As a college student, one thing you’ll never be able to get away from is an annoying classmate. Every semester I can guarantee that you’ll have at least one person who is skilled at consistently getting on your nerves, directly or indirectly.
What makes life even worse is when you have a group assignment and you just happen to have that person in your group. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have ended up doing a group project with people who just grind my gears because they don’t do their part! However, I never let my emotions stop me from achieving the ultimate goal—which is getting an A on all my assignments. In order to do so, I have had to become passive in some situations, and aggressive in others. There are times times I have even had to “check” my group members, so that the level of respect in the group stayed comfortably balanced. The fact remains that no matter what class I am enrolled in, I have always encountered at least one student who irritated me to the core while working with them, so I devised a plan to help me through each semester I end up in this situation. I know you may be wondering, “What is this plan that Cherishe is talking about? What gems is she about to drop? I have been waiting for an annoying-classmate strategy forever!”
Well, as the innovators of the “Tootsee Roll dance” named their 1998 album, “The Wait is Over,” because in this blog post, I will share with you my nine-step plan that helps me get through each semester, and successfully complete each group project, regardless of who I am working with.
The nine steps are as follows:
- Step 1: Pay attention to your group members’ work habits, and figure out the characteristics of each one. What I mean by this is be aware of what’s going on in your group, and what kind of people you are working with. If a group member is obnoxious from the beginning, then note that. If you have a group member who likes to steal other people’s ideas, watch out for them so you can protect yourself and your work. Pay attention to the signs around you; people will show you who they are, and you need to pay attention to the signs.
- Step 2: Be prepared to do more work than what was originally delegated by the professor or the group leader if the situation arises. Group work can be the worst sometimes because there is usually one person who goes “missing” and conveniently ignores all efforts of correspondence from the group. When this begins to happen, you have three choices:
- 1) Check with the person and
- 2) Get the professor involved.
- 3) Buckle down and just do the work yourself.
*Reminder: Some people just aren’t reliable and if they decide that they don’t want to do their work, you may have to take it upon yourself to complete their part as well. Just make sure you let the professor know who should be credited for completing this section of the assignment.*
- Step 3: Get everyone’s contact information, and keep your conversations with each group member saved until the end of the semester. As my father would say, “Make sure you get things in writing, and always save your receipts.” Text messages can be a saving grace for students who are having difficulties in their group. Save your messages as proof, just in case one of your group members accuses you of saying or doing something you didn’t do. That way you have evidence that you can use to hold them accountable, and also to defend yourself if it comes to that.
- Step 4: Stay on top of your work and make sure your group members are doing what they need to be doing. If you have to, assume the role of the group leader; then, you have a reason to hound everyone about their progress on their individual parts.
- Step 5: If at any time during the process of working with someone you feel disrespected, consider communicating this to them immediately. Don’t let anyone’s insolence slide, because once you let one thing slide, there’s the chance people will start ice skating all over you. Handle any issues that you have with your group members in a professional manner, and make sure you say what’s on your mind. If you don’t, tensions can build and the group meetings will not be a conducive working environment, which is the last thing you want if you’re striving for success together.
- Step 6: Do your best to a bond with your group. If it doesn’t seem likely that you all will get along, at least connect with one group member. That group member will become your partner in crime and you both will serve as each other’s support system. This group member can become more of a friend, and someone who you will work with in the long run. Remember, group work can be difficult a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this assignment as an opportunity to network, and possibly make a connection with someone that could be beneficial in your future pursuits.
- Step 7: Make sure that you consistently communicate with your professor about what’s going on in the group. If your group members are slacking and pulling the group down with them, let the professor know. This is not the time to “take one for the team”; rather you should look out for your team by discussing with your professor what is happening in your group. In doing so you are preventing one person’s insolence from jeopardizing the groups final grade. This is also your chance to make that person aware of what the group needs from them moving forward, in an effort to see change.
- Step 8: Don’t let other people take credit for your work! When the day comes to present group assignments, here comes that one person who didn’t contribute but is prepared to put on a show and act like they contributed to the group work. You should respectfully talk to the person who didn’t contribute to the group project, and let them know that they shouldn’t present on work they didn’t do. If they are an individual with a nasty disposition, then I would say, again, you should get the professor involved. The last thing you want to happen is a full-out argument; that doesn’t look good on anyone’s part.
- Step 9: After you present and get your passing grade, celebrate your victory. Reward yourself with great food from your favorite restaurant. A few semesters ago, my group members and I went to Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar, which is right up the block from the school on Adams Street. Their guacamole is amazing! You don’t have to go there specifically, but make sure you celebrate. You deserve to be rewarded for all of your hard work, and a victory dinner is always a perfect idea.
Now that I have shared my nine steps to dealing with difficult classmates, put them to the test. The next time that you have to complete a group project, adopt some of the steps I mentioned above to the strategies you use to complete group work. As time progresses, keep me posted and let me know what you observed and how the steps did or didn’t help improve the situation you are currently dealing with. Does my strategy work for you? Positive and negative feedback are both welcome!