What to do when you’re stuck with a lazy group? I’m with two guys and we still haven’t chosen a topic. We have to present in two weeks. Nobody replies to my messages and both left after class this week. I just wanted to choose a topic and leave!!!! So I booked a study room today and they all made excuses. Ugh. I’m gonna be the one who’s doing all the work. This is worth 40% of our grade. Same as the exam. FML
Hi there, thank you for asking, as this is a super common problem in high school, university and the workplace! I’ve never seen this question answered in depth on studyblr, so I’ll give it a go!
NB. It depends on your personality as to the approach you want to take, so let everyone who’s reading this not pass judgement upon others in such a situation~ Remember in all of this to be polite, understanding and gracious no matter how much you want to flip tables. The following 5 Options go in order of how many bridges you want to burn :’)
Option 0. Wait for a bit longer and try communicating with them again.
I have seen a similar question asked once on tumblr where the studyblr blogger answered “two weeks is plenty of time, you’re probably over-reacting”… Obviously, I’m not going to trivialise your answer by giving you just one option like that - I frankly thought that studyblr was quite rude for answering so shortly to someone who took the time to ask them a question.
How to do it: The way you communicate with them now might not be effective, so make sure that you’re ticking off the following boxes if you choose this option, rather than just letting nothing change: meeting face to face, setting mini-deadlines for each part instead of just allocating once at the beginning, and make sure each member knows what and when they have to complete something.
This option is best suited for people who:
- really don’t want to create a commotion and would rather wait a little longer and reduce the time available for them to do the project,
- or people who would answer ‘Strongly Disagree’ to “Being organized is more important to you than being adaptable“ and “In a discussion, truth should be more important than people’s sensitivities.” in a personality quiz (a strong prognostic factor for Option 1 tbh),
- or people who know they can tackle everything in less than 1 week,
- or people who just realised/kind of know they’re actually overreacting,
- or have just realised whilst reading this that maybe they didn’t actually try contacting the other group members all that well (i.e. don’t have enough evidence for Option 3).
- Nobody gets angry at anyone, and it doesn’t reflect badly on you either (because no one finds out if you don’t say anything - people tend to be judgemental if you pick one of the three options below).
- Less stressful for some people than confrontation.
- You might get eventual cooperation.
- You might not get eventual cooperation, and end up being stuck with all the work anyway (hence resulting in options below).
- More stressful for other people as you feel time is ticking away and nothing is changing.
- The time you spend waiting for the others will result in less time for you to tackle all the actual work.
Pro-tip: doing as much individual work as possible sometimes will egg those team members to finally start pulling their weight, or can help you with Option 3 if you do end up going for it.
Option 1. You make all the decisions and do all the work.
Best suited for people who: are academically gifted, like doing work independently, have excellent time management skills.
- You can ensure the quality of the work will be excellent.
- You get to choose what topic to do and direct the overall project turnout.
- No one hates you for anything, but NB. your friends and family relationships that suffer as a result of the time you have to sacrifice might not have anything pleasant to say about it all.
- You need an extraordinary amount of time.
- The other people in the group get a free ride and in nastier words, some would say you get taken advantage of for your goodwill.
- Lack of group opinion may make the quality of your work suffer.
- Other subjects you’re taking may suffer.
Option 2. Badger the other group members until they do some work.
Best suited for people who: don’t want to be stuck with Option 1, but don’t want to escalate to Option 3. Give them an ultimatum about the work, or just decide the topic by yourself if they don’t step up.
- Very similar to Option 0 in that you wait a bit longer before taking drastic action, so you might get eventual cooperation, and you don’t bother your professor.
- You stress yourself out badgering other people.
- Other group members get annoyed at you, and your classmates that happen to watch you badgering have a not-so-great impression of you.
Option 3. Document a significant amount of evidence that shows your effort to get them to contribute and contact the professor about it.
Best suited for people who: would like to do things independently but just cannot afford the time because of other commitments.
- Professor can step in and (hopefully) offer some sort of alternative solution.
- Your other subjects won’t suffer.
- Sometimes you have a really great professor and they end up taking into account that you’ve done the project by yourself and mark super nicely/give a bonus mark, or even penalise the other students.
- Professor may snuff you and say “the purpose of this project is also to learn about team cooperation”. Had a prof before who told us straight up at the beginning of the project that “you work it out, not me”
- Professor may help you out, but in a way that doesn’t really end up helping e.g. he just emails the two members of your group to tell them to start working once and that’s it.
- Other group members hate you for life (and I know this bothers some people enough not to go through with it, again pls remember no judgement fellow readers)
How to do it: Email should be along the lines of the following:
Dear Professor _______,
I am a current student undertaking [course code]. I am sorry to contact you in unfortunate circumstances, but I have been having severe difficulty convening with the other members for the remainder of the _____ project. While I am aware that group projects have a dual purpose to both educate us on the academic topic as well as to improve our cooperation and communication skills, I have tried [insert whatever means you attempted to contact them by, attaching evidence is up to you]. I have already completed the intro/background research/other individual task, however I cannot complete the ______ by myself/without group input.
I would appreciate any guidance you could offer/I would greatly appreciate your help/If it is possible, could you please [insert action depending on how desperate you are - don’t ask for anything unreasonable!]?
I apologise for having to inconvenience you, and thank you for your understanding on the matter.
[Name and student number]
Option 4. You do all the work and then leave their names off the work.
Best suited for people who: work independently, don’t mind burning a few bridges. I won’t actually recommend this option, but I’ve seen this happen in real life.
- Sense of self-satisfaction for some people when the lazy members don’t get a free ride.
- Again, you make sure the project quality is exactly what you want.
- Similar to Option 1 minus the free ride bit.
- Not only do the other group members hate you, but their friends in your cohort will too. At least in Option 3, those guys can’t try and gossip behind your backs because whoever they tell will realise that they didn’t do the right thing either.
- Do this at your own risk, as it can backfire depending on the professor - if anyone’s watched Cheese in the Trap - the main character does all the work but the professor managed to suss out that the other group members didn’t do anything, and as a result penalised her with a D grade for failing to make it “group” work despite the fact she would’ve gotten an A. Some profs are really… they just don’t see it your way :/
Hopefully things don’t have to escalate to Option 4, but whatever you choose to take, I’ll wish you the best! I’ve given quite detailed instructions and written comprehensively, but feel free to contact me any time if you need any more help :)