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About Everything Wiki » Life » The Ringelman effect: how teamwork makes people lazy

The Ringelman effect: how teamwork makes people lazy

17 Jan 2024, 12:00, parser
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What is the Ringelmann effect

The Ringelman effect is a reduction in personal effort when working in a group. When a person acts alone, he gives his best, but if he performs a task together with others, he tries a little less. And the larger the group, the smaller the contribution of each of its members.

For the first time this effect was discovered by D. Kravitz, B. Martin. Ringelmann Rediscovered: The Original Article / Journal of Personality and Social Psychology French professor, agricultural engineer Max Ringelman. At the end of the 19th century, he conducted a series of experiments on labor productivity. During them, young students from the agricultural school were asked to pull a rope — first alone, and then in a group of 7 and 14 people.

Working alone, the men pulled the rope with an average force of 85.3 kg. When 7 and 14 people worked on the task, everyone's efforts decreased to 65 and 61.4 kg, respectively.

Ringelman considered the main reason for this effect to be a lack of coordination of actions. Several people cannot move synchronously: maximum tension and relaxation occur at different times, which ultimately reduces everyone's productivity.

However, a number of works devoted to the Ringelman effect or, in another way, social laziness refute this assumption.

Why does working in a group make people relax

The Ringelman effect also manifests itself when consistency of actions is not required to perform the work. Moreover, it arises even if there is no group at all, but the person believes that there is one.

In one experiment B. Latané, K. Williams, S. Harkins. Many Hands Make Light the Work: The Causes and Consequences of Social Loafing / Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recruited students and asked them to clap and shout with all their might. At first, the participants completed the task individually, then in groups of two and six people.

As scientists expected, as the number of people grew, everyone's personal productivity decreased. The two students shouted and clapped 66% of their capacity, and the six of them — only 36%.

It can be assumed that the participants tried less because the group was already making a lot of noise, and people thought that this was enough and they could not waste their energy in vain.

To rule this out, the scientists put soundproof headphones on the students and said that they would work in a group, but they would not hear their partners. In fact, there was no group, but people believed that they were acting as a team, and their productivity was declining. If the students thought they were shouting together, they completed the task at 82% of the possible intensity, and if they thought they were working with six, at 74%.

Thus, the Ringelman effect cannot be explained only by the lack of coordination. It is more likely that people in the group relax for other reasons. There are several theories as to why this is happening S. Karau, K. D. Williams. Social Loafing: A Meta‑Analytic Review and Theoretical Integration / Journal of Personality and Social Psychology .

  1. The dispersion of social influence. When a boss asks a subordinate to complete a task, he directs all his social influence on one person, and he tries to do his best. When the task is performed by a group, the influence of the head is distributed among several employees, and everyone gets less. As a result, efforts are also reduced.
  2. Inability to evaluate the results of their actions. When a person can compare their contribution with what others have done, it makes sense to try. This will support his self-esteem, help him stand out from other members of the group, or at least be no worse than them. If the contribution cannot be evaluated — for example, as in the experiment with screams or the task of pulling a rope — what is the point of making additional efforts? In addition, even if the group shows itself badly, there will be no personal fault of the person, which means that the fear of failure is much less.
  3. Lack of faith that their efforts are important. If a person does not have individual responsibility and understanding of the significance of his contribution, then he ceases to believe that he is useful here. In other words, a member of the group believes that the team can cope without him, and therefore there is no reason to strain.

Despite the fact that the Ringelman effect is characteristic of group work, it is quite possible to deal with it if we take into account the causes of social laziness and make efforts to correct the situation.

How to overcome the Ringelman effect when working in a team

One meta-analysis suggested S. Karau, K. D. Williams. Social Loafing: A Meta‑Analytic Review and Theoretical Integration / Journal of Personality and Social Psychology a model of personal efforts in a team, which lists all the necessary conditions for the absence of social laziness. According to her, each team member needs to see the results of their work and understand what contribution they make to the productivity of the group. In addition, joint efforts should benefit the team and, last but not least, the individual personally.

Violation of one or more conditions will result in the Ringelman effect. For example, social laziness is often found in large companies, where each employee participates only in a small part of the production process. Since people do not understand how their work helps to produce a product and earn money, they have no motivation to try harder.

Considering these factors, we can identify several rules that will help reduce the Ringelman effect in the group:

  1. Evaluate everyone's personal contribution. Team members should understand how much they have done for the group. Moreover, they should know that their contribution can be appreciated by employees and managers.
  2. To prove that everyone's work is important for the common cause. A person must believe that his work is unique and necessary for the success of the team. If an employee understands that nothing will work without him or it will not be as good as with his participation, he will try.
  3. Make the team cohesive. If a person respects and loves the members of his team, he is more likely to work to the maximum so as not to let the team down.
  4. To ensure a profit from the efforts. If everyone's personal benefit depends on the results of the group's work, people are less likely to shirk work. However, it is important that fairness in the distribution of awards is maintained. If someone tries less, but gets everything equally, the motivation to make efforts will decrease.

The meta-analysis also noted that the effect of social laziness disappears when a person works on interesting and important things for himself. If people are genuinely passionate about their work and are confident in the value of results, working in a group will not make them try less.

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18 Jan 2024, 12:02    0    0
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