Social Loafing

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12th July, 2023

Social loafing refers to a psychological phenomenon which states that the employees working in a group, underperform a given task in comparison to their potential, ultimately hindering the group performance.

This is because they develop a casual attitude towards the assigned responsibilities by putting in their least contribution and thus, relying upon the efforts of other team members.

The concept of social loafing or ‘Ringelmann effect’ has denied a traditional belief that ‘people tend to perform better when they work as a team’.

Maximilian Ringelmann, a French engineer, studied the performance of horses in 1913.

He concluded that the power of two animals pulling a coach did not equal twice the power of a single horse.

Surprised by this result, he

extended his research to humans. He had several men pull a rope and

measured the force applied by each individual.

On average, if two people were pulling together, each invested just 93% of his individual strength, when three pulled together, it was 85% and with eight people, just 49%.

Science calls this the social loafing effect. It occurs when individual performance is not directly visible; it blends into the group effort.

It occurs among rowers, but not in relay races, because here, individual contributions are evident.

Social loafing is rational behavior: Why invest all of your energy when half will do—especially when this little shortcut goes


That is why it is commonly said, “If you want nothing done, form a committee to do it.”

Quite simply, social loafing is a form of cheating of which we are all guilty even if it takes place unconsciously, just as it does with the horses.

It is “My neighbour will do it” syndrome.

Hence you require good leaders and coaches to get the best out of a team, to use the team’s maximum potential, lay out the responsibilities of each member and make the team achieve greater heights.

As Steve Jobs said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

Devise strategies to overcome social loafing, get the best out of your team and stay blessed forever.