How To Be More Social At Work – Remember when you were in college and dreaded working in a group? Somehow you knew you had to pull the weight for the whole group if you wanted to get a decent grade. Just as many of us would like to get rid of this feeling at school, the same situations often occur at work. The term for this is social loafing: it means that as the group gets bigger, the effort people put into the project decreases.
Social loafing can be very problematic at work if you want to achieve your team’s goals as efficiently as possible, but each member is doing less than if they were working alone. To help you deal with social loafing in the office, this article takes a look at what it is, what causes it, and how to avoid it.
How To Be More Social At Work
Social loafing is a psychological concept that refers to the tendency of people to exert less effort when working in groups than when working individually (Karau & Williams, 1993). This concept first appeared in 1913 when Max Ringelmann conducted a study in which participants were first asked to pull a rope individually and then in a group. Ringelmann found that people exerted more effort in a tug-of-war individually than in a group. Later, Ingham and his colleagues repeated the initial results of the study and noted that performance decreased significantly as the group size increased from one to two or three people. As the original study was replicated more and the findings continued to show that individual group members became less productive as the group size increased, a description of the phenomenon was born: the “Ringelmann effect.”
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In management, social loafing is usually interpreted as a negative behavior of employees and is often observed in people with low motivation (Akgunduz and Eryilmaz, 2018). Basically, this phenomenon suggests that in group settings, people consciously choose not to exert as much effort as they would if they were working alone.
To ensure equal effort across your team, set specific tasks and keep them in one place for reference. Try using a tool like organizing activities and collaborating on notes.
A lack of motivation can significantly increase the likelihood of social dissatisfaction. Thus, high levels of motivation reduce social loafing at work and make motivation an important focus for team leaders. If people have low levels of motivation in the first place, they tend to exert less effort when put to work in a group. Several studies examining social deception have found that motivation, or the lack thereof, strongly influences group behavior (Simms & Nichols, 2014).
Another factor affecting social loafing is the size of the group. An individual’s efforts seem to matter more when they are working in a small group, but the same is not true for large groups. As mentioned above, the Ringelmann effect is observed, which means that as groups get larger, participants move less. Because being part of a larger group reduces personal visibility, people feel that their efforts are less important (Simms & Nichols, 2014).
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If expectations are not clearly defined before the project begins, the group is more likely to engage in social loafing. When a project’s mission or goals are not clearly defined, it is common for individuals on the team to slack off without prioritizing their project tasks. Chances are, if you think everyone in the group is doing the bare minimum, you will be doing the same, rather than being stuck with the bulk of the work. Conversely, if you know you’re working on a high-performing team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, you’re more likely to bring your A-game.
Group development theory was first developed in 1965 by Bruce Tuckman, who reviewed many existing theories of team dynamics and grouped his idea of team development into four distinct categories: (1 ) form, (2) attack, (3) normalize, and (4) execute. The purpose of this model was to show leaders how team members build relationships and how those relationships affect them. He found that people respond differently to responsibilities based on the quality of their existing relationships with their colleagues. Group development theory is important to consider because it states that if an organization focuses on cooperation, communication, honesty, trust, and respect, there will be less social loafing.
Social comfort is a slight exception to the Ringelman effect. In some cases, the presence of other people improves productivity, as opposed to an individual’s performance when they work alone. The term was coined by psychologist Floyd Allport in 1920. Research results are mixed when it comes to this psychological phenomenon: some have found that social facilitation increases performance (social facilitation), while others have found that it decreases performance (social inhibition). The occurrence of social comfort depends on the difficulty of the task. If the task is easier or better learned, there may be social support. If the task is difficult and new to the individual, social inhibition may occur.
First, and perhaps most importantly, create clear processes and ownership when you start a project. This way, you can create alignment across your entire team while providing structure and clarity. If everyone understands their personal responsibility, there will be some level of accountability and each member will be responsible for his or her own contribution. Assign one person or owner to each task to avoid confusion and reduce the chance of social loafing. Without clarity or alignment, delayed or incomplete work is more likely.
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Having a tool to track the responsibilities of each person working on the project, including deadlines and task reminders, is essential. Even if your team members are highly organized, if you don’t use a centralized management tool, team members won’t be able to see what their team members are working on or how their responsibilities contribute to the overall project. . Using a task management tool, for example, allows you to write down meeting actions in one place and document all of your actions with an assignee and due date. By tracking your team’s progress in real time, you increase accountability and therefore reduce the likelihood of social breakdowns.
In an interview with Darren Murph, he identified time-saving practices that also reduce the likelihood of social apathy. Darren Murph of Gitlab said:
“We have a concept called ‘answering with a link.’ So when you’re asking me these questions, my goal is to answer anything I say with a link. Hopefully there’s a link that adds some extra context. So, if we’re asked a question in Gitlab and the problem isn’t actually solved and documented, we take the approach of finding the answer, finding a subject matter expert, then documenting it and putting it into a manual so that if whoever has this question, from now on they can find it in the manual.
Be more efficient in approaching projects, troubleshoot problems, and reduce the time it takes to explain processes to others. Answering with a link is a fun, interactive way to answer questions and a great opportunity to document the steps while providing more context.
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To motivate your employees (and reduce the likelihood of social disengagement), highlight team members’ accomplishments in meetings, emails, or memos. This recognition shows your team that you value and appreciate their contributions to specific projects and to the organization as a whole. It can also inspire other employees to put in the effort to receive positive recognition for their contributions.
If you want to avoid social awkwardness and have your employees go about their work normally, it’s important to establish clear standards and expectations before the project begins. On the one hand, if everyone is expected to work hard and dedicate themselves to the project, it is likely that the rest of the group will perform to that standard and therefore be more efficient and effective in achieving goals and completing the project. If, on the other hand, expectations aren’t set, you can expect people to slack off and put their role in the project at the bottom of the priority list.
Focus on creating clear expectations, processes, goals, and desired outcomes to support your team in doing the best work possible. Clearly define the responsibilities of each person in the group and organize the work using a centralized work tool. That way, you can be sure that everyone on the team knows exactly what they’re working on and what their team members are working on.
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