Asymmetrical Effects of Rewards and punishments: The Case of Social Loafing

The contributor of this article administered an experiment to investigate the relation between a supervisor’s contingent reward behavior is sufficient to reduce social loafing, when individual contributions cannot be recognized (George, 1995). The author tried to prove four hypotheses. A correlational study was employed in the form of a survey to test further the hypotheses proposed by the author. This type of study was used to compare the relationship between the variables present in this study. The variables investigated in this article were to see the real life impact of individualized rewards given by a superior when working in a group. This study was achieved by using questionnaires given to the independent variable (the behavior by which supervisors engaged to see the change of social loafing) and the dependent variable (was the amount in social loafing in employees observed by supervisors). It was conducted in 8 major U.S retailers. The sales employees were to answer specific questions and confidential questions about their supervisor’s behavior in contingent reward behavior. On the other hand, the supervisors were given a rating form, to be filled out confidentially as well. The score indicates a daily basis social loafing behaviors by employees.

The first hypothesis studied by author George (1995), tried to investigate the extent up to which supervisors contingently reward subordinates based upon individual performance is negatively associated with social loafing. The second hypothesis attempted to see up to which extent contingently punish subordinates based upon individual performance is not related to social loafing (George, 1995).

Results were observed, and it was noted that hypothesis 1 the results showed that contingent reward behavior was significant and negatively associated with social loafing (George, 1995). Constant with hypothesis 2 showed that contingent punishment behavior showed a not significant relation to social loafing (George, 1995). Lastly hypotheses 3 and 4 concerned to the associations between non-contingent reward behavior and non-contingent punishment behavior and social loafing. The results for these two last hypotheses showed that hypothesis 3 revealed that non-contingent reward behavior was found to be unrelated to social loafing and contrary to hypothesis 3, hypothesis 4 demonstrated that non-contingent punishment behavior was significantly and positively related to social loafing (George, 1995).

To further discuss these results, the author goes on to explain that there is not a symmetrical relation between rewards and punishments when a supervisor consistently displays contingent reward behavior. In conclusion for a contingent compensation to positively influences behavior in groups and diminishes social loafing, the supervisor must be able to recognize the individual’s effort separately. Therefore, to avoid social loafing employees must be compensated or rewarded individually (George, 1995).

There is not a symmetrical relation between rewards and punishments when a supervisor consistently displays contingent reward behavior.


The author’s purpose of this study was to display there was no symmetrical relationship between rewards and punishment when studying about social loafing. The results were consistent with the author’s predictions, and the study’s hypotheses were valid. The results were interpreted consistently in a precise manner; making the findings accessible to understand. However, these results do not give a robust certainty about how this can apply to every other group of workers in different work settings. The study focuses only on the sales department, in which individual achievement can be easily traceable by the number of sales each employee has. Commissioned salary is an extrinsic motivation for the employees since they work on commission. Employees who are motivated by commission work entirely different to those working in a setting where the get pay in a fixed ratio, and not based on commission but, rather in work hour or salary.

Also, the author focuses the study on one chain of the large super retailers in the U.S. ignoring the different ways retail stores pay their employees. It is not comparable the work ambiance, the dress code, the attitude of the company towards the employee and many other details of an employee from The Sears store, compared to one employee from Bloomingdales. More importantly, the salaries will vary significantly. It is no the same to earn 2% of a pair of New Balance shoes for $35 while a Bloomingdale’s employee is making 2% of a pair of Gucci’s for $595. Even more, the type of clientele that visits both stores it is entirely different. Where in one store customers can be rude and get less commission, in the other clients can be rude too but since the commission is higher the employee is more able to put up with those behaviors to earn that high commission.

Employees motivated by commission work entirely different to those working to the get pay in a fixed ratio, not based on commission.

For the purpose of this study, a comprehensive literature review was done. It covers every possible subject that could have been associated with social loafing. The author moves towards the definitions. The author also identifies reward and punishment systems studied by other authors. As a result, all references in the paper are relevant to the question the author is proposing. Thus, the author does an excellent job of this segment by using it to inform the reader and also, to state the incentive of the study while making associations with different studies being reviewed.

With the same intention, the author clearly labels the hypotheses to be tested, so readers can find them easily. And in the same manner, marks the results. With this intention, the author does the same clear explanation with the participants. The author needed it to observe the behavior change when supervisors altered their reward systems or punishment system to see the variations in the dependent variable (the amount of social loafing). By the same token, the author gives the readers a better sense of who the population is as well as the sample. That being the case the contributor of the study does a good job describing the sample size, the selection process and the different characteristics employed in this study. The author also employees ethical safeguards by explicitly stating how every answer was going to be kept as confidential. To conclude, the suggestion for this study would be to help clarify and expand upon the finding of this study and also, to expand to different retail stores from different socio-economic statuses.



George, J. (1995). Asymmetrical effects of rewards and punishments: The case of social loafing. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 68, 327-338.


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