Social Loafing in Organizations

Social loafing is antithesis of synergy in team-work which suggests that people working together on a common task may actually decrease their individual efforts; team-work does not necessarily spurt group efforts. A simple phenomenon of social loafing may be observed in a group assignment to students during their study. In such an assignment, students find that one or two students do not put their weight for the completion of the project. These students may be called loafers (not attaching the same connotation which is attached with the term loafer in our social phenomenon) who frequently miss the project group’s meetings, fail to perform their assigned tasks, and so on. They rely on the fact the more reliable members will complete the project without their help, and still expect to share the credit and obtain the same marks from the professor since he will be concerned with determining who worked and who did not.

This phenomenon may happen in teams in work organizations too. For example, in one experiment, it was found that individuals’ total efforts were much higher than the group efforts. Individuals were asked to pull alone as hard as possible on a rope attached to a strain gauge. They averaged 138.6 pound of pressure while tugging on the rope. When the same individuals pulled on the rope of groups of three, group of eight, the individual average dropped down still lower-68.2 pounds. Dropping of average output in group efforts indicates that some members of the group were not contributing as much as they did individually.

The possibility of occurring of social loafing in a team-work increases because of the following reasons:

  1. When the division of work cannot be accomplished properly and individual efforts are hard to determine, group efforts tend to slacken.
  2. When the group is not cohesive with high output norms, individual members do not contribute to the fullest extent. A group is not merely an assemblage of individuals but there should be a feeling that they are members of the group and share common interests, goals, and attitudes.

The phenomenon of social loafing can be minimized by constituting effective team for group performance.