing in the workplace?

This is known as social loafing, when workers lose their social awareness in a team instead of working together. As a result, the team and individual members may suffer from social loafing( Karau& Williams, 1993).

When social loafing happens, the team dynamics change because there is a rift between the contributors, which can lead to conflicts between groups.

Social loafing can also alter individual team members’ efforts, and goals may change due to teammates comparing themselves to one another rather than giving it their all. In addition, individual team members may feel cheated when they believe they are doing the majority of the work, which can cause them to feel underutilized.

What impact does social loafing have on teams?

There are many consequences of social loafing traits. First, coworkers putting in less effort will lead to reduced productivity. This decrease in output will become even lower in the event more people fall prey to the social loafing phenomenon.

Public loafing can also hurt staff relations. Resentment can build up between colleagues when some feel that others are not drawing their weight. This resentment and frustration can further deteriorate the productivity output of the staff when it leads to staff conflicts. Additionally, social loafing can lead to disappointing results by teams. Performing in a subwoofer-par way can become far more demotivating for future duties. This runs specifically true if team members have difficulties dealing with disappointment. Poor team morale can make that challenging to overcome social loafing down the road.

Social loafing can also contribute to burnout and get team members who contribute additional than their fair share. Persons who put in extra time or put too much tension to perform may need more time to support this effort over longer durations.

This can also translate into higher turnover rates when burned-up-out employees take your leave of absence. As a result, they may pursue their careers elsewhere to find a team better suited to their style.

Public loafing is also a significant trouble within virtual teams. But, again, this is due to the need for more social control for workers working from home.

Because of the need for more presence of other round employees, there’s absolutely no way to see what they’re doing. This may produce a needing for help to keep online teams accountable.

5 ways to prevent social loafing from happening in your team

We’ve come to the final question of how to eradicate this result. Let’s take a closer search at the following 5 alternatives:

Delegate Your Tasks With Aim And Specificity.

When deciding who should do something, don’t just go with the person closest to you or the first to claim they’ll do it. Consider their strengths, historical performance, and how they might collaborate with a potential partner before proceeding. If they must work in a group, they should have as few people as feasible.

Furthermore, when managing many projects, you must be very precise in order to minimize confusion. Tell each person what they need to complete, what resources they will need, and when you need their finished product. Make their tasks as plain as possible, and always be willing to answer reasonable queries.

Intentional and detailed task delegation might help your team members feel more connected to the task at hand. If you adequately define their task, they will understand the importance of their labor and how their product will affect the team.

Encourage open communication

Working on a project as a group can be a difficult effort for everyone. Unexpected complications can develop if people do not communicate well, affecting the entire project. Workers must have possible to interact with their heads and offer their viewpoints on the assigned tasks in the organization. So to make that manifest, you must have an available communication system that allows employees to be comfortable enough to raise their voices. It will help your employees be more productive simply because they feel like their ideas matter and can get to carry out whatever they love.

Each species has different skills and preferences to meet various tasks. If they are built to perform jobs with no dialogue, they’d feel like they’re getting forced and eventually demotivated to complete.

Have Clear Standards And Expectations

If you want to avoid social loafing and encourage your staff to put in their regular effort at work, setting clear norms and expectations before a project begins is important. On the one hand, if everyone is expected to work hard and devote themselves fully to a project, the rest of the group is likely to perform at this level and so be more productive and efficient in meeting goals and completing the project. Individuals will slack off and place their involvement in the project at the bottom of their priority list if expectations are not defined.

Reduce Menial Tasks

Menial tasks are repetitive yet important duties that consume a significant amount of your employees’ time.  When urgent deadlines and difficult tasks are added to these pressures, employee fatigue and, finally, social loafing can occur.  Reduced mundane, time-consuming duties will free up everyone’s time and energy, allowing them to concentrate on what truly matters. Each situation is unique, but here are some suggestions for reducing menial tasks:

  • Integrating powerful software for your workflow
  • Using time-tracking tools
  • Automating administrative and HR functions
  • Hiring administrative assistants or interns that will take care of most menial tasks

Empower your employees.

Let them decide. If every tiny decision can go due to management or leader approval, you should think about changing the idea at that time. This unnecessary procedure will make your employees passive in the most straightforward situations. While they’re afraid to make blunders and acquire reprimanded, they could just do nothing.

However, if, perchance, you let your employees make confident choices on their particular own, they would be more aggressive. While they get to come to a decision the specific could do to manage any problems occurring, they will desire to contribute additional. And much more contribution means there is no place for sociable loafing!

Moreover, Highlight team members’ accomplishments during meetings, emails, or memos to motivate your colleagues. This acknowledgment communicates to your team that you recognize and value their efforts to individual initiatives as well as to the organization as a whole. It is also likely to motivate other employees to work harder in order to be positively recognized for their achievements.

Final Words

In summary, social loafing is a trend that develops in group settings. This identifies a person putting on less effort than they might do alone. It was acknowledged by Maximillian Ringelmann, who discovered that people playing tug of battle work less hard as an excellent group than individually. Examples of social loafing are available everywhere: in sports environments, at the office and college, and even with performers in front of crowds.

As all of us have covered, social loafing happens for several factors, including personal thought- procedures, such as the individual believing their efforts won’t make a difference, and group-level aspects, many of these as anonymity, unclear goals, or maybe large group sizes. In addition, social loafing may have a variety of detrimental effects on the organization– leading to visitors feeling demotivated from the social loafing and making the group performance suffer. This is definitely what can make some designs of social loafing unethical. Together person’s actions can negatively influence other members of the organization.

Luckily, social loafing can be managed through better team supervision and planning. Several ways to be done in practice are ensuring every individual looks after their place tasks by assigning them structured on personal attributes and offering downline as an option.

Public loafing is a crucial trouble and something that businesses will need to pay attention to. It may be both costly along with a drain on company resources and can easily seriously affect profitability. Using our outlined methods, why not see if you can position and tackle social loafing in your organization today?

References to research from:







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