5 Problems You May Face When Working in a Group

by Grace Dickins

During your educational career teachers will sometimes assign brief work tasks or longer projects to be completed by a group. Working as part of a group can have challenges, but with a plan and perseverance you should be able to benefits from and complete successfully a group project.

Ignition Problems

Simply beginning the project may prove troublesome. Group members are getting to know each other and are unsure how to manage the planning and workflow. Sometimes group members are well acquainted and find that familiarity causing its own problems, whether because of off task chatter or other behaviors or previous conflicts.

Solving this problem is as simple as gently redirecting the group to the project's core. Read the assignment out loud and suggest a planning session reconvene to determine what steps are needed next. Make sure everyone is heard and assigned a task.

Avoiding Tangents

Sometimes when things seem to be going well because the group is having fun the discussion can veer away from the tasks at hand, wasting time and confusing the group's purpose. Using time productively is important in a group project as it may be hard to schedule the time together and participants may grow weary of tangents or anxious because little progress is being made.

A good way to avoid going off topic is to develop an agenda for each meeting, perhaps assigning time frames for each step. Using a white board and checking off tasks as they are completed is a good strategy to keep things moving. Assign a chairperson or time monitor to stay on track and rotate those assignments with each meeting.

Reining In Renegades

Some members of the group may take on big chunks or even all of the project on without consulting or involving others. This may be a personality quirk or a reaction to a real or perceived lack of progress by the group. As the project by its nature needs involvement by all participants this is not a desired outcome.

Convene the entire group and talk these issues out immediately. Figure out ways to use the drive and commitment of the soloing member to best advantage while returning to the group model. Consider allowing this person to team with one or two others to complete a section while other task are assigned to additional participants. Avoid the temptation to let one person complete all or most of the project as an easy way out as the teacher will likely not be pleased.

Nip Inertia

Be honest and determine if the renegade described above is merely reacting to a lack of resolve among group members. Respect the time constraints of all members of the group and make sure reasonable deadlines are assigned and enforced to make sure the project shapes up and is completed on time.

Communicate regularly face to face or through texts, emails or other electronic methods. Use collaborative online documents to be able to track everyone's contributions and progress.

Conflict Management

Setting differences that interfere with the success of the task aside when working with others on a project is essential.. Allowing irritations or previous conflicts to derail a group project is petty and unprofessional. If you notice at the beginning of a project that some participants are acting in a hostile manner with each other as a group tackle the conflict before everyone's grade suffers.

Some ways to manage intragroup conflict include a non-judgmental redirection to the purpose of the project, using the time management tips covered above. If a couple of participants really clash, assign them to different parts of the final result and team each with a partner who can keep in touch with the rest of the group. Allow everyone to have a say about the project and then codify group agreement before moving on.

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