We have all had that team member, the one who seems to do the least amount of work as possible. When teammates or employees slack off on the job, it is frustrating for everyone involved. It creates problems, unfair workloads, and lower team commitments. This phenomenon is known as Social loafing, or the concept of individuals failing to pull their fair share of the workload on a team, especially compared to what they would do if they were to work alone.
Social loafing is one of the hardest challenges for team leaders and managers. Getting everyone on the same page and fully committed almost invariably proves to be one of the first challenges. Here are five tips to handle social loafing and varied team commitment.
Create a shared and clear vision
Shared visions create motivation and commitment within the team environment. Goals serve as a way to define success criteria for both the team and individual members. When the team defines a clear goal or vision, individual members stand behind that sense of shared purpose. While it is one thing to define your goals, it’s another thing to get people to care about the goal. When members share the goal and help to define it, they are much more likely to care about achieving it. And when members want to achieve a goal, they will inevitably put in their fair share of effort to help the team reach that goal. As a result, their commitment levels increase, and team members pick up the slack. Without a shared and clear goal, however, individual members may be less likely to give their full effort as a result of indifference to the goal or confusion about what exactly the goal is.
Define tasks and establish individual accountability
To help dispel confusion, good leaders define clear tasks for each team member. When members know exactly what they need to do and know their deadlines, they lose excuses for not doing their fair share of the work load. Using a project management tool like a GANTT chart is a simple step toward helping leaders and managers hold each team member accountable. When the team holds individuals accountable for their effort and work, members will have additional motivation to complete their tasks.
Minimize Group Size
Within the process of creating the team, never get more members than you need, no matter how great those two individuals might be individually. When there are not enough tasks to go around, it’s easy for members to avoid doing their share of the work. And frankly, that’s your fault as the team leader, not theirs. Additionally, without enough tasks for each member, some members will find themselves doing small and seemingly unimportant tasks, decreasing their commitment to the team and their desire to work with the team. When limiting the number of members on a team or project, you inherently allow each member to be an integral and valuable part of the team.
Unify your team
Creating personal relationships within the team is an important step in ensuring member commitment. In a cohesive group of individuals, members enjoy working on the team and, as a result, want to exert their best effort to help their teammates. When a team is unified, the tasks become less about individual contribution and more about team contribution, and the members move together as one. When social loafing occurs, it is usually because team members do not feel like a necessary part of the team, and personal relationships within the team dispel that feeling for members.
Acknowledge individual contributions and accomplishments
If leaders do not acknowledge individual contributions, members may feel discouraged when doing tasks or that they are not valuable members of the team. Publicly acknowledging the contribution of the individual contributions and the consequent team success or accomplishment encourages all members to continue exerting their full effort for the team.