Group work. For some people there’s nothing better. For others, even the mention of group work makes you want to crawl under your desk and hide.
Even people who love group work will change their mind when one of the team members starts slacking off. So what do you do when one of your teammates isn’t pulling their own weight? Here are some pro tips for resolving the situation.
1. Talk to the “Slacker”
This is a no-brainer but really hard to do at the same time. Sometimes a group member just doesn’t realize they aren’t carrying their weight. Maybe you’re more committed to or interested in the project. Maybe they don’t realize how much everyone else is doing. If there’s even a remote possibility that one of these things is true, you owe it to yourself, your group and the “slacker” to have a conversation.
Keep it short and to the point. Tell the “slacker” that the rest of the group is doing a lot of work and you’d all like to see them put in more effort. Don’t be too judgmental, just be clear about everyone’s responsibilities. A lot of times this conversation will work. Either the “slacker” didn’t realize they were falling down and will step up their game, or they’ll be a little embarrassed that they got called out.
2. Talk to Your Teacher
We don’t mean run “tattling” to your teacher about it. Talking to your teacher, just like talking to your boss, is the responsible way of dealing with a situation that you haven’t been able to resolve yourself. Make it clear that this isn’t a personal problem and that the rest of the group also feels a little let down. Tell your teacher that you’ve spoken with the “slacker” and that things haven’t changed.
This conversation could go a few ways. There are some teachers who will take the attitude that this is a problem that you’ll have to deal with on your own. Some teachers will intervene, either talking to the “slacker,” reassigning them or maybe just taking it into consideration when it comes time for grading.
3. Decide What’s Important
For some students the idea of failure is devastating. If that’s you, you have to think about what will happen if the “slacker” doesn’t come through. Do you need a plan b? Should you divvy up his or her work among the rest of the group? Or is it time to draw a line in the sand and say “if you don’t do it, we’re not going to.” There comes a time when everyone has to decide whether it’s more important to succeed in the moment or make a point.
Whatever you decide you can be sure that you’ll face the situation again, whether in school or in your job. Sometimes people just have different ideas about what contributing their fair share means and sometimes people just aren’t considerate enough to pull their own weight. We know you’ve heard it a million times, but unfortunately life isn’t fair. It’s what you make of it. Whenever you’re put in this situation take a moment to consider all your options. When you choose an action think about the consequences and what you ultimately get out of the situation. It’s not on you to turn a slacker into an over-achiever, so don’t let it get you down if you can’t make a group work project completely equitable. Just do your best and try to talk it out!