Social loafing (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979) or the "Free Rider Problem" is the finding that people reduce effort when working in a group, compared to when working alone in an attempt to keep an equitable division of labor when completing a task at hand. In other words, participants make a great effort to avoid becoming the "sucker." (Schnake, 1991)
In this study, the causes and potential mediators of social loafing on group tasks which require active cognitive effort.
The subjects (70 upper-class undergraduates) arrived and met another participant (confederate). When the experimenter left the room for a moment, the confederate voiced loudly his/her intention of high or low effort on all tasks. When the confederate stated that their would be a low level of effort on his/her part, social loafing occurred.
In the end, it was found that the equity theory may be the basis for this underlying problem in group processes. When the participants believed that their partners would not loaf, significant social loafing did not occur.
If social loafing in a workplace is a common problem, is there any way that management can come to an amicable yet firm solution?