Are you a social loafer?


How involved do you get in advocacy? My most recent Pennsylvania Psychologist magazine explores the need for political and social advocacy by psychologists. Most of us Psychologists want our state organization to fight the evil empire of Managed Care but few contribute or work personally toward the cause.

Social loafing, says Ed Zuckerman, is when, “Members of a group make less effort to achieve a goal when they work together than when they work separately.” He goes on to say, “We appear to contribute less energetically when cooperating on a committee than if we had the same parts of the task to do alone. Why do we loaf? The main explanation is that people feel unmotivated because they think that their contributions will not be evaluated separately from the group’s and they require individual rewards for effort.”

Does that explanation ring true for you? It does seem that we sometimes have the, “someone else will do it” mentality and so place responsibility on others that should be our own. I see that in class group projects sometimes. Second, we sometimes have the “what will I get out of this” short-sighted mentality.

But what explains the way some groups get things done where individually, they probably could not succeed? A compelling goal, an awareness of need, a heightened sense of expectation for self and other, and active choice. When roles are assigned, complaints, passivity, procrastination increases says Zuckerman.  

Where do you loaf? Work? Tithing and other financial gifts? Volunteering at church? I know for me it is when my local Y wants me to participate in fundraising to help support my son’s gymnastics team. I pay a nice monthly fee. I buy his uniform. I pay my part of the coach fees for meets. So, it feels like I have already “given at the office. Let others do it.

Or what about church volunteering. I’m in full time ministry (teaching at a seminary, counseling part-time). Its all for God. So, do I have to also be willing to teach Sunday School, serve on committees, etc.? Despite my temptation to say no, I believe I must support the local church with my time. Uh, is 1x/month duty in the pre-k class enough? Someone will surely pick up the slack…

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Filed under Cultural Anthropology

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