How to Deal with Bad Project Partners

We’ve all dealt with bad partners for group projects. There’s the partner that writes horribly, doesn't do any work, is way too controlling, or tries but has no idea what’s going on. We rant to our friends or complain to our professors about these bad group project partners. At times we might even roast them on group evaluations at the end of the project, but we rarely confront the person causing the problem. If you’re in a group with multiple people, it can be helpful to name a team leader. That way, everyone will know who’s in charge, other members won’t be annoyed about someone taking control, and the leader won’t feel pushy requesting things from the other members. However, this doesn’t mean that all responsibilities fall on the leader; everyone still has to contribute. The leader will be the designated person to keep the project on schedule, reach out to members about their contributions, and contact the professor with any questions.

If you’ve established expectations and a member still isn’t holding up their end, it’s time for the confrontation. Confrontation is uncomfortable for many people, yet it’s a valuable skill to learn. When people think of confrontation, they often think of being pushy and aggressive, but there are very respectful and casual ways to confront people. For example, if a group member has been missing-in-action, you could say, “I’ve noticed you haven’t made it to the last couple group meetings. I totally understand we all have things going on, so I just wanted to check in and see if everything is going okay and how you’re feeling about this project.”

You can reach out to people in polite, understanding ways because you truly do never know what’s going on in their lives. This will work most of the time and give people the push they need. However, some people don’t care at all about group projects, and that can be trickier. If you’ve reached out to someone a couple times with no success, then that’s a good time to get the professor or another superior involved.

It can be easier to just let the professor deal with it from the start, but learning how to deal with this issue yourself will serve you well in life. Giving a group member the opportunity to explain themselves establishes respect between the two of you. You won’t be perceived as a tattletale if you’ve given someone a chance before you involve a superior. Also, having bad work partners isn’t an issue that will go away after school. You’ll come in contact with difficult people throughout your career, and learning how to handle that is an important skill. Also, remember that a story about a bad group project turned successful by your problem solving makes a great story for interviews. Employers like to see that you can problem solve on your own.


At the end of the day, you’re paying a lot of money to go to college, and you want to do well in your classes. If someone is keeping you from doing that work, never be afraid to take action to make the project successful.


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