Collaboration is often seen as a tool for success; however, successful collaboration involves a lot more than putting a talented group of people together. When a team collaborates without much strategy or planning, this can lead to “social loafing,” where individuals within a group put forth less effort than they would if they worked alone. Research has found that social loafing occurs in swimming, track, and cheerleading, but this does not mean that it does not exist in other sports. Here are a couple of suggestions to reduce the occurrence of social loafing within teams:
- Monitor individual efforts. Ensure that each team member is responsible for specific tasks that can be measured and evaluated. For example, an offensive lineman may not block as hard if the running play is going in the opposite direction to where they are blocking. However, if the lineman knows that the coaches will review the game footage and might notice their lack of effort, then they will be more likely to block hard every single play.
- Emphasize the importance of individual pride and unique contributions. Every group contains diverse individuals with different skills and abilities. Help each team member stand out by using their distinctive talents to benefit the group.
- Determine specific situations in which loafing may occur. The more prepared you are for dealing with social loafing, the more successful you will be at avoiding it.
- Conduct individual meetings to discuss loafing. Be sure that players are aware of social loafing and how it can impact the team.
- Assign players to other positions. Often when players have multiple responsibilities, they feel like they are a larger asset to the team as a whole. This can help increase a player’s motivation and drive to contribute to the group.
- Divide the team into smaller units. Research shows that larger group sizes are associated with an increase in social loafing. Therefore, if you have a big team, find a way to break it into smaller groups to prevent players from “hiding in the crowd”.
It is crucial to eliminate social loafing in order to improve overall success and to maintain a strong work ethic, whether the play directly impacts you or not.
Mind Over Body at Southeast Psych equips athletes and coaches to optimize athletic performance and live healthier lives. For more information related to sports psychology, visit Mind Over Body’s website and follow @MindOverBodySEP on Twitter.