Definition and Context
Social loafing effect is a group effect in social psychology, one of the mechanisms of the group, which consists in the fact that with the increase in the number of group members its performance is reduced. That is, the individual contribution of each member of the group decreases as group size increases. Social loafing, or loss of motivation, is reflected in the fact that people make less effort when working in a group, relying on the colleagues while performing different tasks. Although, the group members usually find they are laid out completely. In addition, a member of the group may manifest social loafing unintentionally, as a result of health condition, for example. In one way or another, effect of social loafing affects all employees of modern companies. The precautions of this phenomenon are similar to people of any age, sex, religion, or social status (Gilles, n.d.).
Most often, this phenomenon can be observed in large groups, the so-called crowd, where people’s behavior changes radically (Ridley, 2012). One of the contexts for the social loafing effect is unequal division of responsibility for the outcome: the greater is the group, the smaller is the contribution of each participant in the final act. That is why reduced personal responsibility decreases the result. The second reason for decrease in performance groups includes diversion of resources to social interaction. Even if a team sets strict discipline, people will at least glance at their colleagues. The third factor may be effect of emotional infection, exhibited inside the group. Negative emotions transfer quickly, and if one of the members of the team is sluggish, sleepy, has a negative set, the probability of occurrence of these symptoms in others is quite large. Often social loafing is manifested on employees who have lost interest to what they are doing (Gilles, n.d.).
Precursors and Consequences
The first and main precursor for social loafing effect is the size of the group. It was mentioned above that the larger is the group, the greater is the probability that someone in the group would hide an inability to work in the final team results. The social laziness in a small team is much easier to handle since it is much easier to establish personal contact with each individual employee. Second precursor is the equalization of group members’ contribution to the result. In this case, an individual employee sees that no matter how hard he works, he would achieve the same appreciation as other members of the team, which reduces his motivation and performance. Finally, the absence of adequate punishment also is a dangerous precursor of social loafing. Actually, realization that there is no punishment for any offence leads to absence of fear and poor performance (Ridley, 2012).
The main consequence of social loafing is poor performance, as it was mentioned earlier. However, there are several individual outcomes occurring as a result of this phenomenon. First – the loss of motivation by individual not only in the work performance but also in life as a whole. Second – the loss of individual thinking and dependence on group thinking, in other words, the inability to perform separately from the group. Third, social loafing has behavioral effects, such as bandwagon effect, that is copying the behavior of the crowd. Finally, social loafing can lead to the personal traits between individuals, especially between those who perform well and “loafers”. As it can be seen, social loafing changes individual behavior, state of thinking, relationships, and general psychophysical condition. Generally, it is much easier to prevent this phenomenon than to deal with its direct consequences. Therefore, the action should be taken toward the improvement of the group performance, and thus, the decrease of social loafing effect risks (Gilles, n.d.).
Gilles, G. (n.d.). Social loafing: Definition, examples & theory. Education Portal. Retrieved from http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/social-loafing-definition-examples-theory.html#lesson
Ridley, H. (2012). Social Loafing [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRgqdALTGHc