TODAY -

Social Loafing in Manipur : A Problem to be addressed

Dr. S. Birahari Singh *



Man is, unarguably, a social being. We live and work together in the society. Existence of a society is always concomitant with the existence of the individuals. We build up civilization through our collective and summative efforts. Despite this reality, there is a very intriguing social phenomenon known as Social Loafing when groups of people are at work on group tasks.

Even more alarming is that it is pervasive in the context of Manipur. Here it is worth to be noted that the greater in magnitude of social loafing, the lower the competency of the group performance. With the underpinning of these two propositions it can be concluded that we will be lagging far behind others in all fields unless pervasive social loafing is reduced or removed without delay. With this perspective the present article is being written.

Suppose that you and some other people are suggested to bring a heavy iron electric pole. In order to lift the heavy iron pole, you all pitch in. Will all of you exert equal effort? Probably not. Some will take as much of the load as possible, while others will simply hang on, appearing to help more than they really do.

Such thing is, indeed, common in situations where groups of person perform tasks what are known as additive tasks. In such tasks the contributions of each member are combined into a single group product. In the performance of such tasks, some persons work hard while others goof off, doing less than their share, and less than they might do if they were working alone.

Social psychologists refer to such effects as "Social loafing". R.A. Baron and D. Byrne defined it as "Reductions in motivation and effort when individuals work collectively in a group compared to when they work individually or as independent co-actors".

Phenomenon of social loafing can be seen in both micro and macro groups. It is also existent in the primitive as well as the modern groups. Such phenomenon was pervasive in co-operative and collective farms of erstwhile Soviet Union. Mainly because of this, their economy was running down. In our state also this phenomenon is pervasive wherever and whenever a group of people is bound to work on a task.

In the conduct of a social function also it can be easily seen. Even members of an organising committee don't exert equal effort in the organisation of a small function too. In clubs, co-operative societies, government offices, educational institutions (government-run ones) and a number of civil society organisations social loafing works well.

In the local clubs, only some members are active and majority of them are passive. However, credit and dis-credit of the works done by some active members are bound to be shared. Nevertheless, all the members of the club took the pledge to work unitedly as a body. The same thing happens in the case of co-operatives, civil society organisations, etc. However, instances of taking the fruits of labour by some active members of the groups cannot be ruled out in these groups.

Government offices and educational institutions are the designated places wherein groups of people are bound to work jointly in different positions and capacities for the same goal. Unfortunately, we have absenteeism, irregular attendance, late attendance, duty evasion, tokenism, etc. which are all involved in social loafing.

Unarguably, reductions in motivation and effort are attributes of these behaviours. It is not an exaggeration that many offices and a good number of educational institutions of the government are having the problems mentioned above, salient characteristics of social loafing. Somehow it is tolerated and managed. Some employees of the offices (not all) are habitual absentees, late attendees, irregular attendees and casual attendees. Some of them regularly resort to duty evasion and tokenism skilfully.

The same thing happens in a good number of educational institutions of the government. In educational institutions, reductions in motivation and effort are at play in teaching-learning activity, a group or social activity more or less. No doubt, some of the employees are ideal in attendance, commitment, performance, etc. Nevertheless, the two groups of employees are paid equally. In a sense, the government is not discriminatory.

Among the students also social loafing is active. Some good students are very regular in attendance and in serious study. All the students in the class are not equally attentive to the teaching of the teacher. Some are pretending to be attentive and some are actually attentive. Some resort to duty evasion and some don't. Undoubtedly, some of the students practice tokenism in a number of cases. Truancy also cannot be neglected.

Some students use unfair means and some don't in the examination hall for the same subject. Those who resort to unfair means pretend to be writing on his/her own knowledge. Precisely, in the group activities some students pose as the honest ones without honesty while some other students are honest truly. Absenteeism, irregular attendance, duty evasion, tokenism, etc. are at play among the students as well. The writer is calling a spade a spade. It is not an exaggeration in any way.

It is undeniable that social loafing is universal and inherent in the groups of individuals on group tasks. It is the matter of magnitude or degree to be reckoned with. It is noteworthy that one who is very serious in both individual and group activities is, naturally alien to and very low in social loafing.

From this discussion, it seems important to address social loafing in many situations to hold it to a minimum. Some useful suggestions have been given by a number of researchers on social loafing. Some appropriate steps are imperative to check it at a minimum level for the welfare of the people in general.


* Dr. S. Birahari Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The writer is Associate Professor, Y.K. College, Wangjing
This article was posted on March 01, 2013



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