Tackling group work

I think we all have either a love-hate or hate relationship with group work. Suddenly you realize you’re the one who is always coordinating the group meetings, contacting members of the team, and ensuring deadlines are met. You could also find yourself in the opposite role, where your opinion is never taken into account or you get stuck with the part of the project you least enjoy. These are a few strategies (learned via Smith’s PT MBA program and by experience) to mitigate issues that may come up with group work:

  • Accept the fact that not everyone thinks the way you do: We all have different upbringings and life experiences that shape our opinions and perspectives. What we think is right or proper, may not be for another person. Keeping an open mind is important in this case.
    • To avoid personal conflict avoid questioning the team members themselves (you cannot change the cards you are dealt). Instead, question the assumptions upon which they are basing their opinions/contributions.
  • Articulate expectations from the get-go: set goals for the group and yourself, and communicate this with your team at the start of a project to avoid last minute disappointments.
    • Establishing deadlines in addition to goals is essential at the start of a project
  • Meet in person: in the work force it is highly likely that group work will take place in a face-to-face setting with your colleagues. Interacting face-to-face not only helps imitate a real world scenario, but it also helps minimize misinterpretation of information.
  • Avoid traps: don’t be guilty of the fundamental attribution error: placing emphasis on internal characteristics of the individual, rather than external factors, in explaining their behavior. If someone is not pulling their weight, don’t assume they are lazy…inquire about their struggle with the work, and how the team as a whole can help.

Every group’s dynamic is different by nature, but there are many ways to align individuals to achieve a common goal. Take a positive approach to group assignments, communicate clearly, and actively look for resources (online for example) to help deal with obstacles you  may be facing with your team.

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