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Social loafing: what is it and how to avoid it.

You know when you're working in a team, you're all trying to be productive and reach your goal but there's always that one person who doesn't really care or contribute in any way? Don't jump to the conclusion they are just lazy: in psychology it's a behavior known as social loafing. It's important to recognize it, find the cause and reduce it. Let's start by understanding what it is.

Social loafing is a rational behavior where one's energy when in a team is not as high as when working individually. This theory was discovered by french professor Maximilien Ringelmann with the famous rope-pulling experiment: he found out that when more people pulled a rope their effort started to decrease. The same thing happens today in teams, classrooms or anywhere there's a group of people.

As you can imagine, social loafing tends to increase when there's no human interaction: in virtual rooms people could look at the screen but still not listen or participate in the conversation. This is why today is even more important to reduce this phenomenon. But why do they adopt this behavior?

As mentioned before, comparing social loafing to laziness would be over-simplifying.

Sometimes it can be a matter of shyness: people don't know each other, they are not sure how to interact and they prefer to remain silent.

Other times they are not confident enough in their skills and they feel safer letting others do the job. But it can also be free-riding: a pretty rude way of not caring and taking credit for a job the rest of the team did.

So let's see how we can minimize social loafing.

One of the reason for social loafing is that people are not held accountable for their behaviors. By assigning task, or letting the team assign tasks freely, we give individuals roles, therefore responsibilities. And we all know this increases the effort an individual puts into their work. When we spot social loafing in our escape rooms we encourage people to commit to a task in a more direct way: suddenly they feel part of the experience and contribute in solving the enigmas.

This is a game changer: whenever a participant gives us a solution, or does something to help the team we cheer, clap, congratulate them and give them credit, encouraging the others to do the same. This creates an immediate boost in that person and a will in others to obtain the same success, to prove the team they can also be great. You can also decide to reward your team at the end of the performance, but the important thing is to make them feel confident.

Remember our friend Ringelmann?

"Individual members of a group become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases."

This means that in order for your team to succeed you must divide it into smaller groups. So next time you ask us for a one hour experience for 500 participants and you're not open to split it, don't expect a great performance from them! We're not saying it, Ringelmann is.

When people know they are going to be monitored and analyzed, they sure increase productivity. But it shouldn't be like that. We're expanding our offer and can give you reports on how your team have been performing in our escape rooms: timing, soft skills used, best players, best team and so on. This way they get a more adrenaline-filled experience and you get a valid tool to improve your team performance.

Were you familiar with social loafing? If not, we hope this article helped you discovered something new for you and your team. In our historical escape rooms we know how to spot social loafing and manage it so that everybody will actively participate and have a great time!

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