Social laziness and how to avoid it 4 minutes Laziness is one of the most common sins of our time. Unemployment, lack of work ethic, too much free time … When we work in a group, something strange happens often – the whole is less than the sum of its parts. What each person contributes less when they are members of the group. This is called social laziness or social disguise.
Social laziness is when we put less effort into a group task because it is likely to be overlooked, compared to when the same task is done alone. Group experience can lead to people putting in less effort and performing less well. Some of the reasons for this are lack of motivation and problems with organization and coordination. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Start social laziness as a concept
In 1880, agricultural engineer Max Ringelmann was the first to study social laziness. Ringelmann selected 14 people to pull the load and recorded the strength each performed. He also instructed these people to pull the load individually. The results showed that when the participants pulled the load alone, they were stronger than when they were all together.
Ringelmann attributed this loss of effort to poor coordination, but recent research has identified other causes as well. In a study in which participants were instructed to clap and scream as loudly as possible, it was found that the level of noise each person performed was lower the larger the group was. They concluded that many people prefer to hide in crowds.
Lazy, like others
People don’t worry about worse group work when it’s impossible to determine their individual contributions. When people cannot be blamed for not trying their best, they tend to put in less effort than they could. But social laziness does not only depend on whether we can determine the contribution of each person involved.
Fairness and social comparisons are factors that also influence. The fact that one person in a group is doing less than others will cause other people to decide to do the same. On the other hand, comparing their results with those of others makes it feel like you have to do more than you can physically do.
Social laziness does not only occur when we perform tasks that require physical effort. This also happens in cognitive tasks, especially when we have to think creatively, such as during brainstorming. The larger the group, the fewer ideas each person will contribute. As with physical tasks, mental tasks can also lead to laziness if performed in a fair and socially comparable way.
A context in which social laziness often occurs in teams at work. When we have to work in a team, we often don’t put in the same effort, and the same goes for all members of the group. But if there are good facilitators who can distribute tasks well, this can often lead to participants trying their best. When one or more people give everything, others often want to follow suit. However, there are others whose reaction in the same context is to act as little as possible.
The importance of fighting social laziness
A big influence on all this has the form of the task that the worker performs. Social laziness occurs less often when the information is interesting. When the value is great, laziness also decreases. If each person’s tasks are necessary for a successful outcome, laziness will diminish due to the social pressures to succeed.
Hence, social laziness does not always arise when working in a group. Here are some ways to avoid or at least reduce it:
- Make each person’s achievements and efforts recognizable.
- Increase your commitment to the successful completion of the task.
- Provides an opportunity to evaluate the individual contribution to the group as a whole.
If we need to complete a group task, it is important that the entire team of participants is properly motivated. If not, we can at least try to measure the performance of each person and communicate the importance of the ultimate goal. Good teamwork management ensures that each member values achievement both among themselves and among their peers.