Social loafing in multidisciplinary teams

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Beginning this article with two terms can help make understanding easier for the reader. Social loafing refers to a phenomenon in which individuals tend to expend less effort when working together than when alone. This type of behavior is especially prevalent among large, heterogeneous groups where individuals can conceal their lack of effort, thus diluting collective efforts. Multidisciplinary teams composed of individuals from diverse fields, backgrounds and cultures are especially vulnerable to social loafing as their members may have different motivations, work ethics and communication styles. Social loafing occurs in multidisciplinary teams when team members from diverse disciplines or functional areas feel their individual contributions are unimportant or unnecessary, or when they believe their efforts won't be recognized or valued by their fellow teammates.

In this article, social loafing in multidisciplinary teams working on projects, portfolios or programs will be explored. The introduction section includes an approach to social loafing from three main perspectives - structural, organizational and psychological. After providing some potential causes of social loafing in its Cause section, including unclear roles and responsibilities, lack of accountability, and low motivation levels, this article discusses its consequences in its Reason section. This article also includes strategies for preventing social loafing in multidisciplinary teams in its solution section, such as setting clear roles and responsibilities, encouraging effective communication, providing regular feedback and recognition, and creating a supportive team environment. Furthermore, it stresses the significance of addressing social loafing as part of any successful project portfolio or program.

Possible Reasons for Social Loafing[1]
Social Loafing Example Diagram[2]



Social loafing can have a devastating impact on multidisciplinary teams working on projects, portfolios, or programs. To combat it effectively in any of these environments, it's vitally important to identify possible causes of social loafing as well as strategies or solutions that will prevent it from happening again.

Cluster and analyze in three separate headlines for ease of analysis is conducted, to comprehend better. That way, focusing on different variables of project, portfolio, and program will lead to more reliable solutions. To start with, social loafing often occurs in project management when team members do not feel that their roles and responsibilities are clearly explained or when their contributions are not appreciated; to counter this tendency in project management project managers should work to define roles and responsibilities, set clear expectations, establish effective communication channels which encourage collaboration and transparency and implement measures such as setting clear roles/responsibilities/expectations/evaluations protocols to prevent social loafing arising within their teams - project managers can work to define this four main points mentioned with effective communication channels which encourage collaboration and transparency and prevent this tendency from taking root within projects.

Portfolio management presents unique challenges when team members feel as if their efforts do not have a substantial impact. To combat social loafing in portfolio management, managers can ensure team members understand both the overall portfolio objectives as well as how individual projects contribute towards them.

Social loafing in program management occurs when team members don't feel that their contributions are valued by management or don't feel they have a stake in its success. To prevent this, managers can foster ownership among team members by engaging them in decision-making and providing updates on program progress and performance.

In all these settings, providing regular feedback and recognition to team members for their contributions overall is of critical importance in building ownership and accountability as well as preventing social loafing. Meanwhile, this problem mainly correlates with project management, and when problems continue to come up in the project level,it will eventually affect on the program and portfolio level, which is why it concerns every single one of them. Furthermore, creating an environment in which individuals feel valued and respected for their contributions promotes motivation and engagement - essential components to ensure the success of a project, portfolio or program.

Ringelmanns Rope Pulling Experiment[2]

Possible Reasons

Unclear roles and responsibilities

Uncertain roles and responsibilities in multidisciplinary teams can result in social loafing, which can be especially problematic when working on engineering projects with members from diverse areas of expertise and responsibility. When team members don't understand who's accountable for what task, they may assume someone else will take care of it instead resulting in duplicative effort or forgotten duties resulting in delays that diminish overall project success.

Research has demonstrated the importance of clearly outlining roles and responsibilities for team members is integral to successful team performance, helping reduce social loafing. This can involve creating a project charter or scope statement outlining each member's specific tasks and responsibilities as well as any deadlines or deliverables expected of them. Effective communication of this role-delineation information ensures all team members are on the same page about what is expected from them.[3][4]

Overall, unclear roles and responsibilities can contribute to social loafing in multidisciplinary teams, which can have detrimental effects on project success. Therefore, clearly outlining roles and responsibilities while communicating them effectively are crucial steps in order to prevent social loafing and ensure each team member contributes effectively towards project completion.

Lack of accountability

Lack of accountability is another potential source of social loafing in multidisciplinary teams. When team members do not feel personally accountable for the success or failure of certain tasks, their motivation may diminish and they may contribute less effectively than they otherwise would, depending on other team members to pick up any slack.

Engineering projects involve high stakes and the potential consequences of failure can be severe; thus it is imperative that team members accept responsibility and hold themselves accountable. Unfortunately, multidisciplinary teams present unique challenges; team members may possess differing degrees of expertise or be responsible for different aspects of a project.

Research has established the importance of accountability as an element of effective team performance. To create a sense of accountability among team members, it's vital that clear expectations for individual performance are set out and communicated effectively - this may involve setting specific goals or objectives and offering regular updates about progress made toward them.[5]

Effective project management tools and techniques can also aid in increasing accountability and curbing social loafing. Establishing regular check-ins or status updates, for instance, can ensure team members remain on task with meeting their responsibilities; additionally, providing regular feedback or recognition can boost motivation among team members while increasing accountability among those who contribute directly.

Overall, lack of accountability in multidisciplinary teams can contribute to social loafing and have serious negative repercussions on project success. By setting clear expectations for individual performance and using effective project management tools to support accountability and combat social loafing, one can help facilitate accountability while preventing social loafing.

Motivation Levels

Motivation levels play an important part in the success of multidisciplinary team projects and can reduce social loafing if improved. When team members are highly motivated, they tend to put in extra effort and work collaboratively towards project goals; when less motivated however, they may become disengaged from contributing to team efforts altogether, potentially leading to social loafing.

As engineering projects involve complex tasks and technical challenges, maintaining high levels of motivation among team members is crucial for their project's success.[6] One way of doing so is offering them meaningful tasks that cater to their skill set and interests while offering opportunities for professional growth can further boost motivation levels among team members.

Motivation can also be affected by team dynamics and interpersonal relationships; for instance, when team members don't feel supported or respected by their colleagues, their motivation may decline leading to social loafing or decreased productivity. Furthermore, lack of direction from project leaders may reduce motivation among team members further eroding team efforts.[7] [3]

Motivation levels are an integral component of multidisciplinary team projects and should not be left to chance; otherwise, they could contribute to social loafing. Therefore, creating an encouraging team environment that fosters motivation and professional growth as well as promotes open communication and cooperation is of vital importance for success.

Visualization of the Ringelmann Effect [8]

Solution Offers

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities

An effective solution to combat social loafing in multidisciplinary teams is establishing clear roles and responsibilities for every member. When team members understand their responsibilities and how their contributions fit into overall project goals, they're more likely to feel a sense of ownership and accountability over their work, leading to increased motivation, productivity and reduced social loafing.[5]

Project leaders can set clear roles and responsibilities by delineating individual tasks and deliverables for every team member and providing regular updates and feedback to ensure everyone aligns with the project objectives. Furthermore, project leaders should promote open communication among team members so that everyone understands each others roles within the larger scope of the project.

Engineering projects demand that project leaders consider each team member's technical knowledge and abilities when assigning roles and responsibilities. By assigning tasks that align with individual team member strengths, leaders can help ensure team members feel confident about contributing their talents toward the project's success.[4]

Overall, setting clear roles and responsibilities can help reduce social loafing within multidisciplinary teams by instilling ownership and accountability among team members. This can ultimately create a more productive, collaborative work environment as well as result in more successful project outcomes.

Fostering effective communication

Another way to prevent social loafing in multidisciplinary teams is by encouraging effective communication among team members. Communication plays an essential role in keeping all team members apprised of their roles and responsibilities, providing updates on project progress and identifying any potential roadblocks or issues that arise during the development of projects. When team members feel that their voices have been heard and their input valued, engagement increases while social loafing decreases significantly.

An effective strategy to foster effective communication among team members is holding regular team meetings, giving members an opportunity to provide and receive feedbacks and updates, pose questions and identify any issues or concerns that may arise. In addition to that, these meetings offer team members an opportunity to provide feedback not only on themselves but also on project progress as well as identify areas for improvements that could be made.

In addition to that, the advantages of the technology should be benefitted from. Tools that improve collaboration online, such as messaging apps, should be in use to foster communication among team members. This will ensure the team members are able to interact in real-time, without the disadvantages that have been created by location differences.

Engineering projects place particular importance on effective communication given the technical nature of their work. Project leaders can play an essential role in this regard by making sure technical terms and concepts are clearly defined, while all team members have an adequate grasp of all technical aspects involved in the project. This helps ensure effective team members can communicate more freely among themselves without miscommunications leading to social loafing or conflict.

Fostering effective communication is key to combatting social loafing among multidisciplinary teams. By organizing regular team meetings, using technology tools and making sure their members have an understanding of technical concepts, project leaders can foster an environment which supports collaboration and productivity while still creating engagement and motivation among team members.[5]

Providing regular feedback and recognition

Regular feedback and recognition can be an effective means of combatting social loafing in multidisciplinary teams. When team members receive comments regarding their contributions, positive or negative in a good manner, it can increase motivation and sense of accountability among team members because it will make members feel recognized. Therefore, it is imperative for team leaders to implement an appropriate feedback mechanism so that team members receive regular praise and acknowledgment for their efforts.[9]

The effective and mainstream way of providing regular feedback and recognition for team members is through regular team meetings. At these gatherings, team members can update on their progress, accomplishments, as well as any challenges they are encountering in their work. Leaders may use these meetings as an opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and recognize those team members who have made significant contributions towards completing a project.

Team leaders can utilize individual performance evaluations as another method for providing regular feedback and recognition to their members. By conducting regular evaluations, team leaders can assess each member's performance and give feedback regarding areas where they excel and those which require improvement - helping team members stay on track while making necessary improvements while simultaneously giving them recognition for their hard work.

Team leaders must recognize and celebrate team milestones and achievements through outings, team-building activities or even small gestures such as providing snacks or tokens of appreciation. By acknowledging and commemorating team milestones and achievements, leaders are providing team members with tangible feelings of accomplishment as well as building camaraderie within the group.

Conclusion In summary, regular feedback and recognition is a vital tool in combatting social loafing in multidisciplinary teams. By setting up an accountability mechanism through regular team meetings and individual evaluations as well as celebrating milestones and achievements, team leaders can improve motivation, accountability, and performance of team members leading to improved team results.[5]

Different Effects Scheme[10]

Creating a supportive team environment

Establishing an inclusive team environment is essential to preventing social loafing in multidisciplinary teams. When teams feel supported and connected, members are more likely to feel motivated and engaged - leading to higher productivity and enhanced performance. As an engineering master student, it's crucially important that an environment conducive to teamwork and collaboration is fostered.

One approach to building a supportive team environment is encouraging team members to voice their opinions and ideas freely. When everyone can contribute their input freely, everyone feels valued and invested in the project's success. Furthermore, creating an atmosphere of inclusivity through events such as team lunches or after-work activities or virtual spaces provides further ways for team members to connect outside regular meetings.

As part of creating a supportive team environment, it is imperative that members have access to all necessary resources for their success. This may include tools and technology as well as guidance from team leaders who can foster an atmosphere of support by being available for one-on-one discussions or mentoring services when necessary or acknowledging member contributions.

As leaders, it is also crucial to keep in mind that building a supportive team environment is an ongoing process. As projects advance and team needs change over time, leaders should remain flexible and open to feedback by regularly checking in with team members to make sure everyone feels supported and is working efficiently together as one unit.

Conclusion ın summation, creating a supportive team environment is vital in combatting social loafing among multidisciplinary teams. By encouraging open communication and providing necessary resources and support as well as encouraging a sense of community and inclusivity among team members, teams can collaborate effectively towards project completion. Being aware of its significance can ensure you're ready to collaborate effectively in future engineering master studies courses.[9]


Social loafing is an all too often occurring problem in multidisciplinary teams, caused by unclear roles and responsibilities, insufficient accountability measures and low motivation levels. But solutions exist that can prevent this issue from manifesting itself into social loafing.

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities are necessary to avoiding confusion among team members, and making sure everyone knows what their expectations are. This can be accomplished by setting clear expectations for every member, outlining tasks and responsibilities, and creating a communication plan. Fostering effective communication ensures everyone stays on the same page and issues are quickly and efficiently addressed, while regular feedback and recognition contributes to accountability while keeping team members motivated by setting regular check-ins, giving constructive feedback, and celebrating individual achievements.

Create an inclusive team environment is also key in combatting social loafing. All team members should feel safe expressing their opinions freely, while leaders should foster an atmosphere of open communication and collaboration within their teams. To do so successfully, organize team-building activities, foster positive work environments that foster inclusivity, promote diversity awareness programs and support diversity awareness trainings as ways of creating this welcoming setting for your employees.

Social loafing in engineering projects can have devastating repercussions, resulting in delays, diminished quality and rising costs. Therefore, proactive measures should be taken to stop it happening by employing strategies outlined above that enable multidisciplinary teams to work efficiently together while encouraging accountability and motivation - ultimately leading to project success.[3]

Annotated Bibliography

  • Karau, S. J., & Williams, K. D. (1993). Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration.[3]

This meta-analytic review article examines the phenomenon of social loafing in group tasks. The authors synthesize and integrate the existing research on social loafing and identify the factors that can moderate the effect of social loafing, including task visibility, task meaningfulness, and group size.

  • Salas, E., Dickinson, T. L., Converse, S. A., & Tannenbaum, S. I. (1992). Toward an understanding of team performance and training.[4]

This book chapter provides an overview of the research on team performance and training. The authors argue that effective teamwork requires not only individual skills but also the ability to work effectively in a group setting. The chapter discusses various factors that can affect team performance, including team composition, task interdependence, and team leadership. Additionally, the chapter provides practical recommendations for improving team performance through training and development programs.


  1. Etemadi M, Darab MG, Khorasani E, Moradi F, Vazirinasab H. Social loafing among nurses and its relation with organizational justice. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2015;1:125-30
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alex Lawrence, (2022), Social Loafing: The Hidden Productivity Threat[1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Karau, S. J., & Williams, K. D. (1993). Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of personality and social psychology, 65(4), 681-706.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Salas, E., Dickinson, T. L., Converse, S. A., & Tannenbaum, S. I. (1992). Toward an understanding of team performance and training. In Teams: Their training and performance (pp. 3-29). Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Project Management Institute (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.
  6. PMI (2021). The Standard for Program Management (4th ed.). Project Management Institute.
  7. Hogg, M. A., & Vaughan, G. M. (2005). Social psychology (Vol. 1). Harlow: Pearson.
  8. Lærke Viuff Petersen,Social Loafing in Teams(2022)[2]
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kozlowski, S. W., & Ilgen, D. R. (2006). Enhancing the effectiveness of work groups and teams. Psychological science in the public interest, 7(3), 77-124.
  10. Suleiman, J., Watson, R.T. Social Loafing in Technology-Supported Teams. Comput Supported Coop Work 17, 291–309 (2008). [3]
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