In the workplace, social loafing within a team means that some members spend more time socializing or engaging in non-work activities. This behavior can cause problems for the dynamics of the team. The active team members must pick up the slack of the loafers, which can cause resentment. A well-connected team can make a project go smoothly and feeling comfortable around each other is an important aspect of the team. However, social loafers can derail the team. Management must be vigilant to this activity and ensure that the team is cohesive.
A manager can reduce social loafing by consistently looking at how each individual contributes to the team effort. Although the overall project might be assigned to a group, tasks can be broken down into individual responsibilities. The manager can then assess how each person is contributing. For example, if one person is tasked with creating a budget while another is tasked with creating a marketing strategy, the manager can hold each person accountable for performing. When team meetings occur, each person shares what he has accomplished toward his task and the overall project. A good manager should be able to determine who is performing the tasks. It can be subtle, though, because some people on a team will step up and perform the work so that the entire project doesn't fail. It takes good listening skills by the manager to notice who accomplished the task.
Social loafing is expected to a certain extent. If a big game was on TV over the weekend, fans will talk Monday morning and might spend too much time in conversation. Although this is social loafing, the employees might not realize that the conversation lasted 20 minutes. If a manager simply walks around, the employee is reminded why she is there and will usually return to work. The website IT Managers Inbox explains this is a management style called Management by Walking Around. It lets employees know that you are cognizant of what takes place in the company.
When you encounter a group of employees loafing, you can subtly remind them of their job duties. Many employees do not intend to loaf for excess amounts of time. A person might just need to be reminded that she is slipping into bad habits. The manager can say something pleasant and then ask the employee what's on her to-do list for the day or ask her how a particular part of the project is going. This will draw the employee back into thinking about her job and she will often return to work. If this is an occasional situation, a mild reminder is appropriate. If the social loafing happens frequently, stronger methods may be required.
When an employee consistently engages in social loafing or when another member of the team voices a complaint, a manager needs to take action. This may require a direct discussion with the employee or group of employees that is loafing. The manager must set company expectations clearly. The discussion can still be supportive and encourage team interaction, but by making the point clearly that excessive loafing cannot occur, the employees understand. If a reprimand is required later, the employee knows it is an ongoing problem that he must stop.