Causes and Solutions for SL

02-04-2009 12:10

 Causes of Social Loafing

According to the results of a meta-analysis study (Karau & Williams, 1993), social loafing is a pervasive phenomenon, but it does not occur when team members feel that the task or the team itself is important. It can occur when the person feels under-appreciated within their team or group.

Social loafing occurs in a group situation in which the presence of others causes relaxation instead of arousal. When individuals relax their performance, they are able to fade into the crowd, which is especially appealing to people when they know they are not going to be accountable for their actions or performance. In easier, less demanding tasks, such as singing happy birthday or giving applause, one is likely to exert less effort due to the concept of diffusion of responsibility. This occurs when people think that they can “get a free ride” because someone else will surely pick up the slack.

Yet, social loafing is associated with poor performance on easy tasks. However, people tend to exert more effort on challenging or rewarding tasks. If a group is completing a task for some kind of reward, such as money or a good grade, then members are more likely to try harder. Generally, a greater reward results in more motivation to perform well, and therefore, more effort. People will also work harder when they feel their particular tasks or efforts are indispensable to the group’s success.

 How to eliminate Social Loafing?

The answer to social loafing is motivation.

But competitive environment may not necessarily get team members motivated.

Rothwell (2004) indicates three main "C's of motivation" to get a group moving: Collaboration, Content, and Choice.

Collaboration is a way to get everyone involved in the group by assigning each member special, meaningful tasks. (CSCW, 2000) . It is a way for the group members to share the knowledge and the tasks to be fulfilled unfailingly.

For example, if Sally and Paul were loafing because they were not given specific tasks, then giving Paul the note taker duty and Sally the brainstorming duty will make them feel essential to the group. Sally and Paul will be less likely to want to let the group down, because they have specific obligations to complete.

Content identifies the importance of the individual's specific tasks within the group. If group members see their role as that involved in completing a worthy task, then they are more likely to fulfill it. For example, Sally may enjoy brainstorming, as she knows that she will bring a lot to the group if she fulfills this obligation. She feels that her obligation will be valued by the group.

Choice gives the group members the opportunity to choose the task they want to fulfill. Assigning roles in n a group causes complaints and frustration. Allowing group members the freedom to choose their role makes social loafing less significant, and encourages the members to work together as a team.

In conjunction with the "three C's of motivation" Latane, Williams and Harkins have three possible options to eliminate social loafing.

  1. Attribution and Equity: Many times, people come into groups with preconceived notions of much effort they will put in or how other slack off in groups.
  2. Sub-maximal Goal Setting: Like in collaboration, tasks should be made and distributed with optimization instead of maximization. Once each member has a specific duty, instead of many working on the same task, then they will have the opportunity to be evaluated as an individual as well as a group member.
  3. Lessened contingency between input and output: Social Loafers believe that they can "hide in the crowd" to avoid negative effects or that they will get lost in the crowd" and feel that they will not get proper credit when they deserve it.