Social Loafing- A Hindrance to A Team Effort!

Social loafing is a social psychology term that denotes that an individual will be putting off more effort individually as opposed to while working in a team. The person will be working much less than the other members of the team. This is a term that is pretty common in workplaces. Also, there are many aspects to social loafing. In this article, we will discuss everything about social loafing. So, keep reading the article till the end.

Social Loafing:

This is a social psychological term that simply means that a person puts forth less effort than others because they are being judged as a group. Social loafing is a very common phenomenon in workplaces, and one of the main disadvantages of social loafing is that it significantly affects team dynamics. It is of great importance in the management field, and managers usually bring this topic up for discussion in management training.

One can define social loafing as a form of slacking off. Its main root occurs in group projects in schools and then carries over to workplaces after becoming an adult. The social loafer is usually the one who does less and assumes that the others will do much of the extra work.

Now that you have got a good understanding of social loafing and the way social loafers function. Head to the next section of the article as we discuss some more facts about social loafing.

Social Loafing- A Real Bummer in Team Success:

Usually, when people hear the term Social Loafing, they usually associate it with being lazy or careless. However, there is a much deeper aspect to the term. There are more often dynamics at play. When you look closely at the term social loafing, you will find that the term is much more complex, and it may initially seem the same. If you are someone who loves reading psychology or holds a knack for the subject. Then, let me tell you that social loafing is also called the Ringelmann Effect. Social loafing, in an easier way, can be used to describe the phenomenon that limits the amount of effort that each group member puts in and which, in turn, is responsible for reducing individual productivity.

When was Social Loafing Found?

Folks, there are many who are hearing the term for the first time. For them, let me say that the term social loafing began in the late 19th as well as early 20th century with Max Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer. He was curious about helping the farmers and hence observed that the groups usually outperformed the individuals. However, he found that they don’t perform as well as they could if every individual member worked at their maximum capacity. Hence, to test his theory, he instructed the subjects to pull a rope that was attached to the pressure gauge. He noted that when the number of people pulling increased, people would perform further below their pulling potential.

The researchers then replicated the Rigelmann experiments much later and in the year 1974, found many similar results. Now that you all have got a good understanding of the Ringelmann experiment. Head to the next section of the article to learn about the causes of social loafing.

Why Does Social Loafing Occur?

Well, this is one of the most common questions that must have come to mind when you read about social loafing. This section will list some of the causes of social loafing. Here are some of the causes of social loafing:

  • People’s assumption that their teammate will be stepping in for overcompensating their low output
  • People lack a sense of accountability as they will be judged as a group instead of their individual performance
  • People’s lack of motivation, and this is especially true when they expect their team to not perform well
  • People lack clarity regarding the tasks that they are expected to complete
  • In larger group sizes, each individual’s contribution seems smaller (and, therefore, less important)

Social Loafing- Impact:

Social loafing can lead to many issues when they are not attended to clearly, and they will be a real hindrance, especially for any team project. So here are some of the impacts of social loafing:

Decreased Productivity:

One of the most important disadvantages of social loafing is that it decreases productivity. Based on the productivity which is gained from the Ringelmann experiment, it is seen that it diminishes a team’s overall productivity and performance

Poor Results:

Another heavy disadvantage of it is that it leads to poor results. Long-term decreases its productivity whereas it can also lead to some serious declines in the company’s performance as well as productivity

High Turnover Rates:

If certain employees are consistently stuck with the lion’s share of work because of a social loafer (or loafers) on their team, they will eventually get frustrated and may decide to go somewhere else

Folks, we mentioned earlier that social loafing heavily influences a team’s dynamics. Head to the next section of the article, as we will discuss more of it’s impact on dynamics.

How does Social Loafing Affect Dynamics?

Folks, in this section, we will be listing some examples to elucidate the effect of social loafing on dynamics. Some of them are:

There is an increased risk of burnout. It is seen that the employees who are engaged in working more are more prone to burnout than the ones who work less. This is especially seen when the colleague is indulged in continuous work and will feel frustrated at a point that can have an impact on the dynamics of a group. The social loafers’ continuous slackness can lead to the overall failure of the team. And the employee who works more will face burnout

There is a high chance of reduced morale. It is seen that with time, a team will be filled with resentment, and this will lead to conflicts that can cause reduced morale. Reduced morale will lead to a decrease in employee satisfaction and will also feed into our increased turnover rates

There will be increased restatement as well as conflict in the group. It is a natural belief that nobody likes to do all the work and is losing out on the credits as well. When the team members get fed up with the social loafer. It is natural that there will be resentment and conflict, which will negatively affect the dynamics of the team. A team has to have unity, and when continuous resentment and conflicts take place, it will lead to a decrease in productivity and will ultimately hamper the results

Want to know about some of the examples of social loafing? Head to the next section of the article to explore some of them.

Examples of Social Loafing:

Here are some of the examples of social loafing:

The Invisible Employee:

Invisible employees are the ones who are physically present, but they are never active contributors to the team during any meetings or brainstorming sessions, among others. They are the ones who always sit back and observe more. They are also the ones who only observe and share their insights as well as offer suggestions, among others

The Meeting Misser (or Latecomer):

These are the type of social loafers who are always late to meetings or, worse, don’t show up at all. They might also be on time but are unprepared, appear disengaged, or fail to contribute as much as other group members (if at all). They lack motivation and usually have poor time management skills.


Social loafing can be a very disturbing issue to deal with as it affects an individual’s psychological effectiveness at work. Hence, managers must be able to highlight the issue in their management training sessions to effectively deal with it. That’s all, folks. I hope the article will help you get all the information you need.

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