Social Loafing in the Workplace

It’s 9am. You’ve got your briefcase set down at your desk, you’ve turned on your computer, and now you’re off to fill your coffee mug with some halfway decent coffee. When you get to the coffee pot, there are a couple co-workers there also getting coffee and before you know it, you’ve spent the next 20 minutes discussing yesterday’s news, the weather, and how your employer should buy better coffee.

What you’ve just done right there is what is referred to as “social loafing.” Social loafing is one of the biggest costs that employers absorb each year because it destroys productivity. Can it be prevented? And could you be fired because of it?

Social Loafing Can Affect Job Performance

The primary way that social loafing impacts the average employee is through a reduced overall performance of their job. When you’re spending time networking with your co-workers, that’s time that you’re not spending doing the work you were hired to do! Building relationships with your co-workers is important and it’s a natural component of human behavior, but it’s got to be done at the right time. During a break or after work are perfect times for social interaction. During the work day when there’s work that must get done… not so much.

If your job performance because unacceptable to your employer, that can be grounds for an employer to initiate some form of corrective discipline. That discipline in many states can include and lead up to termination. That leaves the decision with you: is social loafing negatively impacting your job performance? If it is, it may be time to reduce your social activities somewhat.

Social Loafing Is Not Necessarily Laziness

The perception that people who are engaged in a social conversation during work hours are actually lazy and don’t want to work isn’t necessarily true. Using this perception as a judgment of character, in fact, is what causes lower morale in the workplace to occur. People are social creatures, even people who tend to be more introverted than extroverted, and relationships are important to the human experience.

It’s not about laziness. It’s about time management.


If your employer thinks that you’re being lazy because of your networking, then take a moment to just realize that the perception isn’t true, but that any retaliation you might want to take against an employer will prove them right and you wrong. Forgive the stereotype and let your work do the talking. Most employers don’t necessarily mind a little social loafing in the job gets done the right way and on time. Deliver that and you’ll prove that you can effectively manage your time.

Social Loafing Is Often the Reward

The primary reason why social loafing occurs or increases is because employees feel like they aren’t being recognized or rewarded as a group for their hard work. When tangible rewards and recognition are put into place, social loafing tends to reduce because there are ways for individuals and groups to stand out together!

Being a social loafer isn’t a bad thing, but it can turn into a bad thing if you let your social activities get in the way of your professional responsibilities. Balance your time, use it wisely, and you’ll keep your employer happy.

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