The Loafer(s)

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I'm sure many of you have been stuck working with people who rely upon the rest of the group to get the project done and all through the project, you can feel that the morale is down and people are frustrated with having to do extra work because of this one person. I've been there countless times and will probably be there again in the future; it is inescapable because jobs often involve teamwork.

I was reading a book on organizational behavior and I came across the term "social loafing". It refers to a group member who contributes very little (or nothing at all) of their time, effort or any other resource to the group. To think that there has been a word out there to descibe those annoying group members! And, I would never have guessed that "loafing" would be an official term.

About.com suggests some explanations for social loafing:

  • Motivation can play an important role in determining whether social loafing takes place. People who are less motivated by a task are more likely to engage in social loafing when they are part of a group.
  • Diffusion of responsibility also contributes to social loafing. When in groups, people tend to feel less personal accountability and may even feel that their individual efforts have little impact on the outcome. It is this same diffusion of responsibility that influences what is known as the bystander effect, or the tendency to be less likely to help a person in trouble when other people are present. Because people assume that their efforts don't matter and that they are not personally responsible, they also assume that someone else will be the one to take action.
  • Group size also has a serious impact on the effort people put forth in groups. In small groups, people are more likely to feel that their efforts are more important and will therefore contribute more. The larger the group, however, the less individual effort people will extend.
  • Expectations also matter when it comes to group performance. If you expect other people to slack off, you probably will as well since you don't want to get stuck doing all of the work. On the other hand, if you are in a group of high-achievers who seem like they are in control of the group's efforts, you might also be more likely to kick back and let them handle all the work.

There have been times where I have lacked the motivation for the project because I didn't like the people I had been put with, I didn't like the project we were given or other people in the group immediately took on the role of leader so I would step back and keep an eye on the direction of the conversation and project. But I always have the sense of getting the job done and done right whether I like what I'm doing or not because there is a deadline to meet or marks to be earned and I know I won't be working on this project for the rest of my life.

However, not everyone thinks or feels this way.

What I use for motivation is music and movies. Two of my favorites for motivation are "Number 1" by Chaz Jankel in Real Genius (starring Val Kilmner) and "Win in the End" by Mark Safan at the end of the film Teen Wolf (starring Michael J. Fox). What can I say? I have a soft spot for 80s music and movies!

2 Comments

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