How to Deal With the Slacker in a Group Project
It's well-known that typically within every group project, there will be at least one individual who does not do their share of the work. It's frustrating, obnoxious, and hurts your group's performance. Some people may simply ignore the slacker and do their work for them, while others may grow resentful and angrily confront them. I would not encourage either of these choices. There are more rational ways to deal with a slacker that I would encourage you to explore. With a little patience, you could potentially turn your slacker into a productive group member. The ultimate goal is to create a successful project without any negative feelings towards each other.
Don't Hate Your Slacker
I cannot emphasize this enough. It's never a good idea to burn bridges because you typically want to maintain as many positive relationships as possible. You never know when you may need that individual. They certainly won't help you if you don't treat them well. Making it obvious that you hate your group member for not doing their work or gossiping about them does not solve any problems. Make sure to share this with your other group members as well so that you are all on the same page. You never know what this group member may be experiencing in their life. Perhaps they are going through a difficult time or maybe they don't understand the project and are afraid to ask. Treating them poorly will end up making you look like a nasty person. Regardless of the project, make sure that you treat all group members with the same amount of respect, even if they are not doing their portion.
How often do you have slackers in your group projects?
Find out Why
As I had briefly mentioned before, you never know what may be going on in the lives of others. Sit down and talk with the individual to see if there may be something going on or if they don't understand the project. Don't be nosy about it and ask for specifics; just ask them if there is anything that they need help with or don't fully understand. There is the possibility, however, that they are simply lazy and if that is the case, I would still urge you to treat them with respect. Try and see if there is something they like doing that they would be willing to help with. Show them why this project is important and how their part is important as well. Give their work meaning and perhaps they may be more willing to do their part. If they don't see a purpose in the work they're doing, then they're probably not going to be very motivated to do it.
Have Open Communication
Once you determine the source of the problem, make sure that you maintain open communication with them. Don't hover over them, but make it known that you're available to discuss the project with them and answer any questions. If it's clear they aren't making progress or don't understand, offer to work on it with them. Try not to get frustrated or lash out. Simply be a caring group member to them. They will most likely appreciate your patience and willingness to help.
This also means having open communication with your other group members as well. If you're treating your under-performing group member respectfully but the rest of your group isn't, then that probably isn't very helpful. Make sure that you're all speaking with each other and are all on the same page in dealing with this group member.
Offer Extra Help
Don't do their work for them (unless they completely refuse to do it), but make sure that they understand that the project is important and needs to be of high quality. There's a good chance that your group member probably knows that they need help and are willing to accept it. In this case, simply find times when you can get together and work with them on it. It's more work than you would have originally agreed to, but at least it;s getting done and you can keep an eye on it. Otherwise it may be rather stressful to constantly worry about whether this group member is doing what they're supposed to be doing.
If your group member doesn't think they need help, then that is a bit more challenging. Simply try to keep tabs on what they're doing by asking questions about what they're working on and making subtle suggestions on how to improve their work. This is definitely frustrating, but as I've said before, don't hate them and instead try to help them however you are able.
Discuss the Problem With Your Manager/Professor
If all else fails, talk to your higher-up about the problems you're having. I can't guarantee that they will do anything, but at least making them aware of the problem will help. When discussing this with them, make sure that you think through how you're going to tell them about it beforehand. The better you present yourself, the more likely your higher-up is to be understanding of your situation. Be mature and respectful when discussing your group members. Even if your higher-up doesn't seem to care, at least explaining the situation to them will help them understand why the work may be sub-par (although hopefully it won't be and everything works out).
Dealing with the slacker can be very difficult and trying, but hopefully if you try the above ideas, you can improve your situation significantly. This is the best way to show them that they need to get their work done without being overly pushy or rude. The goal is to make sure that the group project gets done effectively without having any negative feelings towards each other. While this goal isn't always easy to achieve, if you try the above ideas, you can at least avoid unnecessarily burning bridges.
© 2017 Lindsay Langstaff