Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Social Loafing and Collaboration
Social loafing is a detrimental force to collaborative work in general. Examining the concept and an example provides some guidance to improving collaboration efforts.
Definition of Social Loafing
What is Social Loafing? Per Carroll, Social Loafing is defined as individuals will work less if they are members of a group. The extent of the how much less they will work varies, depending both on the nature of the task and the nature of the group. In general, individuals work harder when they like the group, i.e. the group is more attractive. Additionally, the individual will work harder if the task they are assigned is deemed valuable. In general, this leads to people working harder in a group that values their contribution. Another potential cause of the absence of Social Loafing comes when the individual perceives other members of the group as lacking, leading to increased work.
Example of Social Loafing
A perfect example of Social Loafing seems to be your standard undergraduate project. Generally everyone who has been through an undergraduate degree has at least one encounter with group work. In the process, a team is formed, which generally consists of at least three people. This leads to a team makeup where you have a star performer, one or more people who will contribute enough to get a decent grade, and someone who is just along for the ride, and plans on contributing no work. When this occurs, the start performer usually makes up for the lack of input from the group, and the entire team gets a better grade. Both the slacker and the general team members could be engaged in Social Loafing to varying degrees.
Solving Social Loafing
How can teams be considered advantageous when multiple members can and will engage in Social Loafing? Carroll proposes that when team members are not able to evaluate performance accurately of other team members, they may inaccurately judge their performance to be lacking. This however causes duplicated work which may be less efficient. In general though, it would be better to have a little inefficiency over having the group entirely capable of team judgement. This would lead to higher amount of work, and reduce both Social Loafing and the stress on those who engage in Social Loafing less.