Positive Effects of Free-Riders on GVT performance

When are free-riders good for teams?


We would like to play devils advocate and explore possible positive outcomes of free-riders in teams.

Main questions – general ideas.

Are there any positive outcomes of having free-riders in teams?

What happens to team member’s motivation when the team identifies a free-rider? Maybe it goes down at the beginning but then spikes when the deadline approaches? A U-shaped curve?

What happens to the quality of the final reports relative to others when there is a free-rider in the team?

What happens to member’s time spent on the project when there is a free-rider in the team?  Planned hours and actual worked hours in the presence of a free-rider?

Is there an optimum number of free-riders or free-riding that will create a positive outcome in the team?

What happens to team outcomes such as motivation or performance when a free-rider is kicked out of the team? The feeling of justice may motivate them more?

“As the tree is bent, so is the tree inclined” ? Do free-riders change over time? Some initial free-riders may turn into productive individuals after some event. The presence of other free-riders, a scolding from team members (threat to be kicked out), etc. So, the popular proverb does not apply and sounds like a nice article title.


Some basic hypotheses so far:

  • The presence of a free-rider increases the quality of team reports.
  • Teams with free-riders do not necessarily end up with worse final reports relative to non-free rider teams.
  • Teams that overcome a free-rider situation (having him/her kicked out of the team) perform better than teams that have no free riders (had a smooth ride). Note: This one may be a bit similar to one of your hypotheses in one of your papers but I am putting it here anyway because this one is team performance relative to other teams with no free-riders.
  • Teams composed of all rotten apples (free riders) do not necessarily underperform teams composed of good apples. Some apples in a team of rotten apples take charge and become good apples while in teams of all good apples, some team members relax and become passive (rotten apples).    Note: And here again we play devil’s advocate and this time we want to destroy the rotten apple theory.  This may be a different paper overall.


Lead researcher: Andres Velez Calle, avelezca@eafit.edu.co