Saga of the Socially Awkward

Group Work For People Who Hate Group Work

27 September 2018

Am I the only one who avoids group work like it’s the plague? I’m not kidding, I actually check the assignment list for all prospective subjects and if group work is included, well, that’s a deal breaker. In fact, I don’t even think ‘deal breaker’ is a strong enough term. To me, group work is equivalent to a giant, flashing DO NOT ENTER sign.

And let me be clear here, the part I dread isn’t the work itself but the incredibly taxing task of having to work with other people. Now, I know that may sound a tad dramatic, but attempting to navigate a social situation whilst actually getting work done is no joke.

Choosing Groups

The first trial begins when the tutor introduces the group project. Immediately, my mind goes through all the possible group configurations and let me tell you, it’s a bleak list. There are a few ways this can go, each uniquely distressing –  

  • Option A) The tutor chooses your groups for you.
  • Option B) You team up with some friends and crash and burn together.
  • Option C) You have no friends (in class or in general) and are stuck with strangers.
  • Option D) Similar to options A and C, except that the strangers know each other.

Option A means you’ve likely been grouped with strangers. Strangers who may be mean or crazy or unmotivated or really motivated and are probably none of these things but how are you meant to know?

Option B means you end up in a group with at least a few friends. This may seem like a good idea at first but working with friends is like working in a family business—something you should approach with extreme caution.

Option C occurs when you don’t know anyone in your class (another horrifying situation) and are grouped with strangers (see Option A).

Worse yet is Option D. You may not know anyone in class, but they sure as hell know each other (horrifying—truly, deeply, horrifying). This means you end up in a group with other people who are friends and you spend the rest of class as the proverbial third wheel. This happened to me once and honestly I have not recovered. I still have nightmares about not understanding their inside jokes and having to fake an awkward laugh which probably came off more perturbed than anything else.

Expectations and Disappointment

Then comes the work itself. Now, quite often, people have different expectations about what they want to get out of a subject. Maybe they’re there to be high achievers (can’t relate) or just want to be average (me), or perhaps they just want a pass (what I tell myself, so that I’m not disappointed when my marks come out). I can’t tell you what each and every student wants, but I can tell you that each and every student in your group will inevitably want completely different things (‘cause when has life ever made it easy for you?).

Maybe you just want to fill a subject slot or need an extra breadth subject. All you want from this subject is a passing grade, no real effort needed. But of course, you’re paired with the super intense high-achiever and are actually made to do work.

Or maybe you’re the high-achiever in this situation. You do your best to organise a time for everyone to meet but inevitably everyone bails on you at the last minute. Maybe they had car troubles or their train was so late they missed the entire meeting or god forbid they had a headache and just couldn’t get out of bed (the only worthy excuse is actually being in the process of dying). Your efforts to divide the work up is also thwarted by a number of excuses including, but not limited to, emails failing, the internet failing, usbs failing and honestly by this point you want to surrender to the trend and just give up and fail too. Then there’s the mystery illness that seems to strike everyone the week of submission (I get that some people might actually be sick, but I honestly have no faith in my fellow students). Naturally, you are left alone to complete way more than your fair share of the work.

Trying to figure out what everyone wants is a project in itself. In fact, it’s probably not even worth trying to figure out. You should just accept that there’ll be at least one person (i.e. you) who is unhappy with the state of things. Real talk, we should all be like the girl in one of my classes that straight up asked everyone what their expectations were before we had even finished introductions (I mean, I say this, but confrontation is scary and talking to people is hard…).

The Breakup

Then comes the aftermath. Your group has done the work, compiled it into a semi-coherent project and pulled so many all-nighters that sleep is but a fond memory. Finally you submit your project. And then, you are free.

This stage reminds me of a really awkward breakup. You say that you’ll remain friends but after all you have been through, you know that will never last. The once incessantly buzzing Facebook messenger group is as silent as a graveyard but no one wants to be the first to leave the chat, so the messages remain in your history forever. You’ll all remain friends on Facebook ‘till the end of time, ‘cause surely it’s too dramatic to delete and/or block them, right?

Working in a group is good for you, they say. Teamwork is an important skill, they say. You can share the work so it won’t be so bad, they say. But I say, is it worth it…?


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