30 April 2015
People in groups often do not work as hard as they do when alone. This is referred to as social loafing. Team productivity often decreases with the increase of group members. A study by a French agricultural engineer named Max Ringelmann exposed this theory. Ringlemann was interested in the relative efficiency of farm labor supplied by horses, oxen, machines, and men. In particular, he was curious about their relative abilities to pull a load horizontally, such as in a tug-of-war. In one of his experiments, he had groups of fourteen men pull a load and measured the amount of force they generated; he also measured the force that each man could pull independently. There was a linear decline in the average pull per member as the size of the rope-pulling team increased. One person pulling on a rope alone exerted an average of 63 kilograms of force. However, in groups of three. the per-person force dropped to 53 kilograms, and in groups of eight, it plummeted to only 31 kilograms per person-less than half of the effort exerted by people working alone (Kravitz).
With the results of the study by Ringlemann, when forming teams, the team size should be limited to no more than ten people per group and focus on similarities of each member as this will boost communication (Thompson 117). People in groups often do not work as hard as they do when alone and team productivity often decreases with the increase of group members. Social loafing should be identified and addressed because it can cause a decline in group cohesion and it is problematic to a team’s performance and productivity.
Social loafing is most likely to occur in large teams where individuals output is difficult to identify. This particularly includes situations in which team members work alone towards a common output pool and independent output is low. Under these conditions, employees aren’t as worried that their performance will be noticed. Social loafing is less likely to occur when the task is interesting, because individuals have a higher intrinsic motivation to perform their duties. It is less common when the groups’ objective is important, because individuals experience more pressure from other team members to perform well. Finally social loafing is less common among members with a strong collective value, because they value group membership and believe in working towards group objectives (The Trouble with Teams: Social Loafing).
With larger groups, people tend to not work as hard as when they are alone for three reasons: diffusion of responsibility, a reduced sense of self-efficacy, and the "sucker effect". “In a team, a person's effort and contributions are less identifiable than when that person works independently. This is because everyone's efforts are pooled into the team enterprise and the return is a function of everyone's contribution. It is difficult to distinguish one person's contribution from another. At an extreme, this can lead to deindividuation-a psychological state in which a person does not feel individual responsibility. As a result, the person is less likely to perform or contribute. This is referred to diffusion of responsibility” (Thompson).
In some cases, it is not diffusion of responsibility that hinders people from contributing to a team effort, but rather the feeling that our contributions will not be as valuable, efficacious, or worthwhile as they might be in a smaller group. In short, we believe our contributions will not be sufficient to justify the effort thus resulting in dispensability of effort (Thompson).
Sucker version is a common concern held by team members in wanting to avoid being the only one left doing all of the work and getting little or no credit. Because everyone wants to avoid being taken advantage of, team members hedge their efforts and wait to see what others will do. The problem is that when everyone does this, no one contributes (Thompson).