Recognize that your group has been assembled with a professional purpose in mind, not to make your life miserable.
You will disagree with each other on aspects of the presentation. How you disagree and how you resolve those disagreements for the good of the team and of your presentation is as important as the presentation itself.
It’s essential that you maintain civil relations, if not cordial relations, with others in the group – don’t burn bridges. You don’t want to engender dislike for people, perhaps for the rest of your life. The people in the various group projects will form an important part of your network in years to come. Remember that the relationship is paramount, the presentation itself is secondary.
The Arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”
Your job is to craft a group experience, assign responsibilities, develop a reasonable schedule. Some members of your group will make time commitment choices that do not appear aligned with the objectives of the group. You will hear phrases such as “I’m not able to be at the meeting.” You may hear the outright arrogance of “I don’t have time for this.”
This, of course, is simply a choice to be somewhere else to spend time in other pursuits, because everyone has the same amount of time, no more and no less. Different people make different choices about the use of their time. Recognize that this will happen and that it is neither good nor bad – it is simply the hand that you are dealt. How you react to it will in large part determine the success of your group. One part of your job to properly motivate others to contribute to the group goal.
I always communicate to my students what to expect in a 5-person group. The 2-2-1 rule will usually hold. Two people work hard, two cooperate and are damned happy to be there, and one rarely shows up, because he or she has a “busy schedule.” Another popular take on it is to apply the Pareto 80-20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people. The corollary, of course, is that 80 percent of problems are caused by 20 percent of the people. A different 20 percent.
“But that’s not fair!”
That’s reality. Is it “fair?” Maybe or maybe not, but that’s a question for philosophers of distributive justice and irrelevant to the imperatives of group work.
Regardless of how you couch it, do not take your group woes to the professor for solution. Your professor knows well what you face. He wants you to sort it out. You must sort it out, because your prof is not your parent. Your professor won’t appreciate it any more than your CEO or VP superior at your company appreciates solving your personnel issues . . . repeatedly. It reflects badly on you and gives an impression of weakness. Moreover, if you begin to focus heavily on who’s not carrying their “fair share,” then that becomes the dominant theme of your group dynamic rather than that of accomplishing your group goal. And such misplaced focus and animosity reflects badly in the final product.
Keep these guiding principles in mind as you chart your course through the labyrinth of group work. Every group is different, temporary, and frustrating in it’s own way. Don’t allow the briars of this ephemeral activity catch your clothing and slow you down from your ultimate goal.
More on effective and satisfying group work in coming posts.