Social Loafing Holding You Back?

None of us go to work and say “I’m going to let my co-worker pull the weight today” or “I’m only using half of my skills today”. There is however, a prevailing perception that if you simply do the technical tasks of your job, whether that’s putting widgets together, balancing the books, co-ordinating tasks of employees or designing software, you’re doing your job well. You can then pat yourself on the back at the end of the day and say “job well done”.

This phenomenon can be explained using the term ‘Social Loafing’, which exists when you go to work and you just do the technical aspects of your job but don’t share your ideas, give input or work with others, or you don’t try to think of better ways to meet your company’s goals. In these situations, you assume that the infamous “They” will take care of all that other stuff.

When you work with the mentality that your ideas are important and you can personally make a contribution to the success of the organization, the results are significantly improved. A 2005 University of Oklahoma study found that when people worked individually to generate ideas, they not only had more individual participation but also higher overall success in their team reaching its goals. This was attributed to a lower dilution effect, which is were people can hide their lower performance (in this case idea generation) within a group of people.

The problem with Loafing is that essentially, you’re leaving all the work of moving the organization forward, adapting to change and overcoming challenges to others. You’re not really pulling your own weight. The problem with this perception is that the technical aspects of your job are only comprise about 50% of your job responsibility.

A photo of a woman sitting at a table rolling her eyes at her employees instead of working with them.

What exactly are the other 50% of skills you’re suppose to be using? This is a fair question because most job descriptions do not clearly lay out the other 50% of your job expectations clearly. It’s all the things you do to help the organization you work for move forward and not surprisingly, the most sought after skills by employers.

In a recent study by NAC where 260 employers were surveyed, mostly large companies like Chevron, IBM and Seagate Technology, listed the following three skills are required by employers:
1. Ability to work in a team structure:
No matter if you work alone for much of your role or are part of a formal team that works together, working effectively with others as a team is part of your responsibility. Even when all you’re doing is sharing a workspace with others, eat in the same lunchroom or are part of staff meetings, putting effort into cooperating by providing feedback constructive, despite any personal conflict.
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems:
Critical thinking is probably one of the biggest ones and it falls in the category of ‘how’ you do your job as much as what you do. Critical thinking includes problem solving, always looking at ways to do things better and asking yourself what can be done differently. For example, you might ask yourself “How can we serve our internal and external customers better?” Or, “Is there a way to get this job done that reduces any safety risks?”
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside of the organization:
Another significant job responsibility that goes beyond your tasks is communicating ideas and information. This requires you to be aware of, control, and express your emotions, and to handle relationships in a way that displays empathy and thoughtfulness. By doing this you increase your ability to influence others by earning their trust.
The technical skills required to do the job didn’t even make the top six.

If you simply complete the technical aspects of your job you may be doing yourself a disservice, because studies have proven that people are more satisfied and cohesive if they are involved in deciding what role they play in their organization and organizational change. By not speaking up you may be assigned a role with no understanding of the meaning behind it. Even more damaging is that in todays economic climate all organizations need to be adaptable to change. Organizations are people, so everyone needs to be adaptable or the organization, and indirectly you personally, could be left behind.

We challenge you to stretch yourself further, be aware about how things can be better at work and speak up and share your ideas. We’re confident that you will find your work life more satisfying and more opportunities to grow in your career will present themselves. It’s a win-win for everyone when you contribute to the other 50% of your responsibilities.