While it can be stressful navigating a group dynamic while your grade is on the line, a group project experience becomes a lesson in itself.
We have all been there. Someone doesn’t show up to the work meetings, another puts together a less-than-perfect PowerPoint and then there’s always one person who seems to do nothing at all.
It’s no secret that group projects can be difficult, but there comes a time when we all have to let go of our need to be individualistic and work in a team. We have to take others’ opinions into consideration, compensate for their shortcomings and let them compensate for ours. This isn’t always the easiest task, but there’s a lot to be learned from working in a group.
Communication is key
Communication is probably the most important thing to master when working with a group. From brainstorming ideas, to syncing schedules, now is not the time to stop checking your email or put away your phone. If people don’t communicate well with other members of the group, it can become a major inconvenience. I have been in several group situations in which one person doesn’t show up to work meetings without an excuse. It left everyone else in the group confused and annoyed. Don’t leave your group wondering if you’re still enrolled in the class.
This also isn’t the time to sit idly by when people are taking the group in the wrong direction, or throwing out over ambitious (or just plain bad) ideas. Speak up if you have a good idea to contribute. Your group will thank you for it. Communication is what will keep the group organized and sane.
Hold your end of the deal
In a group setting, the work will naturally have to be distributed as evenly as possible. Make sure you do your part, and do it well.
Take responsibility for the task you’ve been given. No one should have to worry about picking up your slack or anyone else’s for that matter. We didn’t like that person in middle school when we were presenting on the Civil War; we don’t like that person now that we are presenting conference-quality research. Group evaluations exist. And people won’t hesitate to call you out for not doing your job.
Know when (and how) to lead
Every group needs a leader, and sometimes you have to decide if you need to step up and take control of the reins or step back and let someone else do the driving. There can only be one person leading, though, and too many hands in the kitchen means that someone is bound to get burned. There needs to be someone to delegate tasks and keep the peace when things get chaotic.
But keep in mind that leading isn’t synonymous with controlling.
A leader isn’t one person telling everyone else what to do. As a leader, it isn’t your job to take care of every little thing. Trust that your team members are capable of contributing good work, too.
How you work and get along with your team will reflect on your final product.
Whether you are working with complete strangers, or you are paired with your best friends, sometimes you won’t agree on everything. You are going to have to be flexible and be gracious in your interactions with others.
Don’t let petty disagreements get in the way of finishing your work. If you don’t necessarily get along with someone in your group, learn to be civil. It will make things easier on you and everyone else involved. When it comes down to it, you are all working towards the same goal and the same grade, so it’s better to let that come first.
While it can be stressful navigating a group dynamic while your grade is on the line, a group project experience becomes a lesson in itself. And though it may not be fun, swallowing one’s pride and admitting the work can’t be completed alone will certainly make life easier when the burden is shared among peers.
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