Being tasked with working in a group project sometimes seems like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. 

Group projects. Love them or hate them, they are an unavoidable part of your study experience. Being tasked with working in a group project sometimes seems like a dark form of cruel and unusual punishment. You’re chucked in the deep end, usually with a bunch of people you hardly know, and you’re expected to deliver something with ‘wow factor.’

We hate to be the ones to break it you, but group projects are closer to how most workplaces operate than individual assignments are. They are designed to teach you to deal with different personality types, collaborate, and work towards a common goal.

Here are a few of the personalities you are likely to encounter in a group project situation, and how to deal with them.

The Project Manager

The Project Manager is the person with a contact list of everyone’s phone number, class schedule, and work timetable saved on their iPad so they can ‘facilitate adequate project working group resourcing.’ They organise all your meetings, set an agenda, take minutes, and somehow manage to delegate everyone’s tasks. Their first job is usually to set up a dedicated project Facebook group so they can ‘stay across everyone’s milestones.’

Uh oh… am I a Project Manager?

Every group needs someone to take charge of ensuring all the work is done on time, but make a real effort to not micro manage. It’s important that everyone gets a chance to contribute to the team, so make sure everyone’s voice is heard. No one wants to feel like they’re working for a fascist dictator. Having doubts? If someone mumbles the words “Who died and made you queen of the universe?” you might want to step back a bit.

How to handle the Project Manager.

You know what? If someone wants to be in charge of coordinating everyone’s work, that’s just one less task you have to worry about. If you feel like the PM is getting a bit too big for their boots and is steamrolling other group members' ideas, just remind them that while you appreciate their dedication and commitment, a group project is a space for everyone to contribute equally.

The Ghost

You’ve checked with your teacher three times that yes, this group member actually exists, although she can’t quite recall who he is. Is he the guy who always wears a beanie, even in the middle of summer? If your first group meeting took place in class, the Ghost probably sat a little out of the circle, had their head buried in their phone, and didn’t make a peep. You haven’t seen them since.

Umm… I might be a Ghost.

Don’t be that guy! Being a Ghost isn’t going to win you any friends, and it definitely won’t win you any marks. Not everyone thrives in a collaborative environment, but in the real world you don’t get to decide which projects you contribute to and which ones you don’t. That’s why it’s called ‘work’ and not ‘awesome fun time with friends.’ Pull your socks up, respond to those emails, and contribute.

How to handle the Ghost.

The key to winning over the Ghost is to engage them early. Sometimes Ghosts feel invisible, sometimes they’re scared of looking silly, and sometimes they’re just shy. If you are facing a resistant Ghost, remember that you are not responsible for their success. Chat to your teacher about your concerns so she knows you’re doing your best to find solutions. In really hard cases, it might be best to cut your losses and ask that the Ghost be removed from your group.

The Yes Man / Ma’am

Otherwise known as the ‘over compensator’ the Yes Man readily agrees to do the extra bits and pieces of work that other team members have tapped out of. This usually means that the Yes Man ends up taking on too much work while letting their teammates off the hook. The Yes Man is often the person who ends up completing the Ghost’s share of the work, and the Project Manager lets it happen, because they just want the job done. The Yes Man is a certified people pleaser, and this means others can take advantage of their good nature.

That’s totally me.

Ok. We get it. You’re a big team player and you want everyone to succeed. It’s important to remember that the whole aim of a group project is for people to work together and share the load. You know your limits, and you know how easy it is to burn out when you’re trying to make everyone happy. Take care of yourself by diplomatically saying no if your teammates are trying to grab an early weekend by giving you the lion’s share of the workload.

How to handle the Yes Man.

The Yes Man may seem keen to do everyone’s work for them, but this is just him trying to keep the peace and make everyone happy. Ensure the workload is distributed evenly and no one feels like they’ve been given a raw deal. The Yes Man may say he’s okay with finishing off your graphs, but inside he wishes you would just do your own job.

The Socialiser

Often the bane of the Project Manager, the Socialiser sees all project meetings as a time to catch up on goss, take selfies, and generally take the meeting off track to more interesting topics. They like to meet up in locations that offer boundless distractions, and usually suggest that a few beers lubricate the brain and help the ideas flow.

Woops. Guilty as charged.

Socialiser, thy name is Distraction. It’s great that you consider your team members your new besties, but try to limit the super fun times to after hours. Keep in mind that the quickest way to get yourself to the beach with your friends is to get the work done and dusted first. Everyone loves your friendly nature, but people could start to resent your lack of attention to the subject at hand.

How to handle the Socialiser.

For the Socialiser, connecting with people is everything. Let them spend a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting getting all their good feels, them redirect their attention to the project work. Lines such as “Let’s get down to business. If we go hard for an hour, we should have plenty of time for an acai smoothie bowl together afterwards,” will be like the Promised Land to your group Socialiser.

The Negatron

Sometimes it feels like the Negatron’s only contribution is doom and gloom. Negatron always sees the downside to everything. Common phrases are; “This project is ridic,” “I don’t see why we have to do this anyway,” and “that’s not going to work.” The Negatron is the anti-Christ to the Socialiser, and a silver bullet to the Yes Man. He brings everyone down.

I’m not negative, just realistic.

Sorry buddy, we’re calling it. You may think you are being pragmatic, but your comments contribute nothing to the team unless you’re backing them up with solutions. Every time you feel like telling your team the many reasons everything sucks, ask yourself if you’re voicing a problem or a solution. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with others if you have an alternative point of view, but criticism for the sake of it just makes you unpleasant to be around.

How to handle to Negatron.

The Negatron’s darkness runs deep. Becoming the oracle of all bad news doesn’t happen overnight, so you have your work cut out for you. Getting to the root of the Negatron’s problem is the key to shining some sunshine wherever they’re throwing shade. When a Negatron comment is served, ask for an explanation and a solution. “Negatron, I’m hearing that you think this is a stupid. If you have a better solution, we are open to suggested improvements.” If nothing useful is forthcoming, you have our permission to throw glitter on them.

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