Last Updated 22 Jun 2020

Group Work and Free Riders: Mitigating the Situation

Essay type Process
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In most universities, if not all, group work aims to enhance the learning experience of students. This is primarily done through collaboration among the students in meeting specific objectives for group activities. While group work trains students in work-related skills, it also improves their personal inclinations to adjust to a group environment where individual tasks may be designated in order to meet the goals of the collective whole. However, group work can also serve potential problems to the group in terms of members who are mere ‘free riders’.

These loafers may not be of any use or help to the entire group since they do not provide significant contributions. Instead of aiding the group in keeping with the tasks at hand, the free riders become burdens to the group, thereby giving weight to the tasks all the more. One way to mitigate this problem is to give less complicated and less tedious tasks to the ‘free riders’ in the group while keeping a closer eye on their performance. It can be said that collaboration among group members helps in easing the larger chunk of the tasks involved.

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A reasonable distribution of tasks among members is “an advantage to a group essentially because it divides the general tasks required necessary for achieving certain goals (Barley & Kunda, 2001, p. 78). ” Although the distribution of tasks may vary depending on several factors which include but is not limited to individual capabilities, it nevertheless creates the sense where each member has a definitive role and share in the interest of the group. By doing so, every member is also given certain responsibilities to meet under a specified timeframe. More importantly, the distribution of tasks entails certain expectations from the members.

In the end, the overall welfare and performance of the group will have to depend on the members themselves. Since both the welfare and the performance of the group rely on the individual members, free riders among the group can pose serious disadvantages not only to the entire group but also to those who are working appropriately with their designated tasks (Pelled, 1996, p. 616). For one, there may be a psychological effect on the attitude of the other members when the ‘free riders’ tend to give no consideration for their respective responsibilities.

When there are members of your group who do not function according to the group’s expectation, it is most likely the case that the other members will have negative responses whether explicit or not. It can affect their individual inclination to perform their duties because they can be influenced with regard to their behavior in doing their responsibilities. In order to mitigate the problems posed by the free riders in the group, these group members should only be given less complicated and less tedious tasks.

It should also be the case that the free riders should be given more attention or focus from the group members since the free riders are the ones who are most likely to give problems to the group in terms of the completion of tasks among others. Given a number of tasks involved in completing the group requirements, the division of tasks should be appropriated in such a way that the perceived ‘free riders’ are given the lighter responsibilities instead of the tedious ones (Phillips & Phillips, 1993, p.

534). The roles to be given to these members should be the ones which, when removed or separated from the overall product of the group work, can only give minor disadvantages. These minor disadvantages can come in the form of the absence of peripheral parts of the group work. By doing so, even if the free riders in the group are not able to submit their expected contributions to the group the overall group project can nevertheless still stand on its own.

Or it can also be the case that even without the minor contributions from the free riders the rest of the group can still be able to amend the situation by fulfilling the peripheral tasks left behind. Moreover, the free riders should be given more focus by the group members so as to at least make certain that their tasks are met and that no delays will hinder the progress of the group work. This can be done by constant meeting with the group members so that the tasks can be done while every member is present.

When each member of the group is present, there will be more chances for the group members to keep a close attention on what everybody else is doing (Formanek & Sibley, 1991, p. 650). By doing so, the free riders will also be guided accordingly by the other members of the group in cases when the free riders are unable to efficiently perform their responsibilities. An early correction of the perceived problems can “greatly help in arriving at a thoroughly crafted products or goals at the end of the day (Parboteeah & Cullen, 2003, p.

139). ” However, one problem that can surface even in the light of the suggestions offered to mitigate the probable problems that may be encountered by the group with regard to the free riding members is the problem of the total absence or non-participation of these members. If the free riders in the group do not actually attend meetings or escape from participating in the group tasks, even the suggestions to mitigate the perceived problems may not be able to fully address the problems.

Nevertheless, one thing that can be done to avoid the eventual downfall of the group as caused by the free riders is that the rest of the group can choose to take charge of the supposed responsibilities of the free riders as early as possible. After that, the rest of the members can then suggest to the teacher or the instructor in charge to relieve the supposed free riders from being members of the group due to the reason of complete lack of participation. In general, as long as there remains the possibility of controlling the problem, mitigating the situation is still the best option.

In fact, the act of mitigating the situation in itself is already a task which requires a collective effort from at least the majority of the group. More importantly, mitigating the situation can win back the free riders as functioning members of the group, thus leading to fruitful results to the group as a whole and to each member of the body. References Barley, S. R. , & Kunda, G. (2001). Bringing Work Back In. Organization Science, 12(1), 78. Formanek, E. , & Sibley, D. (1991). The Group Determinant Determines the Group.

Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 112(3), 650. Parboteeah, K. P. , & Cullen, J. B. (2003). Social Institutions and Work Centrality: Explorations beyond National Culture. Organization Science, 14(2), 139. Pelled, L. H. (1996). Demographic Diversity, Conflict, and Work Group Outcomes: An Intervening Process Theory. Organization Science, 7(6), 616. Phillips, L. D. , & Phillips, M. C. (1993). Faciliated Work Groups: Theory and Practice. The Journal of the Operational Research Society 44(6), 534.

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Group Work and Free Riders: Mitigating the Situation. (2016, Jul 22). Retrieved from

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