How to Manage Group Projects

Group projects sound fun and all because you can work with others, work is divided up evenly, and everyone always seems to get along, right? No. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Group projects can be more stressful than independent projects because usually you don’t have the “perfect” group. There is always some sort of issue: whether two people don’t agree on something, or if there is a type A bossy B****, or if there is a hardcore slacker. All of these are reasons why I personally do not like them; however, there is no way of avoiding them, especially in college. Over the years, I have gathered a couple tips on how to manage a group project and I hope these tips help you avoid pulling your hair out or having steam stream through your ears!

1. How to deal with the slacker

What I have realized with the people who don’t pull their weight is that you can’t change them. There is always a person in a group project that relies on the others to make sure the assignment gets done and feels as though they don’t have to work as hard. These people to me are the most frustrating to work with because you don’t know how to nudge them and get them to do work but also you don’t want them to half-ass the assignment. With these people I am always stuck between pushing them to do the work or helping them do their part in addition to mine, to make sure it is done correctly and well. I always go back and forth because I don’t want them getting a free ride but also I don’t want them jeopardizing the group grade if they do not care. What I end up doing is asking them if they need help on their part and that I would be happy to help. Typically a slacker would take you up on this, but just be specific with what you would help them with so they know you won’t do their whole part for them, but that you will help guide them. Also, if they aren't doing their part you can nicely text them or email them just saying, “Hey! Wanted to check in to see how your part is going and if you need help?” This reminds them that they have a part to be completed but it is a friendly reminder. Getting frustrated with your group members doesn’t help the situation because if you address the problem in a negative way then it will only delay your project’s progress.

2. How to deal with the Type A group member

In addition to there always being a slacker in a group project, there is always a bossy member who likes to tell people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I am all about organization and I myself like to allocate different parts of the project to different people, but I find the Type A people to be annoying when it’s their way or the highway. They don’t like to listen to other people’s idea and they take over the project and the most important parts for themselves. Therefore, my biggest tip is to speak up if you don’t like a part of the project or how it looks; don’t be afraid to share your thoughts. Group projects are meant to be collaborative and it’s not fair if one person thinks their ideas or work is better than yours. At the beginning of each project I would recommend splitting the work of the project up evenly. It can be hard depending on the project but if the work is somewhat even then it avoids one person doing it all. Make it a point for each person to know what they are in charge of before you start working. Planning for a project is crucial to its success.

3.  Communication is key

Going along with planning being crucial to a successful project, so is communication. No project will be completed well if communication is not present. A presentation especially will fail if there is no communication because then there would be an overlap in information or it wouldn’t seem fluid. I recommend getting with your group and exchanging phone numbers and emails. I recommend sharing both sets of information so just in case someone doesn’t regularly check one, there is another mean of communication as well so they don’t have the excuse, “Oh I didn't know I had to do that part!” Also, when working on your project make sure you are avidly checking your group chats or emails so you don’t miss an important message.

4.  Set up many different meeting times

I recommend setting up many times to meet up when you’re working on your project. It is important to run through your presentation a couple of times before it’s presented or run through your project as well. The more sets of eyes on a poster board or paper, the better to catch for errors or repetitive information. For presentations, you want to make sure each member is well-versed in his or her part but also knows the general facts and information about other people's as well. Sitting down and meeting with your group is very important so everyone knows what is going on.

5. Realize the project will get done!

One of the biggest stresses for me and group projects is that the project won’t get done, especially if someone isn’t pulling their weight. It can be stressful to have the different parts of the project in different people’s hands, but you need to trust them. If one person is a night owl and completes all the work last minute, although annoying, the work will get done. In college, most kids are responsible and won’t let a project just fail so realize even if someone doesn’t complete their part when YOU want them too, they will do it on their own time and just trust that they will get it done. In addition, if you think your group needs more time to complete the assignment, make sure you start it earlier and don’t cram it in. A lot of college projects are assigned weeks in advance because they take time. So, to avoid the stress of whether it will get done, set a schedule and checkpoints throughout when the project was assigned and when it is due, to keep all the members of the group accountable.

Group projects can be a pain in the butt but just remember that they are only temporary and I hope these tips will help you get through the agony!