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How to cope with your new group mates

Your tutor, in their infinite wisdom, has given you a group assignment –  now you’re destined to spend the next two weeks locked in a room with a bunch of people you may be totally incompatible with. The path is tough and the battle long, but with some carefully applied wisdom you might just make it through…by Charlotte Salter

1. The Leader

We all know The Leader. It’s the guy/gal that’s booked the group room before the project has even been assigned, who will listen to one idea before telling you why theirs is better, and who probably fits all of this work smoothly between being President of two societies, thrice-weekly Pilates, and a super-hardcore degree. The Leader makes you feel inadequate and leaves you sobbing into your cornflakes each morning, but you can’t. Pull. Away.

How to remain calm:

Okay, so this person has wedged themselves into top position and their prowess is making you feel this small, but guess what – they’ve got all the hard work! You can also rest comfortably in the knowledge that your whole group is finding The Leader unbearable, and so will everyone else when they reach the real world. (And hopefully their unshakeable confidence is a symptom of their deep down Fear Of Graduating.) Alternatively, spend an hour working out why their plan doesn’t work as well as your bulletproof one, and present it at the next group meeting. Voila, you’ve proved your worth and improved the group project.

2. The Worrier

Let’s call this guy Frodo. You know how by the second film he’s all crazy-eyed, bushy-haired, and only able to speak in broken monotone about the task in hand? That’s him. Right there. You’re sitting next to Frodo. Except his burden isn’t the One Ring, it’s this assignment, and he will not sleep until he’s handed it in.

How to remain calm:

Don’t be infected by his panic/be the Sam to his Frodo. By all means offer your wisdom (read: give him a smoothie from the Library Cafe), but don’t try to carry the One Ring (er, I mean assignment). Look at it this way: he’ll make sure everything is flawless before it’s submitted. Make sure the work is spread evenly, and if Frodo stays up all night to panic about it, there’s nothing you can do. Besides, at least there aren’t any Orcs in the Library. Probably.

3. The One Who Does NOTHING

Enough said. His seat is conspicuously empty and he claims not to have received That Very Important Email. His excuses are impressively vague, and when he does turn up he hasn’t brought the work with him. Result: you have twice the workload.

How to remain calm:

First of all, don’t rely on him for completing anything vital. It sucks having to make allowances for him, but it’s better to finish the project than have to chase him around. Make sure he knows you expect stuff from him, but don’t, whatever you do, give him something absolutely vital. Second, badger him about e-resources – hey, he can do stuff from his bed And if that doesn’t work, tell him outright to pull his weight or he’s getting a terrible peer review/not being invited to your group social/will forever invoke the mutual dislike of everyone. Go on, guilt trip him.

4. The Ghost

The Ghost is always in the room with you, and sometimes even show powers of kinesis, but is pretty much silent. You turn up to the final presentation, and suddenly there’s this random person standing on the end of the line. The Ghost is quiet, probably quite shy, and you don’t have to heart to prod them for answers. Then at the end they get the same mark as you.

How to remain calm:

Well, some people are just quiet. The Ghost will probably never be found standing on the table and demonstrating a point by waving their arms around, but if their lack of contribution is a problem, create situations where they have to talk – ask questions, and get into the habit of asking for opinions from everyone before you move on. The Ghost hates feeling like they’re pushing in. Show them you don’t bite and that you welcome their ideas, attempt not to let The Leader plough right over them, and who knows, they might just come up with something brilliant.

5. The Normal Person

Hey there, Normal Person! You’re not a control freak, slacker, or neurotic insomniac. You want to get this work done and you want to do it well, but you know it’s not the be-all and end-all.

How to …

Okay, so this person isn’t actually infuriating. You might not be best buddies, but stick with The Normal Person and you might not go crazy. Treasure their sanity. Drink coffee with them. Exchange knowing glances every time someone else blows their top. Then, when everything is over, skip into the proverbial sunset together.

These are just five of the people you are likely to come across during your degree – who else have you had to cope with? Or are you one of these people yourself?

Image: Computer Monkeys/Chris Lott/CC BY 2.0

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