Social Loafing: This social phenomenon may explain your working habits

Social loafing is the phenomenon whereby individuals tend to put in less effort when working as a group.

Team player! This is a quality that most of us put on CVs, but the truth is from primary school through to the workplace, many of us many people do not like the idea of working in a team. There’s always that one person that does not pull their weight as much as the others. There’s a psychological term for it; social loafing.

Social loafing

According to the Oxford Reference, social loafing or the Ringlemann effect is the:

Tendency to exert less effort on a task when working as part of a cooperative group than when working on one's own—one reason why many hands make light work.

The term is attributed to a French Engineer, Max Ringlemann, who is in the early 1900s, conducted an experiment where he assigned the task of pulling a rope to several participants in groups of two, three and eight.

At the end, he found that the group members put in less effort while working in a group. When the same experiment is carried out with participants working individually, the results come out much better.

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When this occurs in the workplace, the high performing team members may grow resentful. It can also impact the growth of the team while creating a negative working culture.

Laziness or lack of clarity?

While many theories point to the difficulty of getting the most from each individual working in a team, others suggest the problem is not that these social loafers are lazy, it could be the lack of clarity. According to asana.com:

When knowledge workers don’t have clarity into what they are working on or how that work is impacting their company, they can’t effectively prioritize or execute on high-impact work.

The confusion or uncertainty over the tasks they are responsible for, lead to burnout among workers, a situation that is more evident in the era of remote working.

Some experts believe if there’s clarity in what is expected of them, most workers are able to work to their highest capacity individually or in a team.

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