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5 Reasons Why Social Loafing Impacts Team Work and Projects

Studying for a business degree gave her a better understanding of what is entailed when working with people.

Social loafing occurs in many organizations. You will at some point experience social loafing in colleges as well.

Many of use will experience social loafing during our career. You might not know what it means but when you start noticing this type of behavior in an individual then you will gradually begin to notice their pattern of behavior.

The one factor that differentiates a social loafing individual to others is that person inability to do any tasks that they are assigned. They will talk the good talk about their ability to do the task but when it comes to delivering it, it won't be done.

You might also notice that there is that one individual that is late to every meetings and also late at handing in assignments. This can be especially frustrating if you are doing a team project for work or college and you have deadlines to meet.

If you have a team of six or eight people and everyone has been assigned a task to complete and some don't complete their task on time, then you will begin to see social loafing creeping into your teams structure.

Social Loafing will have negative effect on a team.

Social Loafing will have negative effect on a team.

What Is Social Loafing

Social Loafing is a psychological term used to describe people who don't pull their weight in a team. These people leave the team meetings early or they don't even attempt to attend the team meetings. These team members don't complete tasks assigned to them and they will also blame other team members for their own mistakes.

Why Do We Ignore Social Loafing

When you are doing a team project for work or for college, at the time when you are up to your eyes in research, you probably didn't think anything of the lazy person who was assigned to your team.

At the time, you probably thought nothing of their behavior because it was normal to you. You might have heard from other work colleges or fellow students that this is how that individual behaves when assigned to a team project.

If this was the first time you ever worked in a team assignment, you might not even know what this type of behavior is called.

But there is a term assigned to lazy people who don't want to contribute and it is called Social Loafing.

This behavior will not be a one of thing by this individual; it will be a lifelong commitment by them to avoid working.

How Did Social Loafing Get Identified

A man named Max Ringlemann, who was an agricultural engineer by day, identified this issue and decided to name this phenomenon, ‘Ringlemann Effect’.

His research revealed that individuals were more inclined to put more effort into completing their own individual work compared to that of team work.

Some people assigned to work in teams or groups will overall put in less effort into these projects compared to an individual project.

These individuals feel like they have nothing to gain from any effort they put forth into a group project.

Ringlemann also concluded that the more people that there is in a group, then the higher the chances are that there will an individual that displays signs of social loafing.

This means that the rest of the team or group will have extra work to complete to help cover this individual’s workload because he/she is not carrying their own weight.

Group Strength

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Types of People in a Group

Group DynamicsWhat they do

The Listener

Listens to everyone

The Mediator

Keeps conflict at bay

The Leader

Has the final say on ideas

The Joker

Doesn't contribute anything but keeps everyone entertained

The Dominator

Tries to control everything

The Sniper

Doesn't like anything the group come up with

The Teacher

Keeps eveyone in order



5 Reasons Why Social Loafing Occurs in Your Group

Social loafing creeps into team work because the group cannot form a cohesive group and work as one. The group is not rewarded the same way and maybe only one member of the team is to be rewarded for their contribution.

Another factor that leads to social loafing is having controlling team leaders who dictates or edit other people's work and this causes team members to feel slighted. They think that their hard work is not valued.

Finally it could simple be that this team member is lazy and careless and doesn't want to work in a team assignment.

1. Group Not Cohesive

  • Team members don't have previous knowledge of each other.
  • Some team members don't like each other upon first impressions.
  • Some people do not like being in a cohesive group and like to create drama where there is none.
  • If a group of people don't gel upon meeting, then it is unlikely that they will get on with each other further into the project.
  • If a number of the team members are vying to be the leader of the team, this can cause aggravation.
  • If no one will step down from wanting to be the team leader, this can lead to further aggravation.

All of these issues can then impact the structure of the team and the team will not form as strong a group as it should to complete the project. The end result could be that the project they were assembled to complete might end up failing to get done because of this attitude.

2. Unequal Rewards for Tasks

  • If a bonus or a reward is the result of completing a group project then to just be spiteful, one or two controlling members of the team might feel vengeful and not put in any effort. This is to stop their fellow team members from getting rewarded for their hard work.
  • If only the team leader is getting rewarded for leading the project, this means that the other team members will feel undervalued. They will then just do the bare minimum amount of work that is expected from them. This could also demotivate the rest of the team.
  • Team members won't assist other team members who might be struggling to do their part.
  • Some team members won't do any extra tasks or research that could be beneficial to making sure that the project is brilliant
  • If there is no reward or bonus for completing the project, the might not feel inclined to put as much effort into the project as an individual one where they will be rewarded maybe by a wage increase.

Awarding bonuses to teams can become tricky if you don't reward every member the same thing.

If only one gets any acknowledgement for their work, then why would other members feel inclined to work harder to help only one person get the reward?

3. Controlling Team Leader

If your manager is going to review the team work as a whole and not individually then some members might not feel that it is worth putting in effort, especially if the team leader is going to be controlling every aspect of the project.

  • This means that the team leader is not viewing the team as a group but as his or her minions.
  • They want the evaluation to be about their work and not the team work. So no matter what effort other team members put in, their work will be reedited by the team manager.
  • Some leaders might feel that they are smarter than other team members and could take this opportunity to edit, remove or ignore the work of those team members who are quieter.
  • If a team member is not as vocal in expressing an opinion, then they might be ignored even though they are knowledgeable in that particular area and won't feel like contributing.
  • This could then lead to lack of enthusiasm or slacking off as some team members will feel that no matter what they do, it is not good enough.
  • The team leader could be a bully and decide that they are the most senior in the group and the most knowledgeable so they feel that their work is more superior to their fellow team members.

So while the majority of the team members will work as hard as possible to meet the deadline, this person will ignore their contribution.

Since they think that they are more knowledgeable about the whole project, they will ignore their fellow team members work and submit the project that they edited in their style.

4. Attitudes

  • Some individuals who are more reserved or quieter might feel too intimidated by other members and feel that they cannot contribute to the group.
  • Some team members might not feel very comfortable expressing an opinion to a group of people that they don't know well.
  • Sometimes people struggle on how to express what they want to say in a group setting especially if they are not comfortable around these people.
  • Some team members might not be given the opportunity to express themselves due to the attitude of more vocal team members.
  • This could result in them feeling intimidated by the group and they will not contribute anything else to the group in the future because they fear that they will be ignored.

When some team members talk down to others members because they feel superior to them, they are acting in an unprofessional manner.

Learning to listen to other members in a group is a valuable skill. Of a team leader ignores this type of behavior, he will loose valuable input from other members.

In fact these people might have had some great ideas to contribute to the project but don’t feel that they are able to because of the behavior of others.

5. Laziness

When you are doing team work, social loafing will start from the first team members meeting. You will see a pattern of this behavior throughout the project.

  • There is a pattern of being late to team meetings.
  • No attempt to help the team with brainstorming ideas.
  • The member turns in uncompleted work that is sorely lacking in value and doesn't have supporting material.
  • The team member bullies or embarrasses other team members for no reason.

If this type of behavior is not addressed right away, then other team members might start emulating this type of behavior especially in a large group.

Other team members might also stop putting in any effort if they see one person getting away with this attitude.

So instead of just one team member doing social loafing, you could easily have three or four members no longer pulling their weight

Two Effects That Social Loafing Causes in a Team

Effect 1

In group situations the first effect will be a decrease in the output of the group. Each team member will no longer put in as much effort as they could have to ensure that the project is the standard expected from the team.

If some team members are lazy and other team members notice that they are not pulling their weight they will feel annoyed with the whole team.

They will think that they are doing all the work and that the others members are slacking off. They will begin to feel frustrated. All of these factors could result in a less productive group and a project or an assignment not produced to the standard expected from the group.

Effect 2

The next effect will impact the individual who will feel that this is not an efficient or productive group.

The will feel very unsatisfied with this group and its dynamics. They will likely continue to put in some effort to ensure that the project is not substandard.

However in the long run they will remember the attitude of these members who were lazy and who exhibited signs of social loafing symptoms and will in the future avoid working with them.

Social Loafers Will Loose Out in The End

The downside to those who are partaking in this type of behavior is that these members will miss out on opportunities to grow. Working and learning from other people is a part of being in a workforce.

These members have not only lost the opportunity to learn from others team members but they have also highlighted their behavior among their fellow work colleagues.

Work colleagues talk and in the future, people will be less inclined to assist them if the ever need help.

Small teams or groups are better than larger ones.

Small teams or groups are better than larger ones.

Reasons Why Social Loafing Occurs


Some people who move to work in different countries don't always know the culture of that country. Some workplaces are very diverse and have people from many cultures working in them.

In Ireland a handshake or hug is normal among work colleagues, this is not always the case with other cultures.

In the Netherlands if you are asked if you can do the job, the answer is yes or no. Maybe does not enter into the equation.

However, when it comes to team work, it’s understandable that sometimes people do not know what is expected of them.

Therefore it’s very important that the team leader knows the strengths and the weaknesses of fellow members and uses the skills they have that are the strongest.

Every member needs to work to their own strength. Don't give a quiet person who hates doing presentations the task of presenting the project.


When the time comes to select a leader for a team, think very carefully before you choose a person. An article in The Atlantic states that woman are more socially sensitive to issues. They are better at understanding non-verbal cues from fellow members.

In a study carried out by Naoki Kugihara he found in a rope pulling competition, the overall group efforts by men, showed that less effort was put in by the men into the task compare to the woman. If there were a lot of woman in the group, they all still work as hard as the other one, no matter whether the number in the group were large or small.

How to Avoid Social Loafing in a Team

  • To reduce the impact of social loafing for individuals reduce the numbers of members put in a team.That way everyone will have to work just as hard as the next team members.
  • Encourage the team to become more cohesive. Try to ensure that everyone on the team respects each others opinions and ensure that fellow members learn to listen to each other. Also ensure that everybody feels included and that no one is excluded from any aspect of the planning.
  • Ensure each member leaves their negative attitude out of this team. If someone in the team is talking over another team member and not listening to their opinions, then the team need to confront this individual. This person might not realize they are being a dictator or that they are being disrespectful.
  • Each team member should know their own strengths and weaknesses and only take on a task that they feel they are knowledgeable in and that they can complete to the best of their ability.
  • Each member of the team has different capabilities. Some could be good at research and another few could be good at presenting. Assign members tasks that they will excel at. This will reduce the chance of boredom.
  • When working in teams split up jobs and tasks depending on who will be the best at performing them. That way everyone can feel like they have contributed to the project and feel that their hard work will be valued.

© 2013 Sp Greaney


Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on June 14, 2019:

Thanks Gupi. Appreciate your feedback. :)

Gupi on June 14, 2019:

Thank you for sharing the article. I like the way that it is structured clearly defining social loathing, why it occurs and then tips to prevent it. Great work.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on January 21, 2013:

@JohnGreasyGamer, you seem to have a good idea of what is expected of people especially strangers. At least with friends you all have an idea of each others strengths and weaknesses.

I think we all follow that rule sometimes in life about always taking and not giving. But sometimes you got work together. Anyway, good luck with the video game group. I'm sure it will all go fantastic for you. :)

John Roberts from South Yorkshire, England on January 20, 2013:

Some really good points made here, and I think this'll help when I start grouping up with people in video games. If you play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, getting 5 complete strangers together to do a task for "fun" is impossible - it's all about rushing and grabbing the goods before everyone gets any more sick of each other. If the rewards are too great (take my example of video games), most of the group will want to rush ahead to get said rewards and completely disregard everyone else. A good leader can only do so much, after all.

A fantastic read, Sangre! Voted up, useful and interesting! I shall be referring to this in future ^^

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