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Dear SLN: What Should I Do If My Group Members Suck?

Written by Chris D’Alessandro

Illustration by Jared Kinsella 

Working with bad group members can be a little like Survivor.

Dear SLN is an advice column for students who are a looking for no bullshit answers to tough questions. If you have a question, hit us up on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Snapchat with #DearSLN

This week’s question comes from Jessi on Facebook.

“What should I do if my group partners are not contributing?”

Chris D’Alessandro, SLN’s Communications Manger and Managing Editor, worked on many a group project during his days in both business and film school. He replies:

Hey Jessi,

I can’t speak to other programs, but if you’re a business student, you’ll probably run into this problem at least once. When I was a marketing student, it was practically assumed you’d get stuck with at least one group member who wouldn’t pull their weight.

A lot of people might tell you that you should talk to your group members first. Which, sure, that’s an option.

If it’s still very early on in the process, your group members may just need some clarification on their responsibilities. But if the issue is clearly deeper than that, then you need to take action.

I get it. Nobody likes to cause problems amongst their peers.

But at the end of the day, you’ve got a deadline and a job to do. The real world doesn’t wait for slackers and you should take initiative to salvage your grade and your reputation with your profs and .
Your classmates, especially the ones who slack off and leave you hanging, will only ever just be your classmates. Focus on the big picture; getting after graduation job.

To do that, you’ll want to have a good reputation with your professors and fellow classmates who do work hard.

1. Talk to your prof.

Voice your concerns early. Don’t wait for the project to hit its deadline before you bring up the issue, otherwise it’ll feel like a cop out. Get ahead of the problem and let your prof know that you have concerns about your group members’ work ethic.

Your prof may choose to grade your sections of the project separately, or give you an alternative, solo project to make up your grade.

If you want to go the extra mile (and you should), come prepared with proposed projects that you can work on and complete without the the aide of your group members.

2. Find other classmates who are having a similar problem.

The best way to prevent this from happening again is to form relationships with classmates you know you can rely on to get shit done.

How do you find those classmates?

Ask around and see who else might be frustrated with their group. If they also feel like group members aren’t pulling their weight, then you’ve found a kindred spirit in someone who won’t slack off.

Depending on your program, it may be difficult to always pair with the same people on every project. But you’ll get better at spotting who the right people to work with are. In some cases, their reputation for high standards may proceed them. And yours will do the same.

Like minds attract.

3. Make use of peer reviews.

When group projects come to an end, and it’s time to review your peers, do so honestly.

I know. I’m probably coming off as having a bit of “survival of the fittest” attitude at this point.

But the truth is that problems don’t get fixed unless you address them head on.

Maybe a poor peer review will be just the wake up call that someone needs. And if it’s not, maybe you’ll save other hardworking students from having to suffer your former slacker group members in the future.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.