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|Curbing Social Loafing in the Retail Environment | |

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|Curbing Social Loafing in the Retail Environment |
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Introduction Verizon Wireless is one of the major cell phone companies in the United States. According to its website, it has 73,000 employees and over 1900 retail locations. Its annual revenue in 2012 was $75.9 billion.Verizon Wireless was founded in 2000 by Verizon Communications and Vodafone. This company is very successful in the retail channel. Having worked in this channel with the company for three years and being a customer of the company for eight years has given insight into how important productivity is for continued success. (http://aboutus.verizonwireless.com/company/story/) In 2000, Vodafone AirTouch and Bell Atlantic Corp. received regulatory approval to combine their U.S. wireless assets, Bell Atlantic Mobile and AirTouch Communications. This $90-billion joint venture began operations as Verizon Wireless on April 4, 2000. Verizon quickly grew as it acquired other cellular companies. In 2000 it acquired network from Bell Atlantic. Rural Cellular Corporation was acquired in 2008. Alltel, a popular southern cell phone company was acquired the next year. In that same year Verizon Wireless developed a partnership with Google to promote the new cell phone operating system Android with a line of cell phones specifically for Verizon Wireless called DROID. The most recent news worthy accomplishment is the development of Innovation Centers in Waltham and San Francisco. These are helping Verizon Wireless become more than just a cellular provider but a technology company. (http://aboutus.verizonwireless.com/company/story) Verizon Wireless offers several services available for customers such as phone service, tablet activation, mobile broadband, alarm systems, phones, accessories, and basic troubleshooting for the devices that are sold. The company is very profitable and it continues to come up with new ways to increase the profits for its shareholders and offer great benefits for its employees. Verizon Wireless changes the commission structure as the nature of the business changes. They have recently changed the structure so that the most common transaction is no longer commissionable, or pays very little. It was not a sudden change since Verizon had slowly been preparing us by making fewer and fewer of these transactions commissionable. All the representatives working for commission no longer want to process these transactions in fear that while they are processing this non-payable transaction the rare, payable transactions will become available. The issue now in the retail channel is the amount of social loafing that occurs now that the tasks of sales representatives are not all commissionable. Social loafing occurs on the sales floor when representatives try to avoid certain tasks and expect other representatives to do them. Representatives will work slowly to avoid tasks, avoid being on the sales floor, and simply not help customers. This creates and issue for Verizon Wireless because customer service is important. If representatives are avoiding tasks that involve customers wait times will increase and customer satisfaction will decrease.
Problem Statement How can social loafing in the retail environment be limited? This paper will look at what causes social loafing, what can be done at work to limit it, and what leadership should do to limit social loafing. This paper focuses on limiting social loafing in commissioned based settings since Verizon Wireless is a commissioned based sales company. The literature review includes articles on social loafing, motivation, and leadership.
Literature Review Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Social Loafing: The Role of Personality, Motives, and Contextual Factors by Tan and Tan (2008) focuses on the relationship between organizational citizenship behavior, OCB, and social loafing. OCB is chosen because it contributes to productivity and effectiveness. Conscientiousness is identified as a predictor of OCB (Tan and Tan, 90). They suggest that a person lacking conscientiousness would be prone to social loafing. The lack of conscientiousness leads to undependable, less motivated behaviors. These are associated with social loafing. They also studied the relationship between OC and PV motives on social loafing. OC motives are desires to help one’s organization based on pride. PV motives are desires to help one’s peers. The lack of these motives results from not feeling like one’s actions are noticeable or when a worker feels they are surrounded by others who lack motivation. Tan & Tan suggest if OC and PV motives are high, social loafing will be less likely. They explore the contextual factors associated with social loafing. They highlight task visibility, task interdependence, group cohesiveness, and felt responsibility. Task visibility is defined as the extent to which one feels others see the effort they exert. (93) Tan and Tan expect that low task visibility would cause a person to use less effort based on the fact that it may go unnoticed. Task interdependence is based on groups working together where each person’s input is related to another member. Tan and Tan expected that with high task interdependence there would be high social loafing. Group cohesiveness is how well the group works together and gets along. Groups with high cohesiveness are suggested to have less social loafing. Finally, felt responsibility relates to one’s desire to help others based on accountability. This contextual factor has not been studied as much but Tan and Tan expected to see a negative relationship between felt responsibility and social loafing. The study consisted of undergraduate students within one class in Singapore with data collected three times within three months. They were judging class participation. A survey was used to determine conscientiousness, motives, contextual factors, and social loafing. Conscientiousness was negatively correlated with social loafing. Felt responsibility had a significant negative correlation to social loafing. They could not find a correlation between task visibility, task interdependence, and group cohesiveness with social loafing. Effects of Group Size and Expectancy of Reward on Social Loafing by Mefoh and Nwanosike (2012) uses an experiment to test the relationship between group size, rewards, and social loafing. The goal of the experiment is to see if performance decreases at the same rate within a group and as an individual. The reward is suggested to decrease social loafing and increase productivity. This study is important because if there is a correlation between rewards and social loafing there may be a way for Verizon to offer better incentives for employees to perform non-commissionable tasks. The study consisted of 40 teen students in Nigeria broken into groups. They were given the assignment of matching cardboard to a grid within 15 seconds. They were given a pre-test and post-test. The post-test created competition between groups with a reward being offered. There was a control group that would not be offered a reward. After the experiment was conducted all participants were rewarded regardless of performance. The subjects were told that the post-test scores would be determined by adding each member’s scores together instead of being individual scores. The results of the study suggest that people work harder alone than when in groups. It also showed that there was less social loafing when a reward is offered. It did not, however, show that performance was better. The scores were lower in the post-test when the scores were added together which suggests that with the larger group size there is more social loafing. (236) This study reinforces the need for small groups to decrease social loafing and proper reward structures. Figure 1
[pic]
Mefoh, P.C. & Nwanosike, C.L. (March 2012). Effects of group size and expectancy of reward on social loafing. Ife PsychologyIA, 20 (1), 229-241.

Team Size, Dispersion, and Social Loafing in Technology-Supported Teams: A Perspective on the Theory of Moral Disengagement by Alnuaimi, Robert Jr., and Maruping examines the relationship between team size and, cognitive factors, and social loafing. For the purpose of this paper, the correlation between team size and social loafing will be examined. The scholars studied these factors in relation to technologically connected teams. The hypothesis tested was that diffusion of responsibility mediates the relationship between team size and individuals' social loafing. (Alnuaimi et al., 210) They used an experiment involving 140 students organized into 32 teams, 7 performing a brainstorming task. Half of the teams worked together while the other half was dispersed. Social loafing was measured by the amount of ideas contributed by each subject. Team sizes ranged from three to ten people. The experiment resulted in a positive relationship between team size and diffusion of responsibility. The teams with more people gained fewer ideas per person since social loafing was present. This result was found in both types of teams, those working together and dispersed. The study supports the concept that creating smaller groups within a large team may help to reduce the amount of social loafing. In terms of the Verizon Wireless retail channel there may be less social loafing if the store team classified smaller groups to take on certain tasks, thus making all representatives cognizant of the few other people they would be affecting by not exerting effort to perform certain tasks. Salie and Schlechter performed a study about rewards and recognition programs and their effects on staff motivation and turnover. For the purpose of this paper, the focus will be staff motivation. A Formative Evaluation of a Staff Reward and Recognition Programme assesses a program instituted in a chain of South African retail stores. The subjects were all employees working in the stores including managers. Work charts are used to track turnover, customer feedback, new accounts, and exceptional performance of individuals. Points are given for each of these metrics. These work charts are easily accessible for employees by messages and posted at work. Employees are also given workbooks to complete which detail the vision and strategy of the company. Completion of the workbook results in points as well. The study asks three questions about the program which try to determine if this process is successful. Do employees understand the process and are they satisfied with the reward?
Figure 2.
[pic]
Salie, S. & Schlechter, A. (2012). A formative evaluation of a staff reward and recognition programme. South African Journal of Human Resource Management, 2012, 10(3), 5.

Employees and stakeholders are interviewed and asked a set of questions to determine the value of the program. The findings suggest the rewards offered to the employees for earning points are unsatisfactory. They prefer to have input on what the reward is. The delivery of the program starts successfully but management does not provide enough support for the program as it continues. More focus on educating employees as the year passes was necessary. Opinions on the workbook are mixed as some employees see it as a refresher on policies while others view it as unnecessary.

Figure 3
[pic]
Salie, S. & Schlechter, A. (2012). A formative evaluation of a staff reward and recognition programme. South African Journal of Human Resource Management, 2012, 10(3), 5.

Guertin’s study Social Behaviors as Determined by Different Arrangements of Social Consequences: Diffusion of Responsibility Effects with Competition observed the relationship between social loafing, deindividuation, and social facilitation on competition, group size, and social consequences. Deindividuation is defined as the likelihood for aggressive or deviant behaviors to occur more often when people are in groups rather than alone. (Guertin, 314) For the purpose of this paper, the effects of social loafing and deindividuation on group size and competition will be analyzed. The experiment consisted of ten groups half of whom were anonymous and the other identifiable. The participants were asked to write as many uses of brick that they could think of within five minutes. These ten groups were broken down for three conditions: non-competitive, large competition group, and small competition group. The participants in the non-competitive group were told no prizes were being awarded to whoever thought of the most uses. The large competition group was offered a reward to one of 180. The small competition group was offered a reward to one of 15-20 members. The study showed that the participants in the competition groups produced more uses than the participants in the non-competition group. The participants in the identifiable groups produced more than the participants in the anonymous group. Of the identifiable group, the productivity was higher in the small competition group than the large competition group. (Guertin, 319) Guertin acknowledged that this study did not have the best control group since it could not make each group match in size and background. Malik’s study Empirical Investigation of Leadership Style on Enhancing Team Building Skills focused on how different leadership styles affected team building. The leadership styles analyzed were autocratic, transformational, and participative. The experiment consisted of an analysis of questionnaires given to participants, 75 Punjab University students, asking about leadership style and team building. Malik hypothesized that each leadership style was correlated with team building but that transformational leadership has a positive correlation. The results show an analysis of seven variables. It shows that goal clarity is positively correlated with team building. A strong positive correlation between transformational leadership and team building is observed. There is a negative relationship between team building and autocratic leadership. Participative leadership also has a strong correlation. (Malik, 746-747).
Analysis
Verizon Wireless retail stores face the issue of social loafing and lack of proper motivation. Having worked in multiple stores in the Northeast, it can be seen that the issue is not isolated to one store. The social loafing appears as diffusion of responsibility in stores to the company because several employees will avoid processing transactions that they assume others will do. Scanning Yelp.com, a site that allows customers to advise others about service in local businesses, shows many customers who are frustrated by seeing employees without a task and not being helped efficiently. Tan and Tan’s study helps to show what factors within one’s behavior are likely to lead to social loafing. This study is important because management can identify employees who are not participating as much as others and focus on encouraging conscientious behaviors or accountability to the team in order to decrease the social loafing. It gives a manager a better option than just reprimanding a worker. Reprimanding is not the best solution when trying to change a behavior pattern. A negative part of this study is that the students involved did not always belong to the same work groups. Al though they were in the same class, projects were not always done with the same people and different members mixing with others may have skewed the results of the survey. This is beneficial for the purpose of this paper because it is based on a work environment where the small work groups change daily and the same issues would occur. Mefoh and Nwanosike’s results suggest that people work harder alone than when in groups. It also showed that there was less social loafing when a reward is offered. It did not, however, show that performance was better. The scores were lower in the post-test when the scores were added together which suggests that with the larger group size there is more social loafing. (236) This study reinforces the need for small groups to decrease social loafing and proper reward structures. In relation to Verizon Wireless, a company that already has a commission structure, incorporating the non-commissionable tasks into the commissionable tasks could lead to less social loafing. An example is stores with higher customer satisfaction surveys or quicker wait times receive quarterly bonuses instead of just rewarding high sales. Alnuaimi and Maruping showed that rewards do motivate performance and that group size is a factor. The factor that limited this study was that it was performed in a controlled environment. The subjects were not performing tasks that they would perform every day and did not have other distractions. At Verizon Wireless, the other distractions from the non-commissionable acts would be those which are commissionable and the other teams that would be sharing the same space. This study helps to connect social loafing and team size but it does not offer a full solution for the retail environment. Salie and Schlechter study did not support that the program increases motivation. The program may have failed because employees did not see the constant focus on the program. They did not like the rewards. They were unsure of the goal of the program. This program could be developed further to be more beneficial for retail stores by offering rewards that are voted on by employees and having management supporting the program throughout the entire year. A program like this that documents so many behaviors at store level may also curb social loafing by increasing motivation to focus on customer service. The fact that points are given for new accounts, a payable task, as well as customer service, a non-payable task gives more motivation to help people who are not at the store simply for purchases. Guertin’s study shows that a healthy competition in group tasks helps increase productivity. It is better when the people in these groups are noticed as an individual within the group, not simply judged by the collective effort of the group. It also shows that people may perform better when they are competing with a small group so they can identify their challengers. It may also help the goals seem more realistic when one can identify challengers as opposed to being and infinite number of people. Malik’s study shows a relationship leadership style and team building which is very important for social loafing. The studies above already suggest that there is a relation between accountability and social loafing. The limitation for this study is that there is a lot of generalization. The purpose of this type of study is to encourage leaders to examine how their leadership styles affect the people they manage. It shows that the leadership style has an effect on how members of that given group work with each other.

Solutions The articles reviewed above show that social loafing can be minimized. Three options will be summarized below with the benefits and consequences for each. A final thought will be given about the solution that is best suited for the issue of social loafing at Verizon Wireless. Mefoh, P.C. & Nwanosike’s study as well as Guertin’s study show that small groups have a better chance of minimizing social loafing. All actions can be seen in small groups so it would be beneficial for Verizon Wireless to create small teams within its Verizon Wireless stores. These small teams would also have to opportunity to build cohesion and participation. With team cohesion, the representatives may have more pride in all the work they do, not just the commissionable portions. The possible drawbacks of creating small teams is possibly making competition within the store that in unnecessary. It can be an added task to managers who already have many tasks to fare. A more expensive option would be expanding the reward program. Bonuses could be offered with improvements to customer satisfaction and wait times. Salie and Schlechter’s study showed participants not motivated by rewards but participants were motivated in Guertin’s and Tan & Tan’s studies. The type of reward may be the issue here. This would be beneficial to the company because commission sales have worked to motivate metrics. Customer service tasks could be motivated the same way. The drawback for this process is the cost that Verizon Wireless will have to manage as well as the clarity of the payment structure based on certain customer service goals. Finally, Verizon Wireless could attempt to create a stronger team identity by increasing cohesion and accountability. Malik’s study showed that team building improved with transformational and participative leadership. Using these styles of leadership to build cohesion and team pride may curb social loafing. A flaw with this approach is that it is hard to define what exact skills are necessary to this type of leadership and it may not be easily taught. It also means that Verizon Wireless would have to hire a staff that is looking to improve themselves and can be led by a transformational leader. This option is costly as well because the amount of training needed would undoubtedly cost more than the current training available. The best solution would be utilizing small teams with inexpensive rewards. Expanding the reward program would be too expensive to do for all retail stores but incorporating a smaller reward program like free lunch for the best performing group of the month would be feasible. The small groups would have to be monitored and the goals for customer service would need to be clearly defined so that representatives know what is expected of them in order to perform. This option is best because financially it is the best option and there would be a clear way to process it. Stores of 12-15 representatives could be divided and wait times and customer satisfaction surveys could be used to judge their performance. Since Verizon Wireless already records these things, the cost would be minimal. It would help groups gain pride in their store and their company.
Reflection
This issue is important for my work because I plan to be in retail for a few more years. My patience is very short when it comes to people not performing to best of their ability and that lack of effort affecting others. I have addressed this issue multiple times and it always seems to reoccur so this paper gave me a chance to see what others think about social loafing and how others try to use other factors to motivate better work .If anything, this paper has shown me that social loafing is a very tough issue to fix and that people have researching it for quite some time. Although I came up with a solution, I know it is only temporary because there will always be a reason for social loafing to arise again at work. The next paper will be on managing the stress of it.

References
Alnuaimi, O.A., Robert Jr., L.P., & Maruping, L.M. (2010). Team size, dispersion, and social loafing in technology-supported teams: a perspective on the theory of moral disengagement. Journal of Management Information Systems, 27 (1), 203-230.

Guerin, Bernard. (2003). Social behaviors as determined by different arrangements of social consequences: diffusion of responsibility effects with competition. The Journal of Social Psychology, 143(3), 313-329.

Malik, M.E. (December 2012). Empirical investigation of leadership style on enhancing team building skills. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(8), 738-750.

Mefoh, P.C. & Nwanosike, C.L. (March 2012). Effects of group size and expectancy of reward on social loafing. Ife PsychologyIA, 20 (1), 229-241.

Salie, S. & Schlechter, A. (2012). A formative evaluation of a staff reward and recognition programme. South African Journal of Human Resource Management, 2012, 10(3), 1-11.

Tan, H.H. & Tan, M.L. (2008) Organizational citizenship behavior and social loafing: the role of personality, motives, and contextual factors. The Journal of Psychology, 142(1), 89-108.

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