Throughout my education I have been a part of many group projects. Hopefully, when working with a group the projects go off without a hitch and every member contributes equally. I know that this is not always the case, and sometimes one person is left with all the work at the last minute. Here are some tips on how not to let that happen.

1. Communication is key

When working with a group, especially a group with several members, it is super important to agree on the platform for communication within the group. Email is usually the prime method, but if all members agree on Facebook or some other platform, that can work too. Just make sure you are all dedicated to using (and checking frequently) the agreed upon method of communication. When communicating with the group, it is important to make sure to include and validate everyone’s ideas because you do not want to alienate someone. Making someone feel unimportant to the group’s success can make them feel like they don’t want to contribute anything. Lastly, being passive-aggressive (even if someone is being difficult) is never an effective method of communication.

2. Take initiative

When no one is making any decisions, no work can be done. If no one is stepping up to the plate to lead the group, don’t be afraid to. You can be the leader. Also, if you have ideas for the group, make sure to speak up. The longer it takes to establish the goal for the project, the less time you have to work on it and make it perfect. Don’t let the deadline become an issue by dismissing the project until it becomes an urgent matter.

3. Make time together count

As both a student and a teacher, when observing students working in groups, there can be a lot of time wasted. When you have the entire group physically together, make sure to use that time productively. This is the perfect time to delegate responsibility, iron out future scheduling issues, finalize the method of communication, and create a clear group goal. If you do not use your time wisely, later on when the group is separate, there is a higher chance of miscommunication.

4. Delegate work and hold people responsible

If you do become the leader for the project, it’s okay to delegate the tasks to others. That is why the project is for a group. You don’t have to assign roles to people, but you can lay out different possible roles on the table, and suggest someone take up a certain role because of their specific skills or talents. If I am the leader of the group, I make sure to create as many roles as there are group members, and that the workload is equal. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to remind people of deadlines and hold them to their word. The success of the project isn’t just on your shoulders, it’s on the shoulders of the group.

If all else fails, talk to the teacher or professor about the group dynamics and what the problems that you are having are (though try to bring the issues to the attention of the teacher before the deadline, because the teacher may have little sympathy after the fact). I have only talked to a professor once, and the experience actually helped me in the long run. Don’t be afraid to seek out help if you feel that your group or partner is being unrealistically difficult.