Lazy team members or social loafing?
Have you ever worked in a team with one or more members that did not pull their own weight? These lazy team members can be maddening, especially on a tight deadline. You might just think that some of your team members are lazy, but they may just be social loafing. When a team as a whole does less work than the sum of what the members could do individually, it is referred to as social loafing.
Have you ever worked in a team with one or more members that did not pull their own weight? It can be maddening, especially on a tight deadline. You might just think that some of your team members are lazy, but they may just be social loafing. When a team as a whole does less work than the sum of what the members could do individually, it is referred to as social loafing.
Like many of you, my first encounters with social loafing were working on group projects in school. I hated these! I always felt that I could do better working on my own. Later on, when working in corporations, I had the same experience. Some teams I worked on did excellent work and brought out the best in each other. Others fizzled and barely accomplished anything. I started to ask myself why this happens. There are four main reason that people slack off when working with others.
1. The Team Member’s Personality
Some people show less consideration and empathy towards others. Is it any wonder that these people are willing to do less work when placed on a team? Having less empathy towards team mates means someone is less likely to care if others need to work extra to make up for their loafing. It also means they may not care if the entire project rails, as long as they get away with doing less work.
2. The makeup of the team
Sometimes people do less work because of how the team is put together. Larger teams are more likely to have people who participate in social loafing than smaller teams. This is due to several factors. Poor communication can lead to team members having less empathy for, or even outright disliking each other. This can increase the amount of loafing that goes on in a team. Larger teams can also split into subgroups or cliques. The more of these subgroups you have, the more likely you are to have loafing.
3. You live in a westernized culture
Westernized cultures tend to value individuals and individualism over society and teams. Teams that operate in individualistic societies have higher levels of social loafing.
4. You don’t like the work
One of the biggest contributors to lowered output in a team is the work itself. People are more likely to procrastinate when they have a task they do not like. When you procrastinate in a team, it is possible that procrastinating long enough means that someone else will do the task that you dislike before you have to do it.Y
5. You won’t get caught
Most teams are organized in a way where the output of the team is tracked and rewarded. Individual input and work effort are usually not monitored. Chances are, if you have one or more people in your team that are not working up to their potential it will be hard to pinpoint, and harder to prove. People tend to do more when working individually because their work is more easily monitored and they are held directly responsible for their work.
As you can see, there are many reasons that people do less than their best when working with others. If your team performance is lagging, look to one of these causes first to help diagnose the problem. It just might help to save your project.
Ferrari, J. R., & Pychyl, T. A. (2012). ‘If I wait, my partner will do it:’ The role of conscientiousness as a mediator in the relation of academic procrastination and perceived social loafing. North American Journal of Psychology, 14(1), 13-24.
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Meyer, B., Schermuly, C. C., & Kauffeld, S. (2016). That’s not my place: The interacting effects of faultlines, subgroup size, and social competence on social loafing behaviour in work groups. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 25(1), 31-49. d
Thompson, R. B., & Thornton, B. (2014). Gender and theory of mind in preschoolers’ group effort: Evidence for timing differences behind children’s earliest social loafing. The Journal of Social Psychology, 154(6), 475-479.
Ulrich, B. (2017). Using Teams to Improve and Performance. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 44(2), 141-152.
Ying, X., Li, H., Jiang, S., Peng, F., & Lin, Z. (2014). Group laziness: The effect of social loafing on group performance. Social Behavior and Personality, 42(3).
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