Working in groups: The good, the bad and the ugly
Group work is an element which is unavoidable both when it comes to studying at CBS, and when you find yourself out there in the real world. Being a first year student myself, I have noticed that some first year students at CBS seem to be struggling with adapting when having to work in groups with new and very different people. But even if you are not a first year student, one thing which is obvious is that group work, without a doubt, can be both wonderfully productive and completely frustrating. As you know, you are not always able to choose the team you are going to work with, and when these assigned teams turn out less fortunate, it is a good idea to cope with this professionally – this meaning staying positive and constructive even though you sometimes feel more like screaming and deserting the project.
In this article I will attempt to give you some ideas concerning how to look at group work, and here I am thinking of the good, the bad as well as the really ugly aspects of working in groups.
Group work can be great if the group you are in
consists of people who understand you and who you naturally work well with. When doing group work you should use to your advantage that people in your group often are different from you. When different people work together it equals different skills, different strengths, different weaknesses and different ways of viewing things. Group work can be an amazing opportunity to learn to see things from different angles than you are used to. Concerning time management, you should remember that in a group you can depend on others and, consequently, you do not have to do everything yourself. This that you can get things done much faster. Then there is the practical stuff – for instance, group work provides you with assets you could not have had if you had done the work on your own. Here I of course am thinking of the great apartment which one of your group members may own and kindly offer when choosing a location for your group work. Working with other people definitely has its perks and these perks can also basically be the fact that you have some people to grab a beer with at Nexus when you need a break from your project.
Group work can also be less wonderful. Not all people dream of working with other people, because sometimes having to compromise and work with other people’s ideas can be really hard. The possibility for you to “shine” on your own is definitely minimized when working in groups and this can be handled in different ways. Some people choose to try to maintain their own way of doing things by
taking on the role as the leader of the group. Not all groups are ready for strong leaders, especially if the group you are in has several people who wish to lead. Though it should be mentioned that for some groups, definitely not all, having a leader is a way of survival. For instance, most people have tried sitting in a group where nothing gets done because no one is brave enough to take the lead and this is definitely not ideal. Another bad element of groups is eventual disagreements among the members. People do not always agree on everything and possible arguments should try to be handled professionally, because screaming at each other, obviously, is not acceptable in most cultures. So when dealing with disagreements it is important to accept that people are different, and even though you may not understand the different point of view you are faced with, you should still try to respect it.
The Ugly….and strategies for beautifying it
Sometimes disagreements simply cannot be resolved no matter how hard you try. Most people have experienced disagreements which have turned ugly and most people, therefore, know that as soon as you notice that your group work is heading in this ugly direction, you should dedicate a lot of attention
to avoiding it, as these types of disagreements are neither productive nor pleasant. The first step of dealing with ugly group work is accepting your situation; it is no use to ignore the fact that the group is not working, so realize that the situation is as it is and try to face it. You could arrange an emergency meeting with the group and try to talk things through – confronting the group member who is playing a part in the disagreement in a mature way is definitely better than being frustrated about it on your own or behind this group member’s back. If the confrontation does not help, try to work around the problem. One or a few people should not have the power to destroy a whole project – this would be way too stupid. A way of working around the problem is keeping things at a very professional level, for instance, by focusing on doing your project instead of mixing the group work with more personal things. Conversations like “what did you do last weekend?” are not really that relevant when there is tension in the group already. Group members can’t always be both your friends and your “colleagues”.
This was just a few thoughts concerning group work; something which can be complicated and therefore handled in many different ways. What is your go-to way of handling both good, bad or ugly group work?
Feel free to leave a comment below and help other struggling students!