Perhaps you have seen a group of ants hoisting their latest meal in a single file back to their nest. Perhaps you know of how bats that find blood share it with others who do not to ensure survivability. Or perhaps you have seen a horde of stampeding wildebeests take down a lion together (rest in peace Mufasa☹). Cooperation prevails across the animal kingdom. After all, it is an efficacious way of getting things done. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for your Project Work groups!
There is always the chance that the school groups you with slackers, stoners or stubborn individuals. No matter how much you try to convince them to get on board, they may not always listen. This is the ugly truth.
Before we delve into greater detail, perhaps you would like to look at a couple of interesting stories regarding the various types of group members you could get.
As you can see, the grouping process is really based on chance. If you have groupmates that are willing to work hard, are friendly and cooperative, then good on you. But for those who got the short end of the stick, here is some advice that may help.
Dealing With Unreasonable Group Members
Set Group Norms
During my PW experience, the teacher dedicated a whole PW lesson to setting expectations that each group member must uphold. To be brutally honest, my group and I skipped this part entirely, thinking it was a waste of time. Sadly, this really came back to bite me later on.
I am not saying that you should spend an excessive amount of time crafting rules for the group to follow, but it would help to set down basic expectations. You could set even simple rules like ‘Do not be late for meetings’ or even working out a regular time for your meetings outside of school in accordance to everyone’s busy schedules.
I think this is important to set a proper tone right from the start – PW is ultimately a group effort and each person’s actions (or lack of them) would potentially impact another’s PW grade at the end, so as much as we want it to be a fun session for all, we need to enforce some basic rules to ensure we stay on the right track.
Talk It Out
But even after all that, maybe some members still do not seem to be pulling their weight. Maybe they are constantly clueless about what is going on, or the work that they produce is sub-par. While this is a cause for concern, do not come out with all guns blazing just yet. Instead, try to reason with them or talk it out – privately of course.
Who knows? There may be a reason behind their questionable behaviours. For me, I found out that one of my group members, who kept remaining silent during online meetings, did not speak up because they were not great with words, which made them fumble a lot. As such, they felt like they could not contribute anything even if they tried speaking. So, I reassured them that they could take their time to raise their ideas and the group would listen. I also told them that since they struggled with words, they could also type out any concerns or ideas to me over text after the meeting instead.
The lesson here is that we should take the time to speak to these members first. What we assume based on what we see on the surface may not accurately reflect what is going on. Every situation is different, so be prepared to be flexible when responding to them.
Why should we talk it out
As much as we want to yell or holler at our groupmates, it should only be a last resort, (when they are really beyond the point of reason and you want to let them know forcefully that you are displeased and that they should start changing their behaviours) or not to be used at all.
Remember that you are stuck with these group members for almost a year, so you have to be tactful with your actions. Make too much of a fuss at the start and this could permanently fracture relationships beyond the point of reconciliation. Then, you would be stuck with unhappy members for the rest of the journey.
Hence, you should always to aim to solve the problems diplomatically first. A bonded and harmonious group would really go a long way in helping you through this journey. So that should always be a goal you should aim for, regardless of how frustrating your group members turn out to be.
In life, it is always better to make bridges than burn them.
Talk To A Teacher
Sometimes, a member may still be problematic and refuse to cooperate after numerous attempts to talk it out. In this case, you could then resort to telling the problem to a teacher. While I have not had the experience of doing this, hopefully that group member can wake up and start taking action.
Rely On Your Useful Groupmates
No matter how bad your situation turns out to be, there should be at least one group member that is relatively reliable. So alternatively, if your problematic groupmates refuse to listen, you can redirect your focus to the ones that you can trust. Fortunately, one of my closer friends was in the same group as me, so I could rely on them to get the job done when the other members could not. Sure, it may mean that the few of you have to do the heavy lifting, but having a little help is better than none!
Also, it always helps to have someone to confide in and rant about your frustrations together! ‘Experts’ say that this has a proven 99.9% efficacy rate for reducing any emotional damage incurred during your PW journey😉
Then again, your group members may not be the only sources of frustration. While it is not entirely applicable to me, I have heard stories of frustrating PW mentors as well. So do look out for part 4 where we share tips to hopefully help those facing a similar situation.