Do you have social loafers? People who come into work each day and hook up with their friends to chat about what they did last night or over the weekend? Social loafing in the workplace is a problem that can spread and will eat away at the morale of your productive employees.
The concept of social loafing in the psychological world is when a couple of team members do all the work while others do little. The concept I want to discuss here is along those lines, but more on an individual basis. The social loafers who disrupt a productive work environment and drag other employees in with them.
Humans are social by nature so social interaction in the workplace is normal and good for morale. Your goal is to get your employees to change their behavior so they do their social loafing at the proper times, off the clock, on their breaks and their lunch.
Social Loafing In The Workplace
You come into work, fire up your computer and get started. From you office you hear conversations not related to work. You walk out and see a few employees standing around talking about what they did last night or any number of topics. What they are not doing is productive work and this becomes a problem when you see it day after day.
While social interaction is good for building relationships among employees when this type of behavior occurs daily and often you need to address the issue. It eats into the employees productivity and can lead to morale issues from coworkers who are engaged in their work.
It is likely social loafing goes on far more often than you are aware of. It becomes a habit with some employees that when the boss is not around the social loafers flock. To correct this behavior you need to change the culture in the workplace so employees know this type of behavior is not acceptable. It is time to get out of the office and get your Gemba in order.
How To Address Social Loafing
First understand that what the employees are doing is normal human behavior in the workplace. The problem is they have a misconception that when they are doing it is acceptable. You do not want to discourage employee interactions since it helps build employee relationships and build morale. What you want to do is get them to do it during the right time, off the clock, on their breaks or during lunch.
One way to correct social loafing is to use management by walking around. Just getting up out of your office and walking around your department can break up the social loafers. If you make this a practice they will learn that you will be coming around so they will be less likely to engage in social loafing.
Another way to address the issue using the management by walking around method is to engage them about the work they should be doing. This is a key part of management by walking around so it fits right in. Walk around to each employee and ask how they are doing or if they are having any issues with their work.
This lets the employee know two things. One you will be coming around and two you expect them to be engaged in their work. Do this long enough and social loafing will drop off dramatically. It is a win-win for you. You cut down on the social loafing and gain the benefit of having a better idea of the work being done and building your own relationships with your employees.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
If management by walking around does not work address then it is time to discuss the issue face-to-face. Explain to them while they are on the clock they are expected to be engaged in their work and that they need to save their social interactions for breaks and lunches. Dig a little deeper to see if there are other problems such as dissatisfaction with their job or another issue that goes beyond social loafing.
As long as the issue continues record each coaching session you have with them in their performance log. If all attempts fail consider moving into progressive discipline starting with an oral warning. This should be enough to jolt them into the reality that their social loafing habits will not be tolerated.