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Social Loafing

Individual effort consistently drops when we work in group settings.

· team,issues

Social loafing describes the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group. Because all members of the group are pooling their effort to achieve a common goal, each member of the group contributes less than they would if they were individually responsible.


At rope pulling exercise:

  • When working alone, an average person exerted 63kg of force
  • In group of three, an average person exerted 53kg of force
  • In groups of eight, an average person exerted 31kg of force

Source: Ringelmann (1913); Kravitz and Martin (1986)

The major reason is the diffusion of responsibility, we expect somebody else to take responsibility.

How to manage social loafing:

  • Use smaller teams
  • Address early
  • Assign meaningful tasks
  • Assign unique roles
  • Make individual contributions identifiable
  • Use hybrid (team-individual) reward structures
  • Invest in relationship formation in teams