Social Loafing A Field Investigation

Topics: Sociology, Distributive justice, Justice Pages: 20 (8574 words) Published: December 15, 2014
Journal of Management 2004 30(2) 285–304

Social Loafing: A Field Investigation
Robert C. Liden∗
Department of Managerial Studies, MC 243, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL 60607-7123, USA

Sandy J. Wayne
Department of Managerial Studies, MC 243, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL 60607-7123, USA

Renata A. Jaworski
Department of Managerial Studies, MC 243, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL 60607-7123, USA

Nathan Bennett
DuPree College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology, 755 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, GA 30332-0520, USA
Received 1 May 2002; received in revised form 1 November 2002; accepted 3 February 2003

Social loafing was investigated by testing a multilevel model among 23 intact work groups comprised of 168 employees representing two organizations. Results demonstrated that as hypothesized at the individual level, increases in task interdependence and decreases in task visibility and distributive justice were associated with greater occurrence of social loafing. At the group level, increased group size and decreased cohesiveness were related to increased levels of social loafing. Of particular interest was the finding that group member perceptions of perceived coworker loafing was associated with reduced social loafing, opposite of our predictions. We suggested that this unexpected finding may provide evidence of a social compensation effect. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Extensive research has focused on the productivity levels of individuals in workplace settings. Coinciding with the increased prevalence of individuals working in groups (Cohen & Bailey, 1997), more research attention has been devoted to group productivity and group productivity loss (Ilgen, 1999). A widely accepted explanation for productivity losses has been the social loafing phenomenon (George, 1992). Social loafing is based on the de-individuation that can occur when people work in groups as opposed to working alone. ∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-312-996-2680.

E-mail addresses: (R.C. Liden), (S.J. Wayne), (R.A. Jaworski), (N. Bennett).

0149-2063/$ – see front matter © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/


R.C. Liden et al. / Journal of Management 2004 30(2) 285–304

Consciously or unconsciously, due to the decrease in social awareness that can occur in group settings, individuals may not exert as much effort in group settings as when they are alone (Ringelmann, 1913; Williams, Harkins & Latané, 1981). The implications of this finding for organizations that rely on groups to function and perform at levels superior to those of individual employees are considerable, making the identification of the antecedents of social loafing especially salient.

In an attempt to uncover an explanation for the social loafing phenomenon, pioneering research by Ingham, Levinger, Graves and Peckham (1974) ruled out difficulty in coordination. More recently, researchers have grounded their study of social loafing in motivation theories, and have identified a wide variety of potential antecedents, including: lack of identification of individual contributions to the group (Williams et al., 1981); lack of challenge and uniqueness of individual contribution (Harkins & Petty, 1982); low intrinsic involvement (Brickner, Harkins & Ostrom, 1986; George, 1992); individualistic orientation (Wagner, 1995); low group cohesiveness (Karau & Williams, 1997); and lack of peer appraisals (Druskat & Wolff, 1999). Despite differences in the specific antecedents of social loafing, there is agreement that the fundamental origins of social loafing are motivational (George, 1992; Sheppard, 1993; Wagner, 1995).

The purposes of the current research were threefold: The first purpose was to examine several key antecedents of social loafing...

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