Teamwork

Teamwork: Not doing their fair share

Reducing social loafing

More than a century ago, a French engineer identified social loafing. He found when two people pulled a rope, they exerted 93% of their effort. When six more people were added, the team displayed only 49% of their potential. There are many theories why we hold back while sharing the load among the group. It is critical to keep that in mind for any team project to be a success.

Reducing social loafing requires both planning and monitoring the team’s progress. A team charter and effective meetings addressed in early posts are a big help. But there are other ways to keep social loafing off your team.

1) Make all contributions identifiable. Tie all tasks to a specific team member. Give them a deadline, and let them know how the team will provide feedback (verbal, email, written, etc.).

2) Make activities and assignments interesting. Every task isn’t going to be interesting to everyone. Allocating assignments according to individual interests and spreading the tedious jobs around to all team members helps everyone stay engaged.

3) Reward good performance. Find creative rewards to offer and award them only after superior performances.

4) Strengthen team cohesion. A little social time together is a great way to build bonds within the team. Celebrating successful milestones is a must. It can be even more advantageous if there’s a competitive element to the team’s assignment.

5) Explicitly set positive team norms. At the very beginning, discuss expectations for individual contributions, quality of work, and attitude towards the project. They can be as simple as ensuring meetings stay within the allotted time and expecting members to be on time.

Simply addressing the possibility of social loafing up front and making expectations explicit, is often enough to ensure each team member puts in their maximum effort towards the end result.

Additional suggestions for keeping everyone on the team on track are available in the TeamMATE® Teamwork Toolkit. ​

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