Social Loafing

There’s a concept in Organizational Behavior that you’re all familiar with: social loafing. A social loafer is the person that joins the group and never actually works, the person that ruins the fun for everyone by breaking the rules, the person that mooches off you for free food and a couch to crash on… for MONTHS. In short, the social loafer is just what it sounds like, someone that loafs through life on other people’s hard work. As a type-A overachiever, I hate these people. And, it’s the immature-make-poor-decisions-just-on-principle kind of hate*, where I have a hard time getting past my frustration long enough to actually address the problem with the social loafer. Now, the social loafing has hit home, and we’ve got a real conundrum on our hands!

My husband and I own a rental property that has 4 units, so we put a trash bin with weekly pick-up out for our tenants’ use. This trash can is large enough to accommodate our 4 tenants, but apparently, the fourplex next door also thinks that they can use the trash bin. We’ve contacted their landlord, sent them notices, and most recently, put a lock on the trash bin. Our tenants are the only ones that have keys, and they’ve all been respectful and diligent in keeping us updated on the trash situation. Last night, a tenant called to tell us that there are six bags of trash sitting next to the trash bin. Sigh… freakin’ social loafers! So, you clearly are not allowed to put your trash in our trash bin, so your solution is to just leave it sitting out in the parking lot next to the trash bin? We’ve contacted the other landlord and sent notices to the other tenants, to no avail. Our other option is to go to curb-side pick-up, but none of our tenants want that, and it makes the area look terrible, as trash ends up flying all over the place. Don’t people take pride in their living space these days?

So now we’re in a bind, because upgrading to a larger bin or increasing the frequency of the trash pick-up is a significant cost. And, on principle, I don’t want to reward these people for their bad behavior (insert rant about how these people’s attitude is what’s wrong with America today!) My husband and I want our tenants to have a nice area and convenient life, so we hate to go to curb-side. But if we keep letting the trash bin overflow, we’ll get a fine from the waste company.

Is our only option to let the tenants at the other property ruin it for everyone? Do we give in and upgrade the size of the bin or the frequency of pick-up, thus reenforcing the bad behavior? There’s just no winning against social loafers, because they have nothing to lose! As I mentioned in my post about negotiation, they have a much better BATNA than we have, mainly because they just don’t care like we do. While I love to be able to apply concepts from my classes to my daily life, I really wish it wasn’t in this situation. Any suggestions are much appreciated 🙂

*My suggestion was to booby-trap the trash area, so that whenever people set a bag down next to the bin, they would get an egg thrown in their face. Can you imagine someone stumbling out to the trash bin first thing in the morning, in the dark, only half awake, and without their glasses? They set their trash haphazardly near-ish the bin, and then, BOOM, and egg just slams them in the face. BEST. SOLUTION. EVER. My husband’s equally bad suggestion was a sign that reads, “If you have a key, put your trash in the bin. If you don’t have a key, throw your trash over the wall.” There’s a fence with a lock right next to the bin that belongs to the other landlord, so essentially, they’d be trashing their own property. I was on board with this one, until I realized how terrible it would smell, and the effect it would have on our tenants. So, as you can see, we aren’t making much progress!

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