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My Personal Experience
I worked in accounting department for a short period of time. One of my job responsibilities was that each month I was responsible for updating customer's expired credit card on their accounts and had fallen behind. The head accountant sent a note to me and to other worker from the distributing department saying that we need to team up and handle the job together. I emailed to the worker and told her I will give them all the information so she could start. I received no reply at first, sent the second email, no reply either so I decided go to the distribution department to see her personally and caught her talking to someone on the phone (it was not business related). Couple of days later, the head accountant asked me if we started working together. I told her everything. She said she would talk to the other worker personally. The next day, the other worker showed up late at work and showed no interest working. She talked on the phone for a while then she excused herself to get a coffee. It took her 45 minutes. When she got back, I attempted to talk to her how we would work together in the future as a team. I told her we have a goal to achieve. As a result, she gave me a yes or a no. I asked her why she's giving me this attitude? She said why I should work so hard. She also said that the task is not challenging so she isn’t interested to work. She also said that you will do better job than me. What contributed to this; our team became dysfunctional because of her lack of motivation.
One of the problems that I observed in our team was social loafing. I observed that my teammate was not motivated to work and she did not express any interest at all, in what we had to accomplish as a team. There can be many explanations for her behavior. What I think the reasons why she was loafing were:
- She believed that her efforts will not result in better performance of the group.
- She believed that individual efforts will not be recognized or rewarded.
- She did not expect to receive the rewards that she valued.
Another problem, which is related to loafing is free-riding. Perhaps the reason why my teammate was loafing was because of her desire to free ride on my efforts. According to Harkins and Jackson (1985) when a group task makes individual contributions anonymous, and rewards are shared equally, group members can reduce their own individual effort but still enjoy an equal share of the results. My teammate was free riding because she believed that her contributions will not be identified.
Another problem that I observed in our team was that my teammate felt that she was dispensable. According to Kerr and Bruun (1983) in some cases, social loafing results from feelings of being dispensable. Group members may feel dispensable when more able group members are available to accomplish the task. This probably was what my teammate felt. She thought that I can handle the task alone so she was not committed to the task. My teammate feel dispensable that’s why she reduced her efforts or did not perform her duties.
Every team or group undergoes a development process consisting of different stages. The group development process include the following stages:
- Forming – during this stage of group development, the members get acquainted with each other. During this stage, the group establishes ground rules.
- Storming – this stage is characterized by a high degree of conflict within the group. I consider the storming stage as the most crucial stage. In this stage, the group members and the leader have to resolve the issues that may affect the group in the future. If the group is unable to resolve the issues, it may be disbanded. If the issues are resolved the group will become cohesive.
- Norming – during this stage, the group becomes more cohesive and identification as a member becomes greater. During this stage, the group members start to develop relationships.
- Performing – during this stage, questions about group relationships and leadership have been resolved and the group is ready to work. Each member devotes his/herself to getting the job done.
- Adjourning – during this stage, the group will cease to exist. This is because it has met its goals and is no longer needed.
Perhaps one of the reasons why our team is dysfunctional is because of the abnormal group development process. Because there are just two of us in the team, the head accountant expected us to be able to work together immediately. The supervisor did not consider that we need to solve the challenges that arise in every stage of the group development process before we can work as a team. The reason why we were not able to work together as a team is because we went straight to the “Performing” stage and by-passed the Forming, Storming, and Norming stages. We were not able to deal with the issues and problems in the forming, storming and norming stages before we moved to the performing stage of group development process.
There was also no clear leadership. The head accountant did not clearly communicate each member’s roles. She also did not inform us what her responsibilities will be.
Social loafing and related group problems can be mitigated if individuals in the group find the task to be interesting or important to them; when people work with people whom they respect; when their individual contribution is seen as unique or directly related to the outcome; and when an individual expects others in the group not to work well on the task (Pennington 2002).
If the individual expects that his or her efforts will contribute to the performance and success of the team, social loafing will be diminished. There are different factors that may affect expectancy. These include the nature of the task, member skills and abilities, goal setting, self-efficacy, self-esteem, an understanding of the requirements for successful performance, the provision of necessary resources to succeed at the task, and a match between individual personality and the social requirements of the task.
Thus, the possible solutions that can lessen social loafing are:
1. Careful selection of members and matching of members to appropriate tasks based on their skills and personality;
2. Training in key basic skills, as well as in the unique attributes of the task or role;
3. Setting challenging, realistic, goals that are accompanied by regular, diagnostic feedback;
4. Providing needed resources and support functions: and
5. Creating an environment conducive to developing and enhancing self-efficacy and self-esteem, or for encouraging those aspects of the individual's personality to be expressed
Group Cohesiveness and Social Identification
Enhancing the importance of collective outcomes and their relevance to individual’s self-evaluation can eliminate social loafing. One strategy that can be recommended is increasing group cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness refers to the degree to which individuals socially identify with the group. People are more likely to be concerned with the welfare of other group members and to feel that the evaluation of the group is important to their own self-evaluation when working in cohesive groups. Members of cohesive groups may also be more attentive to the fact that the group’s performance and resulting outcomes are partially dependent on their own individual performances (Turner 2001).
Harkins S.G. & Jackson J.M. (1985). "The role of evaluation in eliminating social loafing". Personality and Social Psychology. Bulletin, 11, 575-584.
Kerr N.L. & Bruun S.E. (1983). "Dispensability of member effort and group motivation losses: Free-rider effects". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 78-94.
Pennington, D.C. (2002). Social psychology of behavior in small groups. Psychology Press.
Turner, M.E. (Ed.) (2001). Groups at work: theory and research. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.