Social Loafing: Meaning, Types, Causes and Effect


Meaning of Social Loafing

Social loafing is a phenomenon that put forward the working behaviour of an individual when working alone and in a group collectively. It states that peoples put more efforts or use their full potential when they are working individually. Whereas, when they work collectively as a group, they underperform and exert less efforts in comparison to their potential which hamper the overall performance of group.  Social loafing shows that a person behaves casually towards their assigned responsibilities and put less efforts as they rely upon other members of group for the achievement of task. This concept has denied all traditional beliefs stating that individuals works efficiently and uses their whole strength while working as a group. Social loafing concept was given up by Max ringlemann who perform an experiment where he asked peoples to pull rope individually as well as in a group of two, three and eight. It was found that individuals underperform while working as a group member and perform efficiently while working individually. Social loafing is a serious hurdle which negatively influence the performance of an organization. It must be timely addresses by management team and efforts should be made to develop a potential workforce.

Types of Social loafing

Social loafing takes place in two significant ways that are as given below: –

  1. Free-rider effect
  2. Sucker effect

Free-rider effect

Free rider effect says that one or more team members develop a casual attitude towards their responsibilities while working together for attaining common goal. They do not pay much attentions and considers that their role is not at all compulsory. Members working in a group believes that their individual performance cannot be tracked easily and so they continue to act lazily till they get their contribution get noticed. They believe that any loss caused by them will be covered by other members on their behalf. These type of social loafers are called as free riders.

Sucker effect

Sucker effect is a resultant of free-rider effect. Other members of group get demotivated to perform their roles efficiently due to the presence of free riders. They feel overloaded as they need to work on behalf of free riders only which bring down their interest towards the assigned duties. Sucker effect denotes that due to the attitude of free riders, other group members will also behave casually and will not give their 100%. They know that they would not get any additional recognition for over performing. Active members of group feel their exploitation by free riders which leads to disengagement of these members from assigned work. 

Causes of Social Loafing

There are distinct factors that are responsible for social loafing within the organization. Some of the key factors are discussed below: –

Complex Goals

People working within the organization gets demotivated when the goals to be achieved involves several complexities. Management when set robust and hard goals then individuals considers them impossible to be attained. They finally give up and lose their interest in carrying out their assigned duties.

Value of goals

Value of goals set to be achieved by the team members also lead to social loafing. If individuals believe that the goals laid down by management for them are not important and does add any benefits to organizational objectives, then they will try to avoid their roles.

Easily attainable goals

Goals that are simple and do not pose any challenge in attaining them makes peoples demotivated. They feel that there is no need to use full efforts as they can be easily achieved. Individual loose interest in carrying out their task.

Lack of motivation

Demotivation among the working members of a group is a primary reason for social loafing within the organization. When individuals are not motivated towards their responsivities by management, they develop a casual attitude toward their work.

Sense of Inferiority

Inferior complex is developed when less qualified people are put in the group of top performers within the organization. Average performers will be dependent upon the high skilled peoples in group and will not be interested to make efforts on their own.

Large group size

Presence of large number of members within the group leads to social loafing. More individuals than the requirements lead to unproductivity where people do not perform efficiently and waste their time.

Meagre sense of responsibility

In case, if working individuals are not individually held accountable for their duties then they would try to avoid their responsibilities. People would rely upon the person who is held accountable for accomplishing the objectives.

Lowered sense of Efficiency

Individuals run away from their responsibilities if their efforts are undervalued or not recognized properly. They feel demotivated and feel better to escape from their assigned duties through social loafing.

Effects of Social loafing

Social loafing has an adverse impact on group performance and bring down the overall productivity of enterprise. Different negative effects caused by social loafing are as given below: –

Portrays negativity

Social loafers within the organization tries to avoid their task and work inefficiently. They work with casual attitude which brings negativity within the organization. Overall performance of team gets adversely affected which bring down the productivity.

Leads to poor team spirit

All team members get demoralized due to the presence of social loafers in a group. When few members act lazily and give less contribution towards the group objectives, then others also get losing interest in team work.  

Obstruct development

Social loafing slows down the working progress of organization. It obstructs the overall development if continues for longer period of time and need to be handled timely.

Influence decision making

Efficiency of making right decisions is negatively influenced due to the presence of social loafers. When all group member does not give proper input, capability of decision making diminishes.

Demotivates hard performers in group

The hard working members in a group gets demoralized from their task due to free-rider effect and sucker effect. They lose interest and escape their responsibilities considering it a burden.

Leads to wastage of resources

Every human resource bring some cost to an organization and due to social loafing when they underperform causes wastage of resources. 

Steps to avoid social loafing in organization

Some of the key measures that an organization should adopt to prevent social loafing within the organization are as: –

Setting clear and achievable objectives

Management should ensure that all objectives should be properly tested before laying down them in front of team members. Objectives should be simple and possible to be attained by individuals.

Making small and cohesive groups

Group should be formed wisely containing the limited number of members. Individuals should be included as per the requirements and efforts should be made to develop team spirit by organizing orientation program.

Set up individual accountability

Management shall focus on monitoring the contribution of each and every member in an organization. All members must be held accountable for the assigned responsibilities. 

Regular feedback sessions

A feedback session should be organized on a regular basis for evaluating the performance of all team members. Collegial feedback process should be used for knowing the colleagues review on individual performance. 

Initiate open communication system

Organization should develop an open communication system that avoids any disputes. Members should be free to raise their queries at any point of time in front of management team that leads to enhance the overall efficiency. 

Checking the skill competency

Proper analysis of individual skill set must be done before including them in any organizational group. Qualification of employees should be matched with the requirement of organization for achieving goals before allocating them any task.