Social Loafing is on the Rise – Here’s How to Deal With It

November 24, 2022

Don’t you just hate it when that one person on your team is slacking off? They may be a great person, but they make it harder for everyone else to perform at their best. It’s easy to point fingers at the slacker and say, “Why can’t they just get with the program?” But some research suggests that employees don’t work as hard as their managers expect them to because of something called social loafing. This is the tendency for people to put forth less effort when working in groups than when working alone—even if each individual does more work individually than they would have if working alone! So what’s an engaged manager to do? Here are some tips on how you can help increase engagement:

If a team member is slacking off, it’s more likely to be contagious than an individualistic quality.

You can’t stop social loafing. But you can manage it. The best way to do this is to create a culture of accountability and responsibility, which will be easier if your team members are all responsible people in the first place.

  • If one person on your team is slacking off, it’s more likely to be contagious than an individualistic quality. When everyone feels like they’re working hard, but no one else is pulling their weight, everyone starts working less hard because they know that no one else cares about doing the work as much as they do.*
  • Social loafing occurs more frequently when the work is boring or repetitive. It also tends to occur when there isn’t clear direction from leadership—which makes sense! If managers aren’t providing clear direction on what needs to be done in order for the project to move forward (and why), then employees may think: “Hey, this might not matter anyway.”

How employees say they work is more important than what they actually end up doing.

When it comes to measuring employee work habits, what employees say they do is more important than what they actually do.

Employees are more likely, to be honest about their work habits when you ask them how they feel about the work they’re doing than if you actually check up on them while they’re working. You see, people tend to lie or exaggerate when asked questions like: “How many hours a day did you spend on this project?” People may say “20” when really it was closer to 15 or 20 minutes. They also might tell you what they think will get them the most rewards (e.g., working longer hours). But if instead of asking them how much time they spent doing something, you ask how happy they were with their progress, then people tend not only to be more honest but also more helpful at taking the initiative and improving processes in your organization over time (which ultimately saves everyone time).

Peer pressure can bring out the best in people.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this. The first is to encourage your team members to do their work, which will encourage them to help you out when you need it. This is called peer pressure—in a good way!

The best way to do this is by leading by example and showing that you’re willing to put in the extra effort for others’ benefit. Of course, if your boss asks you for something and then doesn’t get what he or she wants, then you won’t get any credit from anyone else either! So be sure that things like deadlines come first before socializing with coworkers.

A two-tier approach to performance management can help you identify slackers and motivate them.

If you’ve got a team that’s struggling with social loafing, it might be time to consider applying a two-tier approach to performance management. We’ve found this method effective in helping managers identify slackers and motivate them. The first tier of this system involves regular performance reviews—you may already have an established practice in place for conducting these evaluations with each member of your team. If not, take some time today or tomorrow to sit down with each person on staff and ask them how they can improve as employees.

The second tier is where things get interesting! Instead of just reviewing past work or discussing potential goals for future projects, this part of the process focuses specifically on social loafing behaviors—specifically those associated with motivation issues such as lack of engagement at work or lack of positive attitude toward coworkers/supervisors/the company itself. We recommend giving employees ample opportunity during these sessions (and throughout their employment) to voice their concerns about potentially problematic workplace dynamics; otherwise, there’s a good chance they’ll continue causing problems without anyone ever noticing until it’s too late!

Clear communication between managers and employees can help inspire better behavior.

Clear communication between managers and employees can help inspire better behavior.

Managers should be clear about expectations. They should also be clear about their own expectations, the goals of the team and organization, and what each employee is expected to accomplish on a daily basis. When there’s no consensus among leaders as to what everyone needs to be doing, it can lead to confusion and frustration for everyone involved—and a decrease in productivity as people take matters into their own hands instead of asking for clarification from leadership.

Managers can help increase engagement by using the right strategies.

Managers need to be aware of the problem and able to identify it in their teams. They also need to know how to motivate employees, so they can get them involved in the project. If managers don’t have these skills, they may not be able to deal with social loafing.

If you’re a manager and you’ve noticed that your team is not giving 100%, here are some tips on how you can help:

  • Encourage one-on-one communication between team members instead of relying on group meetings or email threads. This can make people feel more comfortable discussing their ideas openly with others, which will lead them away from laziness and towards collaboration!


We’re not saying that there’s no such thing as a bad apple in the workplace, but we are saying you shouldn’t lose sleep over it. Slacking off is more common than you think, and an overwhelming majority of people who work together will maintain high standards for each other. But when slacking does happen, managers can use these strategies to help their team members improve their performance and get back on track.


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