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Free Riders

"tug of war"

When teams work well together, working in teams is really fun and rewarding. That being said, when you have a team in which a team member (or two! OR THREE!!) don't pull their weight, it ends up making more work for everyone else.

"Social loafing" is the fancy social psychology word for what you might call "screwing over your team by not doing your share of the work." By far, the biggest complain students have about group work is how difficult it is to work in a team when someone isn't participating.

The best way to prevent social loafing to to make it more attractive for everyone to do their share of the work than to not. Josh decides that he'd rather everyone else do all the work than to participate. He knows that his other teammates are super-motivated and will do more than their share of the work rather than get a lower grade. For him, it's win-win! He gets a great grade and he doesn't have to do anything to contribute to the paper. But win-win for Josh is infuriating to the rest of his team.

What can you do about Josh?

Well, why not innocently suggest that you'd like to include an appendix to the group project that lists exactly what every teammate contributed to the project? Josh may decide that it's not worth it to get called out on not doing anything than it is for him to take the free ride.

Also, if your team was smart, they would have set some team goals and talked about a working process that works for everyone. You can gently remind Josh that he, too, agreed to the team goals and you know that he certainly wouldn't want to break the rules.

Have another great tactic for dealing with social loafers? Tell us about it in the comments!

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