Going into a group project can feel like going into battle, but luckily, you aren’t alone. (Fundamentally you can’t be alone because it’s a group project, but that’s beside the point.) There are some ways to make it out unscathed, as long as you arm yourself properly.
1. Choose wisely
Stay away from group-project-duds. “I like it when my group members are smart so I don’t have to do the project by myself,” said Westfield State University junior Alex Gaspar. Pick the kid that got a 95 on the last midterm, not the one that makes the best sexual innuendos during lectures.
2. Call in reinforcements
Sidle over to that acquaintance you made in your finance class last semester. Outlining an entire semester’s worth of work seems a lot less awk when you’re doing it with someone who isn’t a total stranger.
3. Be your own matchmaker
If you’re pumped to do research on leadership development in the health care industry, make sure your fellow group mates are equally as jazzed about the topic. Birds of a feather should flock together.
4. (Try to) Become friends
Keep drama to a minimum. “You don’t need to become best friends with them but it’s important that everyone gets along,” said Boston College senior Laura Bouclainville. Smile. Make jokes. Play nice, kids.
5. Make the first strike
Email your team-members before anyone else in the group does. This makes it seem like you’re being proactive and doing work, but after getting the conversation started you can just stand back and let other people make the decisions.
6. Get out of the bunker
Get away from the work for a bit and stretch those legs. “Meet up one night and have dinner and not talk about the project. This way everyone gets to know each other, and it will be much less awkward when you have your first meeting to get started on the project,” Bouclainville said. Bond over burgers. Connect over chicken wings. Unite over…upside-down cake?
7. Take the throne
If no one else is stepping up to the unofficial iron throne, don’t be afraid to take your rightful seat. “I immediately try to take a leadership position if the group seems to lack some motivation,” said Northeastern University junior Meghan McPhee. A group is nothing without a leader, and there’s no better leader than you. Probably.
8. Keep your eye on the prize
Any chance you get, mention the due date. People will forget, so casually slip it into every single conversation. “Happy birthday, Group Project Member! Only one month until the project due date, which is December 4, which is a Thursday… which is December 4…” They won’t even notice.
9. Delegate, delegate, delegate…
Make sure all of those plebes know their place. “It’s chaos when group members don’t assign parts and everyone tries to do everything,” McPhee said. If everyone has a job, there will be little to no toe-stepping.
10. …But also dictate
If you have some weak links in the project-chain, don’t be afraid to shame them. “If they don’t do their job, send out lots of passive-aggressive text messages,” Gaspar said.
11. Be an expert
If you’re gonna lead, your followers have to trust you. Speak confidently so people know you’re smart – even if you have no idea what’s going on.
12. Use the power of hunger
What, the thrill of creating a slideshow of Excel data from your sociology class survey isn’t enough motivation? Kids these days. I guess you’ll just have to bribe them with endless pizza rolls.
13. Break them with a smile
Your group members will feel badly being sour-pusses in the face of your killer smile. “I kick my enthusiasm up a few notches. I get so excited for the project that no one wants to disappoint me,” McPhee said. Diabolical… and brilliant.
14. Use all forms of communication
Emails, texts, music-grams, smoke signals… Use them all. Keep in touch as time drags closer and closer to that due date. Losing a few precious days or weeks of communication can completely derail your project-train.
15. Stay calm
Keep your eye on the prize. “It doesn’t help productivity when group members are freaking out about the things that need to be done because then you spend more time worrying than actually completing the tasks at hand,” Bouclainville said. Don’t waste time thinking about how you’re wasting time.
16. Keep up your momentum
You have one week left before the whole thing is due? Set aside one entire night and bang out everything -yes, everything -you have left to do. Fuel yourself with coffee and don’t cry as night becomes morning. You’ll be done soon.
17. Leave a time buffer
Anything could happen in those last crucial days: file-deletion, emotional breakdowns, mono. Leave a few extra days between the due date and completion so you don’t kill yourselves in a final, tragic push.
18. Analyze your troublemakers
Be the therapist for any weak link group members. “I try to figure out why they may be causing problems. Is it because they hate the class? Are they in a bad mood? Being considerate usually appeals to anyone, and they stop causing problems,” McPhee said. Besides, it’s harder for someone to disappoint the really nice group member that asked about their day than the one who laughed in their face while they cried.
19. Be a peacekeeper
If passive aggression isn’t your forte, open your mouth when there are problems with a member of the group. “Just be honest and accommodating,” Bouclainville said. “But remember, be nice. No one likes drama.” Save the drama for when it’s truly needed. Like on an episode of The Bachelorette.
20. Remember: You have the power
If all else fails, you always have Plan B. “Rip them apart on the group evaluation sheet,” Gaspar said. Show no mercy. This is war.