Problem Diagnosis – Management Assignment Help

Problem Diagnosis – Management Assignment Help
Assignment Task


As university curriculum have evolved, group assignments in courses have become more prevalent, allowing students the opportunity to gain teamwork, leadership and communication skills. Students are assessed on their ability to collaborate productively and organise amongst themselves in a way that is seen to emulate projects conducted in the workplace (Hall & Buzwell, p. 38, 2012). The topic of this report will discuss social loafing in group assignments at university and how to counteract it from occurring. Social Loafing can be defined as ‘a behaviour pattern wherein an individual working in a group setting fails to contribute his or her fair share to a group effort as perceived by group members’ (Aggarwal & O’Brien, pg. 256, 2008), thus having an adverse effect on other members. This report will outline the extent in which social loafing impacts university students and will implement strategies to help avoid social loafing from occurring during group assignments.

Problem Diagnosis

According to the literature, group work can be an unpleasant and preferable avoided part of learning for a number of students, owing to previous experiences working in dysfunctional groups (Hall and Buzwell, 2012; Aggarwal and O’Brien, 2008). Not only had students expressed difficulties with social loafing but also the inclination to assume such actions as a result of past encounters with group members who did not participate in group meetings, had a bad attitude or did not do their equal part of the work (Aggarwal and O’Brien, 2008). Figure1 and 2 displays the result of our survey for students completing undergraduate degrees at the ANU. It is discovered that 88.1% of the respondents have also encountered social loafing when doing group assignments in the past, while 25.4% of respondents consider themselves a social loafer. The problem of social loafing is recognized among educators working on group assignments. Nonetheless, despite earlier research has examined the issue, it remains a problem that reduces the value of group projects (Aggarwal and O’Brien, 2008).

A number of studies and research have identified the potential cause of the social loafing phenomenon while doing group work. Dommeyer (2007) suggested that language barriers, cultural norms, learning disabilities, personality traits, physical or mental issues, or time restrictions can all contribute to social loafing. Indeed, the study done by Noreen Webb (1977) found that social loafing may be unintentional and the outcome of a feeling of inadequacy and incompetence to accomplish the prescribed responsibilities. For instance, international students for whom English is not their mother tongue when English is the medium of teaching, may be concerned about their communication abilities. They will be challenged with both project requirements and communication problems at the same time. A simpler scenario, such as an embarrassed student who does not completely understand project or assignment requirements, might also explain an instance of social loafing (Webb, 1977; Hall and Buzwell, 2012).

Another study discovered that when the group work is assessed as one for marking, students often take the strategy of allocating each student the part that they are best at. However, weaker members will then be encouraged of social loafing in order for everyone to achieve the highest score possible (Börjesson et al., 2006). In addition, communication problems, absence of group norms and team governance system may be further causes of behavior that results in a group member not providing an equivalent amount of effort as other group members. Though it is unintentional, this behavior may be mistaken for social loafing (McCorkle et al., 1999)

Social loafing in group work can result in many negativities, including student satisfaction, team cohesiveness, lower academic performance, just to name a few (Aggarwal and O’Brien, 2008; Schippers, 2014; Hall and Buzwell, 2012). Based on our survey (see Figure 3.), students are most concerned with the assignment progress and the impact on their academic performance due to social loafing, as well as the team harmony and member emotions being equally affected. Truly, in the survey by Batra et al. (1997) of people from many disciplines at more than 50 faculty workshops at universities and institutions around the United States, has also identified that groups may be unable to effectively pace or arrange their work, nor will they be able to complete the project on time. Furthermore, groups may not receive feedback on a regular basis to help them improve their performance.

Target Group

The report focuses on Undergraduate students, studying their bachelor’s degree at the Australian National University (ANU). Many of these students have a negative perception of working in group assignments at university. This negative association is commonly correlated with past experiences of having social loafers within their group.

Differences in participation of group assignments occur for many reasons as outlined in Noreen Webb’s study (1997), social loafing may occur due to a student feeling inadequate or incompetent when faced with the task they have been assigned. This commonly occurs due to a student’s ability to communicate, or they may have underlying mental health reasons for their lack of participation. For example, students for whom English is their second language may struggle to understand the task and as a result, they feel inadequate, this could lead to the student believing that their lack of contribution will go unnoticed by other members (Hall & Buzwell, p. 39, 2012).

Furthermore, we picked undergraduate as our target group is that scientists have suggested that teens are more vulnerable to peer pressure than adults and as our group analysis shows that peer pressure will be one key attribute that we will use for our influential strategies, we picked the smallest of the bunch in the university which is the undergraduate (Wang, 2013). Furthermore, research has shown that there are 77.4 percent of the public university students who are aware of social loafing existence (Piezon & Ferree, 2008). Knowing this fact, we decided to focus on a smaller sample size and a traditional-age group of undergraduates. As research shows that the undergraduates have a common perception of recognizing social loafing as not only to slack off but also provides a poor contribution, we know that it is a very common phenomenon in undergraduates (Jassawalla, Malshe & Sashittal, 2008). C. Kevin Synott (2018) surveyed 266 undergraduate students from a university in New England to identify whether students would take elective university courses that included group assignments if there was another alternative. Synott (2018) results indicated that the majority of students would rather take courses that did not include a group project as responsibilities were not shared equally. Hence, the target group of Undergraduate students at the Australian National University was selected due to the vast number of student whom voted yes in the survey (Figure 1) as well as our ability to gain firsthand information on student’s struggling with social loafing within their group assignments. This report has outlined our individual research on ANU students experience with social loafing throughout their time at university. We surveyed 60 ANU undergraduate students studying a Bachelor degree to determine whether they have encountered social loafing while completing a group assignment at university. 88.3 per cent of participants voted yes. This statistic makes it evident that social loafing is prevalent in group assignments and that a change needs to be made.



Students’ frustrations with social loafing stem from the fact that all members of the group receive the equivalent grade based on the assessment, not on individuals’ efforts within the group (Synott, p. 6, 2018). This will result in some students compensating for the unproductive performance due to their desire for a high grade. However, with the reduction of social loafing in group assignment, our goal is to avoid situations mentioned previously in the article, as well as to generate better performance of group work. According to the research, fairness in the group carries a sequence of benefits, such as the contribution to the group harmony, which then further affect the group performance in a positive way. For instance, increased innovative performance and conflict avoidance (Ünal et al. 2017; Chen et al. 2016). In order to achieve the goal, this report will examine the literature relating to the theoretical construct of social loafing and will identify influencing strategies to reduce the impediment of free riding within group assignments.

Political Skill

A power player is someone who tries to exert undue influence, domination, or control over a group (Summers, 2019). In our survey, the power players in the social loafing phenomenon while doing group assignments are identified (see Figure 4). Most respondents consider their peers holding the greatest influence in changing the social loafing situation by evaluating one another’s contribution to the work or by communicating with the social loafers. Another notable power player is the course leader. The development of an anonymous reporting system meaning that the power of influencing is on hand of the one receiving the reports.

According to conventional knowledge, group assignments provide students with rewards that are greater than what they would receive if they worked alone (Henke et al. 1988). From the perspective of a course leader, group assignments are designed in the purpose of gaining students ability in communication and coordination. The benefits of collaborative learning for students have been described in the social psychology and education literature (Rau and Heyl, 1990). Additionally, studies have found that group assignments also benefit course leaders in several ways, such as lowering the number of papers that must be assessed while still providing feedback on student efforts and by creating a more dynamic and hence stimulating work environment (Dommeyer, 1986; McCorkle, 1999).

On the other hand, working along with peers in the group carries many benefits for individuals in the group. With individualism growing more popular when our student body and workforce become more culturally and racially diverse, students from various backgrounds collaborating on group assignments allows them to learn not only the academic matter but also about one another (Manning and Lucking, 1993; Aggarwal and O’Brien, 2008). Through collaborative learning, research has also demonstrated that group assignments may enable students to build interpersonal relationships, presenting skills, and leadership qualities by allowing them to work together to solve complicated issues. In addition, students must acquire strong communication and time management skills in order for groups to be productive and to obtain higher grades (Wurdinger, 2016).

Political skill is described as the capacity to successfully comprehend people at work and to utilize that understanding to persuade others to act in ways that further one’s personal and organizational goals (Ahern et al. 2004; Ferris et al. 2005). In the study conducted by Kaya Yildiz, it is discovered that there is a negative link between students’ views of political skill and social loafing. The amount of social loafing reduces as students’ evaluations of political skill rise. To put it another way, individuals with strong political skills engage in less social loafing. Not only the students, but the political skills that course leaders take on will also affect students’ behavior while doing group assignments. Derived from the research, both general and content-specific teaching techniques have an impact on students’ attitudes and actions. For instance, the emotional support from course leaders is linked to students’ self-efficacy (Blazar and Kraft, 2017). Thus, to better understand how the power players influence, their political skills will be analyzed from the four dimensions including social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and apparent sincerity.

Social astuteness

Social astuteness assesses one’s ability to comprehend people’s intentions and objectives, as well as the ability to read circumstances and respond appropriately (Ferris et al, 2005). This trait is also known as sensitivity to others, according to Pfeffer (1992), who claims the ability to empathize with others is crucial for achieving the goal. In this dimension, the course leader is challenged with the awareness of discovering the social loafing situation in the group, which may require careful and close follow-ups in students’ group assignments. Furthermore, social loafing is more likely to be prevented when peers in the group are good at sensing the problem any individual or as a group may have and could point to the issue instantly.

Interpersonal influence

Interpersonal influence measures one’s ability to adjust and calibrate their behavior to different settings in order to induce the desired responses from others (Ferris, 2007). To achieve the goals, it requires the flexibility in power players (Pfeffer, 1992). For example, when course leaders hold the consultation hour outside the office hour for student groups who are having time differences, shows their effort and determination to assist students in completing their tasks. Or when peers in the group move at a slower pace to wait for those who need extra time to understand the tasks.

Networking ability

Third, networking ability. This dimension looks at how well an individual thinks he/she can interact with, create, and leverage informal and formal networks to help to achieve the goals (Ferris, 2007). Course leaders in this dimension may need to dedicate more time and effort on engaging with students, such as useful feedback to guide them and consultation hours to provide them instant response to problems. Additionally, having peers who are interactive within the group may enliven the atmosphere and stimulate group members’ motivation into participating in the tasks (Snell, 2009).

Apparent sincerity

Last, apparent sincerity. People with high apparent sincerity are perceived as having high levels of integrity and as being real, sincere, and genuine (Ferris, 2007). The extent of sincerity of the course leader can be reflected from their attitudes of giving feedback and response to emails. Lack of responsiveness may suppress students’ potential of ability and decrease performance (Sherman, 2004). Similarly, the responsiveness of peers in the group can affect one another’s interest and motivation toward the tasks and increase the possibility of social loafing (Thoman et al. 2012).

Sources of Power

While there are many models that have categorized the bases of power and proposed on how to utilize them, our group has picked French and Raven model which has categorized the bases of power into 6 bases of power to explain our sources of power that we can made used of while proposing our influencing tactics (French & Raven 1959). Our group’s analysis of sources of power will be built on our survey which collected the information about the best solutions to combat against social loafing. 

As mentioned in the previous section of the article, respondents consider peer evaluation, communication with social loafers, and anonymous reporting system as the best solutions to combat social loafing. This analysis is carried out using the highest voted solution (37.3%) which is the peer evaluation rubric (ADD REFERENCE TO THE FIGURE).  In the French and Raven model, this solution will be considered as a usage of coercive power that we can make use of at the group-level. With peer evaluation rubric taken in place, the efficiency in a group assignment will have a boost over the semester as proposed by the researchers (Brutus & Donia 2017). This is due to the peer pressure which will be imposed on all the group members. As coercive power is considered as the power to cause the other party to consider a negative outcome, all members will be exerted with a thought that if they do not give their best for the assignment, the negative outcome will be the criticisms from the other group members and the markers will give them a lower mark than the rest of the group. This relationship is one of the sources of influence that our group can utilize which this negative outcome is the rejection by the power holders (Omer 2009).

Second, respondents consider that communication with social loafers is a good solution too.  Rational persuasion is considered as the implication of a new base of power which is informational power as Raven proposed in his new analysis (Raven 2008). This is also considered as implementation of relational power in another model. When rational persuasion is going on, both parties are being interactive and unless both parties are willing to try to develop a relationship, the power will never exist (Chong, Fu & Yu 2013). Our group can apply this power at an individual level by using the same method. By exposing ourselves to others more often and trying to develop a relationship with them, we can influence them with the right mindset as this effect is called propinquity effect (Bacon 2011).

As our survey participants suggest that the anonymous reporting system and direct report to person in-charge are also good way of combating social loafing, these are the applications of legitimate power as the person in-charge can use their powers to control and use their organizational resources on them (Judith et al. 2018). Our group can make use of this power at the group level as legitimate power if wielded with coercive power will increase the motive to cooperate voluntarily (Hofmann et al. 2017). As participants work through their assignments, they will be increasing their efficiencies on the works if the person in-charge utilizes their legitimate power. These are mainly due to the feelings of reciprocity to make the participants experience “social coercion” that will be exerted by the person in-charge. Our group can “borrow” that power by trying to cooperate with the lecturers for them to make use of the power but not too much or else it might backfire.

The last source of power that our group can apply at the group level is the reward power. This is inspired by one of the questions in our survey.

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