Social Loafing

Definition: Social loafing is a human resource loophole that signifies the adverse mentality of a minority of individuals in an organization. Social loafers deliberately under-perform a given task by not exhibiting their highest potential while working in a team. Some are the free-riders who are social loafers from the very beginning. While the others are the suckers who turn into social loafers due to the behaviour of these free-riders.

This concept was brought to limelight way back in 1913, by a French engineer named Max Ringlemann. He outraged the belief that individuals when placed in a workgroup, outdo the given task, through his rope pulling experiment.

In this experiment, he observed that the individuals when placed in the group of two, three or eight while rope pulling, put in less energy in comparison to what they contributed as single rope pullers.

Content: Social Loafing

  • Example
  • Causes
  • Effects
  • Types
  • Prevention
  • Conclusion

Social Loafing Example

In a group presentation, A, B, C and E actively shared ideas and knowledge while D kept himself away from the activity. Since the other team members were highly cooperative, they handed over a part of speech in the presentation to D.

On the day of presentation, D mugged up his lines and poured it as it is on the stage. The team was appreciated for an excellent presentation. Although in this case, D is the social loafer.

Causes of Social Loafing

Social loafing is most common in the traditional form of organizations. However, partial behaviour of the superiors may even encourage such practices within the teams.

Let us now foresee some of the other reasons behind social loafing:

  • Big Groups: When the workgroups are hefty, some members may feel are often considered to be spare resources and handed over with minimal responsibilities. These individuals often turn into social loafers within the group.
  • Irresponsible Behaviour: Since the employees aren’t individually held accountable for their deeds when they are a part of any workgroup, they find out a way to escape from their duties.
  • Role Ambiguity: Due to the unclear roles of each individual within the team, members often experience chaos and dissatisfaction. These disappointed individuals resort to social loafing instead of becoming a productive resource.
  • Obscure Goals: Even before giving it a try, some employees give up as they find the goals to be impractical, unattainable or too complex. This is where these team members lose their confidence and become social loafers.
  • Demotivation: Sometimes, the workers are just overloaded with chores, without being inspired to contribute the best of their efforts towards goal attainment. This poor leadership results in social loafing by some of the demotivated individuals.
  • Goal Perception: The goals set by the management are perceived to be inefficient for the organization by some of the team members. These individuals decide not to contribute for such an insignificant objective an thus, become social loafers.
  • Effortless Goals: Even if the aim is too simple as ABC, the workers won’t take it that seriously. It is human nature to become reluctant when the goals set for them are much below their average potential.
  • Poor Sense of Efficacy: If a minority of members feel that they aren’t trusted, valued or listened by their teammates or the team leader, they become ignorant and shows the least interest in the assigned task accomplishment.
  • Inferiority Complex: A group may consist of extremely talented personnel along with few mediocre performing employees. These average performers get into their shells thinking that they are of no use to the team.

Effects of Social Loafing

You may say that it’s not a big deal if few members become lazy at work, as the other teammates could finish off the given task.

When social loafing continues for the long-term, it can prove to be a disaster for the organization. To know its adverse impact read below:

  • Obstructs Organizational Growth: As the social loafers spoil the team performance, the organization experiences regrettable team results as time passes, affecting its overall well-being.
  • Hinders Group Decision-Making: If few members loose interest in the assigned project, they wouldn’t be able to contribute in the related decision-making, thus leaving this crucial responsibility of the few key players in the team.
  • Discourages Team Spirit: When the active performers of the team notice that the other members are not making any efforts, they feel low and so the team spirit falls.
  • Leaves a Cascading Effect: Social loafers not only cease their productivity rather impacts the whole system by posing a negative environment and changing the other performers into non-performers.
  • Demoralizes Performers: The actual hard-working individuals in the team feel overburdened with the workload and think that their efforts are misused.
  • Disrupts Resource Optimization: Human resource is an indispensable element of any organization. Social loafing affects the overall functionality of the employees causing wastage of human potential.

Types of Social Loafing

There are majorly two kinds of social loafers and their impact on business activities are categorized as follows:

Free-rider Effect

At times, some of the members become lenient towards their responsibilities due to any of the above-mentioned reasons. They then rely upon their teammates to finish off the given project while they sit back with a negligible contribution.

Such individuals are named as free-riders since they depend upon the efforts of others for accomplishing their part of work.

Sucker Effect

Next comes the suckers, these are the performers who initially contributed their best but later found that all the workload is poured onto them.

Since the free-riders are not putting any efforts, these individuals have to put in extra energy for accomplishing the project. Thus, they feel low and deliberately withdraw from the activities to stop their exploitation.

How to Prevent Social Loafing?

Social loafers are like weeds, who if not treated on time can spoil the complete yield. Given below are some tips and tricks to deal with this psychological issue:

  1. It is advisable to form mini-groups to ensure a higher degree of involvement of all the teammates and close contact among everyone.
  2. Each individual should be separately assigned tasks and responsibilities so that there is no scope for misunderstanding or conflict.
  3. When the employees are held responsible for their deeds, they become more attentive towards the work assigned to them.
  4. The key objectives should be result-oriented, simple, realistic and challenging at the same time to gain faith and interest of the team members.
  5. The team leaders should guide and support the individuals while they carry out their course of action for eliminating the chances of errors.
  6. There is always a scope of performing better than someone did before. Therefore, stating the benchmarks the employees need to match or exceed standardizes their performance.
  7. To avoid inferiority complex among employees, it is crucial to compose a team of individuals who are competent and no less than one another in any form.
  8. Maintaining a collegial feedback system along with regular performance review by the team leader can ensure a zero error functioning.
  9. Let your team members open up with their teammates to ensure a free flow of ideas, suggestions and information.


Social loafing can be significantly reduced if the work environment is progressive and follows the principle of the performance-based appraisal. Giving preference to the practice of management by objectives can also add to employee satisfaction and reduce social loafing.

Even in the present era, private firms hire and fire people on the grounds of their performance. For this purpose, many companies carry out an internal assessment of the employees to evaluate their competency.

Social Loafing
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