Why you need to worry about Social Loafing?

If you have been working in an organization, you may (or may not) have observed during the group project:

  • When a few members in the group always put extra effort in order to get work done. In contrast, others burden them with their share of work too.
  • When no roles and responsibilities are assigned within a group of more than 5. This results in job burnout for a few and free riding for the rest.
  • When some employees don’t put their best foot forward not because they don’t know things but aren’t appreciated for their efforts.

It may seem like a normal situation but, If it continues for a long, it may lead to a huge loss for the company.

Teamwork is not always dream work when situations like these prevail in an organization. Do you know all these examples have a term – Social loafing? One of the major issues in teamwork which can affect the growth of employees and an organization.

But, what it is, and how to reduce it ? Read below to find out!

What is Social Loafing?

Social loafing is a psychological concept. Here an individual makes fewer contributions to a group project than they normally would if working individually. 

Let us help you understand it in a simple way! 

Remember when you were in school and the teacher used to create groups for a project? 

Was it everyone who used to take up the task? Or was it only a few members who used to do everything while the rest used to sit back and relax? You guessed it right! 

Social loafing is an important factor to understand the organization’s effectiveness. If not taken care of in the initial days, it could result in a loss of productivity and performance. 

There are two types of Social loafing:

  • Free Rider effect: In a group project, you can always find two types of people.

One who contributes more than what is required. Second are those members who keep a casual attitude towards their work. 

This results in an imbalance in the productivity of the group leading to social loafing. 

  • Sucker effect: When the above-mentioned situation stays for long, there comes a time when the well-performing group starts underperforming. This will result in a steep decline in the performance of the group which also leads to loss for the company too. This is known as the sucker effect. 

Businesses could encourage social loafing too. Know how?

Organizations and companies may not want to encourage social loafing. Yet, there are a few situations where it can arise unknowingly. This includes: 

  • Lack of encouragement: Suppose you worked on a project along with six other members. Everyone in the group did their part well which resulted in an outstanding outcome. But, the manager appreciated only two members and encouraged them to take on more projects. You and three other members felt left out which made you all disappointed. 

Unfortunately, many employees’ could relate to the above situation! 

The lack of encouragement makes them feel unseen and unheard. This could create an impact in their mind that their contribution doesn’t matter. Thus, they become less efficient and don’t provide as many inputs as they used to do earlier. 

  • No clear goal: Imagine your team got a task to do a certain project within a week. Although you all are efficient in performing your roles, the aim of the project is still not clear to you. Even the manager fails to help you in this case and asks you to submit the project anyhow. 

What will be the outcome of the task is pretty clear to us, right?

When there is no clear objective given to employees, it becomes directionless. This lets the employees complete the task only because they have to. The scope of upskilling and productivity decreases when the aim is not well-known to them. 

  • Larger groups: Suppose, there’s a task in your company which requires around five members only. But, the manager wants everyone to work, and now, fifteen members are working on the same project. Neither the outcome was a success nor every employee could contribute to it. 

Small groups > Large groups! 

It may look that large groups are better than small groups in terms of productivity and performance. but, that’s not true. Roles and responsibilities are likely not clear to employees in the case of larger groups. 

The three above-mentioned situations can be seen in most organizations. But, there are other unknown situations as well that contribute to social loafing. 

And, if these last for a long run, can lead to a loss of productivity among the employees. This further results in bad employee relations. And thus, impacting the growth of the organization leading to a loss of profits. 

How can social loafing increase pressure on a few team members?

Imagine a situation where you are leading a team of five people. While two team members are working fine and doing their tasks well, the rest are lethargic and don’t show up on time. Due to this, there is an overburden on you and the other two members. Hence, neither of you can give your 100% and the burnout is making you less productive and efficient. 

Such social loafing issues can impact hardworking and productive employees. This lowers their morale and performance and if it happens for long, it can make them resign from their work too. 

Here’s how social loafing act as a downfall for a few team members:

  • Lead to burnout: There is a thin line between working hard and overburdening yourself. When you give 100% to perform their task, that’s hard work! But, when you work more than your capacity, that’s overburdened. 

When the latter happens, especially in the long run, it could lead to job burnout. Not only does it make you less productive but can also affect your mental and physical health. 

This could result in either two things:

    • You become a free rider and started having a casual attitude towards your work.
    • You switch your job and started pursuing your career somewhere where you are valued.
  • Decreased mastery and upskilling: We all love upskilling and learning new things. But, when we perform tasks only to do more work within the due date, we don’t care about upgrading our skills. And when there is no upskilling, we lose motivation to learn better hence, a decline in quality of work. 

A reason why ‘Opportunities for growth’ matters a lot for the employees at the workplace. 

  • Increase mental health issues: When there are frequent burnouts, It can lead to work-related stress. hence, resulting in insomnia, anger or irritability, and anxiety. This can also happen when the manager has a casual attitude toward social loafing and does not take care of the one affected by it. 

The mental health issues can also deteriorate the physical health of the members. 

How can social loafing be eliminated in the workplace?

Someone said it right, ‘Prevention is better than cure’! 

Social loafing can become a major issue in the group. But, if addressed early, it could be prevented. Here are the steps you can take to reduce social loafing at the workplace:

  • Keep the team small: Which of these do you think is better to perform a group project? A team of 15 members or a team of 5 members? 

You get it right! The smaller the team, the more visible and valuable the work would be for the members. You can also assign the project manager role to a team member who can keep the track of the tasks done by every member. 

  • Set team guidelines and responsibilities: Before starting with the project, ensure that the goals and guidelines are clear. You need to outline the task and explain to employees what you expect from them. 

Make sure that the goals are manageable. And, that every member has certain roles and responsibilities. 

  • Implement peer and team review weekly: As per studies, When employees are evaluated for their work weekly, they perform their tasks well. 

They will also get to know valuable insights about themselves i.e what are they doing well and what can be improved. Beside this, leaders will also get a glimpse of every employee’s strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Appreciate individual contributions and accomplishments: Suppose you worked overtime for a project. And for your efforts, your manager rewarded you with an e-voucher and appreciated you in front of the team. Will you keep working harder or will indulge in social loafing?

When the employee is appreciated for their work, it not only encourages them rather the entire team to perform their best. Also, try to give recognition to those members too who are likely to loaf in the future. This will keep them motivated and encouraged to perform their tasks well. 

  • Build a culture of feedback: Do you know feedback is the key ingredient of a supportive workplace? As it lets employees improve their performance and know how well they are doing and how far they have come. 

Also, in a feedback culture, social loafing can be avoided. Hence, adopting healthy two-way communication is necessary.

In a nutshell…

Social loafing is an alarming issue in today’s time. It can create toxicity in the workplace which in turn has a greater impact.

It can be identified and handled better if the managers are in the loop with your daily tasks.

To end this issue, use HuddleUp platform to understand your employees and bring out the best in your team.