Group projects and you: Don’t be “that guy”

Brian FosdickSo at some point in your college career, whether you’ve elected to willingly, or whether you’re going to be forced crying and screaming into one, you’re going to be in a group project. The general logic behind group projects is that since in the workplace you’ll be working with a group, you have to learn to be amiable and work with others.

However, many group projects can end up as a practice in controlling your frustration and anger with “that guy.” If I wanted to be more gender neutral I could use the term “that person,” but for the sake of this article, whether you are male or female, if you follow the practices that make your group miserable, you are “that guy.”

It’s the person that misses every single group meeting because their cat died in the oven they left on while they were washing their goldfish. It’s the person who objects to every single group idea on the basis of the fact that they know better.  It’s the person who tells you they’re going to do part of the assignment then asks you the night before it’s due when they should start on it.

Having done my fair share of group projects in college, I can tell you personally that almost every group with four or more people has “that guy.” Teachers have done their best to mitigate the “that guy” effect since if you’re stuck in the group with them, your grade is then invariably tied up with theirs, but peer reviews do not make up for several weeks to a semester of dealing with them.

So that was a long introduction, but since I do love my laundry lists, here are a few tips about group projects that can help you not become “that guy.”

1. Group meetings are actually important.

Now if you read this first one and your jaw dropped, you might be “that guy,” but there is actually a reason most groups meet. There’s a common argument against group meetings on the basis that the meetings are often longer than they need to be and oftentimes tedious and uninformative. That said, group meetings are also the time when assignments are doled out, responsibilities are decided and ideas are thrown around. If you’re not there and you show up the day a presentation is due and wonder why not one bother to tell you, now you know why.

2. Constantly changing the group’s schedule is not a good idea.

For some reason, another common problem is that everyone in college is apparently a powerful CEO who has no open time in their schedule. There are the people in your group who have legitimate reasons for being constantly busy such as work, sports or club activities. Then there’s the person who is constantly busy doing something like sitting at home on Facebook.

That said, if you are the latter, changing your group’s set schedule so that you can go hang out with your friends or go skiing is not a good reason. Everyone is busy, we get it, but the other people in your group also have lives and when a schedule is already built around everyone else, people don’t have time to think about everyone’s individual wants, needs and whims.

3. If you get assigned part of the project, you actually have to do it.

I decided to save this bomb for last, but I have been blown away in the last three years how many people don’t do the part of the project they have been assigned. Let me make this clear: If you decide to sit down on the morning before it is due and you can crank out a convincing paper/PowerPoint/whatever it is you have to do, more power to you, but most people can’t.

Your group will know if you put absolutely no work in your part of the assignment. If it’s riddled with errors, barely coherent and nets your group a failing grade, you’re also going to fail your peer reviews. Just do your part and everyone can walk out happy.

To conclude, the most definitive thing I can say when it comes to group projects is that you’re probably not the only person who doesn’t want to do them. The sad reality of the situation is that you don’t have a say in it, so make it work and don’t be “that guy.”

Brian Fosdick is a junior journalism major. His columns appear Wednesdays in the Collegian Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.