General Advice

General Advice Placeholder Image Before you begin exploring the various types of problematic behaviors on teams, let’s explore five pieces of general advice for dealing with any kind of team behavior problem.
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The Free-Rider

The Free-Rider Placeholder ImageFree-Riders in Project Teams are also known as “free-loaders” or “hitchhikers”.  Free-Riders do not contribute their fair share of effort to the project.  They are known as “Free-Riders” because they receive the same grade as the rest of the team without actually earning it. Free-Riders are perhaps the most common source of frustration on student project teams.  Researchers estimate that over 65% of college students have dealt with Free-Riders on group assignments.

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The Dictator

The Dictator Placeholder ImageLet’s now look at the Dictator. in Project Teams, dictators strongly impose their ideas on other team members, using criticism and personal attacks to push the team in a particular direction.  According to researchers, the Dictator is the second most frustrating behavior type on group projects.
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The Closet Dictator

The Closet Dictator Placeholder ImageThe Closet Dictator is a variant of the Dictator type. Closet Dictators also attempt to take control of group projects, but they do so behind the scenes. They change strategies, rewrite project reports, and alter presentation slides without consulting other team members. Sometimes their efforts result in a better grade, but more often Closet Dictators remove or revise critical material causing the final report or presentation to suffer.
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The Do-It-All

The Do-It-All Placeholder ImageAnother variant on the Dictator and Closet Dictator type is the Do-It-All.  Typically, a Do-It-All type assumes responsibility for most of the group project, conducts most of the research, and does almost all of the writing and editing.
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The Procrastinator

The Procrastinator Placeholder ImageProbably the third most common frustration in Project Teams are Procrastinators. These are students who wait until the last minute to complete their portion of the project. As a result, their contribution is either late or a poor quality rush job.
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The Socializer

The Socializer Placeholder ImageOne of the best things about group assignments is the social aspect of teamwork.  The friendly banter, jokes, and support you get from teammates can energize the group and make the overall effort more enjoyable. Socializers can however, take the social aspects of team work to extremes and ultimately hurt group productivity.
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The Poor Student

The Poor Student Placeholder ImageOn any group project team members will often have varying levels of educational experience and ability.  Some may be savvy researchers. Others may be strong writers.  However, a team may have a weak performer or Poor Student.

Poor Students are individuals who demonstrate drive, motivation and commitment.  They work hard and do their best to contribute but a Poor Student lacks the ability to produce at the level of the other team members.

The Poor Student finds it difficult to understand key concepts or group assignments.  After reading materials they struggle to identify the most relevant points for the project.

Sometimes, the Poor Students have good research skills but have trouble organizing information and writing.
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The Quiet Student

The Quiet Student Placeholder ImageThe Quiet Student is often the most underutilized resource on a project team. Students who appear quiet may have outstanding insights and natural abilities. The best teams find ways to tap a Quiet Student’s creative energies effectively.

Quiet Students are shy in group situations. They are often reluctant to share their opinions during project meetings and prefer to listen intently while others do most of the talking. However, sometimes the Quiet Student is silent to hide a lack of preparation or motivation for the project.
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The Complainer

The Complainer Placeholder ImageStudents often complain about group projects. While a little complaining can help to relieve stress and reinforce social bonds, too much complaining can result in project delays and poor group work.   Complainers are team members who spend more time complaining about a project than doing it. Complainers frequently begin by criticizing the professor's decision to assign a group project.

They are also bothered by the challenges of locating information, finding time to meet with teammates, and assembling the final product. Even simple things like the weather, room temperature, and upcoming exams can be sources of their complaints. However, Complainers fail to recognize the amount of time they waste discussing their issues during group meetings.
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How To Leverage Faculty To Deal With Difficult Team Members

Sometimes, despite the team’s efforts, leveraging faculty to deal with difficult team members becomes a necessity. Faculty members do not assign group projects so that Free-Riders can get good grade without hard work or Dictators can push around other students with impunity. Most faculty want students to have a good group experience and are willing to help address and resolve problem behavior on teams.

The first and most important step when leveraging faculty is to make them aware of the problem early enough in the project to make a difference. If a professor does not hear about a problem until the night before the project is due, there is little he or she can do to mediate a difficult situation.

Faculty may use peer evaluations as a tool to discourage problematic behavior. Although this tool can be helpful, if a team waits for peer evaluations to complain about fellow students, it is often too late to curb the poor behavior. At that point in the project, many students have learned how to manipulate the system and avoid penalties.

Sometimes just the threat of faculty involvement is enough to encourage problem students to change their behavior.

A faculty member has more leverage over problem students if the team has clearly documented the problem behavior and their initial attempts to address and resolve the problem. The more a team can provide concrete evidence of problematic behavior the easier it is for a professor to confront and penalize uncooperative students.

Most faculty are willing to give a team member with problematic behavior a lower grade if the evidence is clear and compelling. It is the hope that with proven consequences for problematic behavior, a student will not attempt the same thing on future group projects.

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