Social Loafing In Organisations

Social Loafing In Organisations

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Organizations in today’s society are adopting a team based structure in their approach to tackle company’s challenges, problems and issues. Team based success stories include Hallmark who had a 200% reduction in design time, which allowed for the introduction of 23,000 new card lines in a single year (Janasz, Dowd, Schneider, 2006). But in saying all this there is a factor which causes the positive effect of team work and team cohesiveness to be affected and that is social loafing. Social loafing is more likely to occur in large teams from 3 members onwards, and is where members in the team apply less effort than when working as an individual. Social loafing appears within every team one way or another, even if it’s in a high functioning or dysfunctional environment (Murphy, Wayne Linden, Erdogan, 1992). Research has shown that a combined team performance required less effort by individuals than if they were to work alone, and therefore the social loafer in the team is able to profit from the work of the others without exerting any of their potential. “Loafers and free riders are allowed to benefit because, in each case, the outcome of the group performance…is shared equally by all group members, regardless of their input.” (Weldon and Mustari 1988, p.33)
The reason why social loafing is a problem in organisations is because individuals minimize their contributions because they feel that the efforts are not noticed by others in the group (Kerr, 1983). Members may feel that they are able to “hang at the back” or in turn free ride and avoid all the consequences of not contributing any work. In saying that a team member may feel left out and may feel they are not able to gain the recognition to contribute, therefore feeling their efforts are not needed or will not be recognized (Brooks, Ammons, 2003).
In a team environment individuals lack the motivation to fulfill their full potential because there is no internal or external evaluation for their contributions, so they rely on others. Social loafers will tend to exert less work towards a task because the final evaluation does not just result on the individual but the team itself, which leads to less self awareness (Curt, 2007). An example of this is a sales team at Foxtel, that needs to exceed a certain expectation in the month sales, but they are not evaluated or assessed or an individual basis but a team.

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Social loafers will tend not to meet targets on the mentality that other team members will do all the work.
Perceived loafing by other group members may cause individuals in the group to become loafers themselves. Members decrease their own effort in the group because they don’t want to be taken advantage of by the real social loafers in the team. Group members may loaf because the desires to preserve equity by not having others gain from their efforts without expending effort themselves (Comer, 1995). This follows on to individualism where team members call attention to their own goals rather than the team goal, whereas collectivist members position themselves to achieve group goals ahead of there own self interest. Collectivist societies feel responsible for the group’s success and put that burden on themselves to try and deliver the best performance for the team (Comer, 1995).

Social loafing does not help anyone in an organisation especially employers and the employees that consist within the company. Employers are able to witness that by social loafing occurring within a team the overall result will be at sub standard and never be able to reach its maximum. The reason for this is because if a team has a social loafer this can cause side effects to the other members within the group (Comer, 1991). It can cause other issues within the business where conflict between employees occur, therefore leading to a lack of job satisfaction, disappointment and depression as the result looks bad at the non social loafers in the team. A negative effect and a decrease in morale within the work place effects the overall performance of the orgainisation as a whole, because with all these side issues occurring due to social loafers world competitors are moving forward in the market therefore leaving behind the company with the issues (Comer, 1991).
Factors to prevent social loafing in organisations include minimizing teams where you can, as there are less people to spread responsibility to. By minimizing teams you are then able to create individual evaluation within the team and it makes the members work harder to achieve a good result in the final evaluation. Smaller groups also helps to manage individual accountability by allocating tasks to members to focus on and set due dates for tasks to be completed. In cases like this individuals will avoid the embarrassment and consequences of being held accountable for poor or minimal work (Strong, Anderson, 1990).
Team loyalty is also a key to bring any success to an organisation. Social Loafing is not experienced by all such as in countries like China. They have what is called social striving, and this is where individual performance is improved by entering into a team environment. The members of the team care more on the success rather than there own individual success. The teams’ goals are outlined and the teams loyalty is formed by individual awareness of the teams desire to achieve the goal (Latane, Wang, Gabrenya, 1985).
The makeup of the team needs to be chosen carefully, members of the team that are chosen need to be able to “bring something to the table”. Whether it is skills, knowledge or work ethic they need to be able to contribute to the team and the task ahead. The team member’s personality is vital as they need to complement the other members to avoid any serious conflict which may jeopardize the overall final result of the task. A team that is able to form a professional relationship allows opportunities for group members to learn about each other and gain a sense of trust between group members. Relationships base foundations for teams to work more effectively and efficiently and deliver a more desirable outcome. (Schnake. 1991).

Teams might also designate a team leader who oversees the whole project, in doing this the leader will have a chance to clarify the importance of the task and will be able to delegate work across the members in the group. The team can also develop expectations from each other by using measurable outcomes like due dates. It is also important to refresh the mind of the members so they are able to keep up to date on what they have to do and when they have to do it by. Motivation is also imperative, because not all tasks suit the expectations of employees, and a decrease in the morale to un-motivated tasks will have major effects in the future (George, 1992).
Another away to attack social loafing is to approach the social loafer in a form of communication whether it is private communication where a leader or a selected member approaches the loafer face to face in a formal matter and discuss the reasons for his/her behaviors and work out ways to overcome them, or even with a group confrontation where the matter can be discussed at a team level and everything can be brought out in the open such as any concerns, expectations or conflict. If communication directly to the loafer fails then the team will need to seek advice from a superior whether it would be a boss, manager or teacher. The superior authority might say to use circumvention and that is to reorganize the responsibilities and tasks in a manner that enables the social loafer to be more associated to the team and be able to contribute their knowledge and skills. If all this fails the best option is to eliminate the loafer from the team and look at other options such as a replacement or another approach to the task (Comer, 1991).
Social loafing has a major affect on any organisation, whether it is internally or externally at a global level. It is paramount that social loafing is removed from any team so that work can be conducted in an environment of cohesiveness to get the best result for all parties within the company. Social loafing as mentioned has many ways to be addressed to minimize the impact and increase the overall success of the team. By combating the effects of social loafing it enables the organisation to keep in touch of their competitors and challenge them on a global stage.

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