How to Deal With Difficult Group Project Members


We’ve all experienced the pain of being stuck with difficult group members, and if you’re watching this video I’m guessing you know exactly what I mean. Let’s go over the different species we’re dealing with. ‘Self-Appointed Bosses’ are the most difficult of them all. They love telling others what to do without doing much themselves. Team members with ‘Bad Vibes’ are the biggest downers. They always shoot down your ideas without coming up with any solutions of their own. ‘Deadweights’ are just here for the free ride. They’ll skip meetings without any notice and when you try to track them down, they’ll ghost you like a Tinder date. ‘Procrastinators’ are capable of great work, but man, they’re the reason that you’re up at 11:58 p.m. praying that your assignment gets submitted on time. During meetings, ‘Ramblers’ will go on and on about what they ate for lunch, what they did a band camp, and what their favourite bubble tea is. Basically, everything except the group project. Then there’s the poor souls who are ‘Always Confused’. Even when they try to do their best, they can’t deliver good work. Now that we’ve covered the different types of difficult team members, let’s talk about ways to deal with them. Before you start tackling your project, I recommend having a casual hangout with your team members first. You may be tempted to skip this step, but it really helps build mutual trust and respect within the team. Once you’re ready to get down to business, create a group contract. The contract outlines things like ground rules, response time and expectations. Additionally, you may want to set up an ongoing meeting time and include that in the contract. This way everyone can plan their schedules around it, so there’s no excuse not to attend. You can also take turns bringing snacks to team meetings. It can really help boost attendance, reduce tardiness, and just make the experience better overall. It really makes a difference when you divide tasks based on everyone’s strengths and interests. For example, someone who’s great at design can make a sleek PowerPoint, while someone who is a great writer can edit the report. Make sure to delegate the most important part to someone who’s reliable. Maybe not the procrastinator. Since group projects can be a long and gruelling process, I found it helpful to set mini milestones and rewards along the way. This keeps everyone motivated and on track. In the past, there were times where I took on too much in a group project and over-contributed, which caused others to contribute less. Since then I’ve learned to give others space to contribute, just to have everyone more included. Another thing that I found helpful is to have mini group meetings to accomplish specific tasks. If two people are working on the same part, they can meet up separately to get things done more efficiently. This strategy can help get more out of every group member. If there is dysfunction, you need to be prepared to address it. Throughout the whole project you should document all communications on contributions from each group member. You can assign everyone a colour so it’s clear who wrote what and who contributed. Once you’ve identified a problem member, ask yourself whether there are factors within the group that are causing the team member not to deliver. This gives you a chance to resolve the root of the problem before you start pointing fingers. Try using ‘we language’ and speak to the issue, not the person. Lastly, if you need to, there’s no shame in talking to your professor. This is where it’s handy to have documentation to back you up. It really does get better with time and if you ever feel frustrated, just know that you are not alone. And if you need to vent about a group member, feel free to do it in the comment section below. Good luck with your future projects!

12 thoughts on “How to Deal With Difficult Group Project Members

  1. One of my teammates, no matter how much I tell them to, never does their part! They always respond to my messages and agree to carry out the task but they never do and instead, procrastinate until the last minute to do so… The worst part is, they're my friend ;-;

  2. Some great ideas presented, I will be sure to incorporate in my Graduate level group projects. Thank you!

  3. I was always put together with the 'negative vibes' ones.
    I'd work and work, and sometimes they'd literally tear down my work (just rip cuecards in half or destroy crafted items) and then sit back, sigh and hit their bottle on the table, while screaming; 'You are useless.'
    Then they'd tell the classmates that I was dead weight and only came up with useless stuff that was holding their progress back.
    This happened several times, because the teacher was somehow determined to make this work.
    In the end, nobody in my class was willing to work with me anymore, because "they'd heard I was an awful bitch that never helped the group' and since (for some unknown damned reason) the class could vote and decide half of your grade during presentations, I barely made it through those moments.
    My teacher was 2 years younger than me (20) and unable to keep controll of the class, sometimes the class would get violent and a physical fight would start, it was awful.

  4. In my french class we have to complete an oral presentation with one other student in class. The student i paired up with was a guy who I thought was quiet but smart. Turns out he's a self appointed leader with a negative vibe. For our oral presentation, we've started by writing it down on paper, and the boy (without a beat) turns down everything I say. Even to pick a topic, I sent him a list of suggestions, and he turns down every one and suggests nothing. I'm talking even about transition words…. And the worst part is that he spell-checks my grammar (yes including accents) on a paper that we're not turning in… because… its an oral presentation. I'm not saying I'm great at french, heck I'm not even that good, but I do try my best, and I'm in this class to improve my skills, but I feel like I can't write anything down. Thanks for letting me vent. Our oral presentation is tomorrow, wish me luck.

  5. we had to make a slide show they said they would do some slides so i had less to do, i finished my portion and did my own thing. later that night jumped on my computer AND NONE OF IT WAS DONE so now i'm doing 4 more slides then i was assigned to at midnight. THIS IS WHY I HATE GROUP PROJECTS

  6. Nothing spells terror more than when literally all of your team members wait till the last minute to do their parts and they don't answer your text messages

  7. Here I am 1am still doing the group project on my own because my friends let me down again ;-;

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