1) Q: "Social loafing" refers to members of a group working together who exert less effort than they would if they worked alone. What challenges prevent your department/organization and its members from performing optimally? In your experience, what qualities should a "team" have to ensure that each member performs well? What conflict resolution strategies would you use to ensure success?
A: In my past experiences working in groups, the greatest challenge in achieving optimal team performance is always following up on each person’s individual sections to make sure they are of similar quality. If the group does not set a baseline to which each member’s section must meet, if not surpass, then the lack of group communication can lead to uneven proposals and presentations. An effective team should not be afraid of communication with each other to make sure all members are creating quality content, and that there aren’t sections that bring down the group’s work as a whole. In order to ensure success, I would use negotiation or facilitation to mediate any conflicts that arise, as either talking out problems with the rest of the group as a whole or talking specifically with problem members appear to be the best methods to get to the root of why a person isn’t pulling their weight in a group without getting them in unnecessary academic trouble. If a group member fully shirks their responsibilities, then either mediation or arbitration would be more effective ways to resolve the conflict.
2) Q: This article mentions that "social loafing" is universal—meaning that some cultures are lazier than others. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not, and provide an example to back up your answer. What behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable that contribute to social loafing, and how would you resolve interpersonal conflict with "social loafers"?
A: I agree with Shepperd’s notion regarding cultural laziness in regards to social loafing. The world’s myriad cultures have different opinions on the importance of hard work, all influenced by various factors such as nationality, race, gender, age, or financial status. For instance, if someone was raised in a household where all members of the family pitched in financially to the best of their abilities, that individual would likely be willing to contribute more effort to a collective system because the importance of teamwork was instilled in them during their youth. Behaviors like encouragement and efficiency positively impact social loafing, while personality types and undesirable traits such as egotism, arrogance, and a lack of willingness to cooperate all contribute negatively to social loafing. To resolve these negative behaviors, I would employ negotiation to make sure the group knows to focus on positivity and cohesion instead of division. This method would help the group’s members see their contributions are indispensable and valuable.
3) Q: After reading this article, do you think that there are social loafers on your job? If so, explain. What do you think the managers in your organization can and should do in order to counter the problem, if any, and avoid low productivity in group projects?
A: Students in pursuit of higher education are often given tasks by their professors to be completed in groups, yet, as the article suggests, not everyone in the group participates equally. Often, the students who are most concerned about their futures, or their grades, take on the responsibility of project completion as well as project quality. It should be no surprise then that these students often carry the largest portion of the group work. Researchers have proposed cures for social loafing, which include making the project more interesting, establishing individualism and group cohesiveness, increasing personal involvement, and rewarding those who contribute. For example, the professor could give a group grade as well as an individual grade based on either anonymous grading by peers or individual projection synopsis, where the student outlines their completed tasks within the group for the project.
Masters, M. F., & Albright, R. R. (2002). The complete guide to conflict resolution. New York: AMACOM Books.
Shepperd, J. A. (1995). Remedying motivation and productivity loss in collective settings. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(5), 131-134.