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Social loafing is one of the factors that always keep managers worried about the output that their employees would give when working as a group. Bardes (2008, p. 196) defines social loafing as “the phenomenon of people deliberately exerting less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work alone.” This scholar says that scientific research has proven that people tend to deliver less when working as a group than when working as individuals. In a workplace, it is very difficult to let people operate as individuals. Large organizations have numerous employees who must work as a team in order to help the organization achieve its goals. These people must work as a team.
They must work as a single unit, always helping each other in order to realize the dream of the organization. The problem comes when social loafing is felt within such a firm that is struggling to realize its objectives through its motivated employees. Research has proven that when an individual is working in a group, chances are always high that the individual would always deliver about 75 percent of what he can deliver when working as an individual. Human being has a weakness of reducing his output, sometimes unconsciously when he or she realizes that he or she is working alongside others. There is always an assumption that someone will always do what another has failed to do. This research investigates what social loafing is, its causes, the impact it has on firms, and how managers can reduce its effects.
Causes of Social Loafing
Scholars have investigated what the causes of social loafing are and a number of factors identified as the main causes of social loafing. One of the main causes of social loafing is the diffusion of responsibilities. Goolnik (2006, p. 76) says that when people are put to work as a team, they always tend to find themselves lost in the group, and tend to lose focus of what they should be doing. There will be a change in their thoughts, from the belief that ‘the work is my responsibility’ to the belief that ‘the work is our responsibility’ whenever any assignment is given.
With this mentality, an individual would feel that he or she does not have the full responsibility of ensuring that the task is completed successfully. In such cases, the individual would deliver less, knowing that a failure would be blamed on several other members. This is the opposite of what happens when people work singly. In such situations, they always know that it is their responsibility to ensure that success is achieved, and any failure on their part would expose them as individuals.
Motivation has also been identified as one of the factors that can be attributed to social loafing. When people work as a group, they always tend to deliver more when they are motivated. However, when this motivation lacks, then it is difficult to deliver good results within the firm. Researchers have confirmed that when people are subjected to the environments where they work as a group, they tend to get lesser motivation than when assigned a task where they are supposed to work alone.
This is because the moment an individual sees a member of the group relaxed in delivering his or her duty in any way, the psychological effect of this would make him or her want to deliver less. This leads to social loafing. This means that instead of the groups working as avenues of motivating the employees, these groups will be the main reason why individual employees would deliver less. This would have a negative overall effect on the group’s output.
Effort dispensability has also been considered as another reason why social loafing is common in organizations. Banutu (2004, p. 145) says that people will always try to weigh what their individual effort would have on the organization. When employees realize that their individual effort may not make a significant difference that can directly be attributed to their work, they tend to relax. This is because they consider their effort not to be of any importance to the organization’s overall output. On the other hand, when they realize that their individual efforts have direct impact on the performance of the organization significantly, then they tend to put more effort. This means that the larger the group, the greater the possibility of social loafing occurring within an organization.
Aversion or what McCarthy (2010, p. 45) describes as the sucker effect is another common cause of social loafing in a group. People always want to be given credit whenever they have made efforts to achieve a specific goal. However, some people always want to take credit out of the hard work of others. This is what is referred to as sucking. When an individual realizes that others are evading their responsibilities, but are quick to share credits whenever others make gains, then they will tend to develop some form of laziness in their work. This results into social loafing.
Another common cause of social loafing is the process where an individual would try to match his or her efforts to that of others. This means that when the others are delivering less, an individual then will lower his or her output in order to match the effort put by others. This would lower the productivity of the organization.
The Relevance of Social Loafing to Employers
Understanding what social loafing is and how to deal with it is very important to any organization that seeks success in the current competitive market. According to Bird (2007, p. 222), social loafing is something that should be countered through all possible means in order to reduce its effects on a firm. Understanding the fact that social loafing exists is the first step towards realizing success of working with groups. This is because when a manager realizes that social loafing do exist whenever people work as a group, then they will always try to ensure that any possible causes of social loafing is eliminated within the workplace. Ignorance of the existence of social loafing can lead to adverse effects on an organization. This is because the management may not be able to explain the reduced profitability of the organization. Solving this problem may be very complex to the organization.
How Managers Can Reduce Social Loafing in their Organisations
It is very important to find a way of reducing social loafing within an organization as much as possible. This is because if it is not put in check. Its effect may bring down a firm to its knees because the output of the employees will be bare minimum. The management must find a way of dealing with social loafing the moment it is detected within an organization. Baekdal (2006, p. 55) says that it is even better to fight social loafing before it rears its head within a firm. One should not wait for this to occur before making relevant adjustment because reactive measures do not always yield good results as proactive measures. For this reason, the management should develop a procedural approach of dealing with social loafing within the organization.
The first step should be identification of all the possible causes of social loafing. The manager should always know some of the possible reasons why social loafing may occur. When all these possible causes are identified, then the next step would be to find measures of dealing with each possible cause of social loafing. This would help ensure that social loafing is solved by eliminating the root cause. The management should then devise motivational measures where individual employees would be motivated by the presence of colleagues to more output instead of being discouraged by the group. The manager should also keep a close and constant check on the activities done by every employee to avoid laziness that would affect productivity of everyone.
Social loafing is a very common occurrence in large organizations where employees feel that their efforts may not mean much to the organization. They always tend to believe that they can get away by such unethical behavior as absconding duties, doing shoddy work whenever assigned the task and such others acts that may reduce productivity of an organization. The management must know how to deal with this issue in order to ensure that it does not manifest itself within the organization.
List of References
Baekdal, T 2006, “Handle change management projects more effectively,” Change Management Handbook, vol. 1, no. 27, pp. 7-57.
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Banutu, M 2004, Great leaders teach exemplary followership and serve as servant leaders, Journal of American Academy of Business, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 143-151.
Bardes, R 2008, Effects of Social Loafing on Organization, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 180-197.
Bird, A 2007, Team structure and success as related to cohesiveness and leadership, Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 103, no. 2, pp. 217-223.
Goolnik, G 2006, “Effective Change Management Strategies”, Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE, vol. 7, no. 1, pp 10-78.
McCarthy, C 2010, “Ways of Managing Social Loafing within a Firm,” Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, vol. 1, no. 39, pp 20-41.