Ask Lucy: Let Down By a Group Member

Posted by Lucy on Nov 20, 2014 5:00:00 AM


Dear Lucy,

How do I handle working on a group project with someone who doesn’t contribute?


Struggling Teammate


LucyDear Struggling Teammate,

I have found my group projects incredibly rewarding. But yes, there is a chance you'll encounter this at some point in your education, as you are likely to be involved a number of different group projects, and unfortunately, not everyone has the same work ethic.

Remember that in some ways, this is a good thing; you’ll encounter similar situations in your professional life as well. Now is an ideal time to learn how to handle them. My first suggestion here is to remain professional. Stick to the tasks at hand and do your best to avoid being catty about things. This is not high school. Your professor does not care if you don’t like a girl in your group—the work must get done and the end of the day.

However, your professor does care if one group member isn’t contributing to the assignment. If you’re in a situation where you and the rest of your group has attempted to get ahold of your MIA team member, don’t hesitate to inform the professor. Please don’t feel as though you’re being a rat, because group projects affect your grade as well as theirs; just be calm and rational, and explain what you are concerned about and why. Keep in mind there is a good chance that your professor is familiar with this student's study habits already. It’s important to give credit where it’s due.

But again, remain professional, and make sure you are not attempting to dictate the professor's responsethat is, don't tell him or her to move you to a new group or assert what grade you think you deserve. Let the professor handle it. Remember also that sometimes, it is possible that a group member does not feel as comfortable with the work as you do, and you might actually be helping them learn by example. If it is a question of "working hard," there is often a chance that you tend to work harder than your MIA group member anyway, and that you'll also reap the rewards in the long run—don't let someone else's complacency make you complacent. Keep your standards. And keep your cool.

Read more on how to deal with difficult people here.   



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