Teamwork Danger Zones by Linda Wasserman

Yes, people can behave much differently when they are in a group versus how they behave at work or when they are alone.

 The idea of teamwork surrounds us in today’s world, and the Web has made it possible to create teams with people across the country and around the world.  That’s a good thing.  Having a productive team has specific benefits that can, for example, help create and manage projects or serve as an advisory board.

On the other hand, teams can be less than perfect. As can be expected, people can behave much differently when they are in a group than they do when they work or act alone. Anytime you bring a group together to work, no matter how informal that work may be, there can be certain dangers lurking in the background. For the purpose of this article, a danger is defined as anything that threatens the success of the team.   Here are two of the most common dangers: groupthink and social loafing.


Groupthink can be subtle because it often masquerades as something it is not:  a very successful team effort in which the group has reached, with maximum efficiency and minimal conflict, the completion of a project or a consensus. Groupthink occurs when individual members do not question group decisions because they fear sounding foolish; they fear upsetting other group members; or they fear they will sound like they are just “stirring the pot.”

As a result, their fears drive them to stay silent and accept whatever action the group decides to take. Such hesitancy or lack of involvement by individual team members allows the group to make hasty and possibly poor decisions in the place of decisions that have been thoroughly discussed, explored, and evaluated.

Social Loafing

Social loafing is a specific form of “diffusion of responsibility.” Diffusion of responsibility is a phenomenon that occurs most often in groups of ten or more. Generally, it describes a situation where team members, because they are members of a group, feel less responsible for any action that needs to be taken than they would as individuals.  

In particular, team members become social loafers when they decrease the amount of effort they exert to help the team reach its goals. It would appear that group efforts would almost guarantee success in most endeavors, but not necessarily so. Research has shown that many groups are much less productive as a group than they would be if they combined their efforts but worked alone. In fact, the larger the group, the worse the danger of social loafing can become.


Being part of a team does not mean you stop being a living, breathing and thinking individual. Here’s how to maintain your individuality and help the team.

  • Avoid groupthink by offering well-thought-out opinions, even if they go against the general consensus. Help to evaluate all the group’s actions and decisions. 
  • Avoid social loafing at all costs. No matter what part you play on a team, make a commitment to give your best to all your efforts. Make sure every responsibility given to you is fulfilled. 

When you take full responsibility for all your responsibilities, you accomplish a lot. You feel good. You gain self-confidence. You develop new talents.  And then a funny thing starts to happen:  You will begin to pass along, to some degree, all these accomplishments and traits as other members of your team start to follow your example. Because you can offer stability, people will want you to join their team. Therefore, by making all these individual efforts, you will become known for your teamwork.  Ω

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Linda Wasserman is a writer, publisher/editor % meeting planner. She has served on dozens of teams during her career and has seen the results of groupthink and social loafing. Linda can be reached at 850-206-4608 or email at

About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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