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Group Effort: Learning to Work Together

Rachel Faith Cruz helps you make the most out of this school staple — working in teams.


29 Dec 2012 Print This Post Print This Post

    Ideal group dynamics. Photo courtesy of Stockxpert

    As frustrating as this may look, your ability to deal with a difficult group member is a vital skill that you should acquire while in college. This prepares you for  the professional world, where you will have to constantly collaborate and work with teams. And the fact is, it will be tougher out there. Thus, learning to compromise and adjust to different characters as you complete group projects is an essential skill.

    How then does one deal with difficult group members or leaders? Below are some strategies you can keep in mind:


    There will always be that group mate who will not be as enthusiastic as the rest of the members or will most likely put less effort or contribution. It can be unnerving to see slackers benefiting from the hard work of other members. They usually miss meetings and deadlines. Instead of second-guessing , it’s best to approach this with a confrontation or a sit-down, since there might be a problem this member isn’t saying, such as a full class schedule, or a more important assignment due that week, or a personal matter like feeling shy or thinking he’s the odd man out.

    Sitting down and talking with this member can clear the air and both sides can find solutions to working together. Balancing schoolwork is a major obstacle with group projects, which can be the primary reason given by those who aren’t meeting the group’s goals. Be accommodating in this case. However, set some reasonable expectations from this member and be firm with tasks and deadlines.

    Social Butterflies

    More than contributing to the task at hand, the social butterfly is a distraction that may take up valuable time and delay the goals the group is trying to achieve. Unlike the slacker, the social butterfly is usually present during group meetings but steers the focus away from the tasks, affecting everyone. Don’t make the mistake of bringing up juicy topics, triggering this  member to chatter endlessly.

    Be efficient in handling the social butterfly. Some house rules may need to be set and observed each time the group works together to avoid this. Allow for a few breaks in between tasks, too, so that each one can recharge or regroup, but also insist that when it’s time for work, commitment and attention is necessary. And then perhaps suggests that when the task is done for the day, the group can unwind with drinks and pizza. Or better yet, propose a group outing when the whole project is completed.

    Bossy Types and Know-it-alls

    Have you ever worked with someone who only expects you to nod and agree with everything she says? It is a challenge to collaborate with someone who appears to have researched everything in advance. This group member will passionately insist that her way is the best way to go. She may not exactly be a team player. She may rub other members the wrong way, making them feel railroaded. When this type of friction occurs, the group cannot move forward. Thus it is important to address this as soon as it happens. In some cases, bossy types don’t realize that they’re hurting, rather than helping the group and a direct negotiation will be a helpful approach.

    If she insists on a particular system, for instance, hear her out and acknowledge this. Let her know that this may be taken into consideration but also offer a compromise and suggest why a different way would work better, if only to include more participation from the rest of the members.  Give her tasks she is eager to complete, but let her know that other members should put in their effort and contribute. Emphasize that work must be distributed among members, as this is a group effort.

    When members continue to behave in a way that affects the group negatively, it may be time to bring this matter up with the instructor. This is the last resort, however, as the challenge of working together is something every college student needs to learn and go through with group projects.


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