Working in group might make people lazy: Social Loafing


Are you always that guy, who’s doing all of the project work? Or you are the one, “who’s always on call, If you need something”. Well, we will try to understand what stands for such actions. Whether some people are lazy and others are more productive or we are all hostages of the circumstances.

Economic perspective:

In economic science there exists a term that can describe such a situation - Marginal product of labour (MPL). It stands for the quantity of current working units and their quality. In other words, the more group members you have - the less impact one additional member has, and this number can even reduce your whole productivity.

Typical chess game requires 2 people. What about your friend, who's giving you some advice. It may be fine, if he’s playing better than you, but what if you have another guy standing behind you? He also plays well, but he can't cooperate with the 1st one, because he’s not satisfied with the 1st one. And they are both trying to help you.

Example of productivity in the chess game

Psychological perspective:

What psychology tells us? - About the same but in other words. The more people are in the group - the less likely these additional people are willing to work.

Ringelmann Effect (social loafing) - People were pulling the rope. The more people were pulling the rope - the less social pressure was on each member. If people think that individual performance is evaluated - they try to perform better, if they think that group performance is evaluated - they will make less effort.

Another experiment - People were gathering pens by their color. Group of 3 up to 5 people were the most effective ones, while other enlargements made no sense and some people were out of their duties, basically they became social loafers due to the situation.

How to deal with it? CCC - model:

Collaboration - each team member has its individual meaningful task. Therefore there is “no place to hide” and everyone has something to do.

Content - importance of the task. Tasks suits individual’s personal attributes

Choice - choosing between various tasks. Give a feeling of ownership to a performer, let them decide what they want to do.

In general you can change your CCC - model to a more convenient tool - Kanban.

It’s a practice, where you use a board for your tasks and every team member may find himself a suitable task and track progress of each member.


Next time when you will work on your project, consider such effects, maybe your group is too big and people are not willing to work, since “It makes no sense, somebody else will do this”. If it’s so, then use the “CCC” model or Kanban. Or maybe your problem lies somewhere deeper and it’s rooted deeply in each person’s motivation. If so, I refer you to my previous articles about motivation.




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