Social Loafing

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Social loafing is the idea that groups can become unproductive as members of the group tend to work less in a group environment than they would if they were working on their own. The larger the groups the more unproductive an individual often becomes as the larger the group is the easier it can be to hide their lack of work. Two examples of social loafing which can be found in the literature include Ringelmanns experiments which were again detailed by Kravitz and Martin (1986) and Latané, Williams and Harkins (1979).
In the 1890’s Ringelmann had people in groups of different sizes and individually pull on ropes so he could measure how hard they pulled. The experiment showed that the more people that were in the group then the less effort each person put into the work than if they were pulling on their own.
Latané, Williams and Harkins (1979) also experimented with crowds clapping and cheering and came to a similar conclusion. When the groups became larger people clapped and cheered much less than if they had been on their own.
It is therefore important to understand in a workplace why people have a tendency towards social loafing and these are a few contributing factors. These include people expecting others around them to do the same thing, in large groups people become less individualized so both praise and failure are attributed to all and frequently there are not clear aims set so there is no clear goal to work towards. It can also be attributed to lack of motivation

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