Let’s work together — NOT!

I met up with a friend over the weekend and our conversation made me think about writing this post. This friend of mine is currently pursuing her masters at uni. She was complaining about some of the problems she has been having with assignments involving group work. Unfortunately, for her, the groups are chosen randomly by the professors and she has had the worst luck.Just as an example, she was in a group with 4 other international students who spoke to one another in their local language. She’s an international student too but it was frustrating for her to sit through meetings where they would talk to one another in their language and exclude her. (I could totally understand given that I’ve been among groups of acquaintances every now and then back in India where they would speak in Marathi or Gujarati or Malayalam or other regional languages — which I would not understand! I remember thinking back then — speak in English or Hindi for God’s sake! It’s bloody rude. But anyway — that will make a whole different post!)

So anyway, this got me thinking of my experiences with group work and group assignments.

I loathe them.

I’m a bit of a control freak which is understandable given I’m prone to anxiety and therefore find it hard working with bludgers (they piss me off for not doing any work) or other control freaks (we tend to clash).

I couldn’t help but look back at my trysts with groups.

Back in India there were very few assignments in groups and I managed because I was in a group with my friends. So instead, I will look at group work through uni in Australia.

Fourth year: This was during my postgrad dip year where we had a research project as part of the course. We were randomly divided and had our supervisors. I ended up in a group with 2 others — a Japanese international student (who is now a very dear friend) and an Indian international student. It was weird for us because we had kinda hoped to have an Aussie among us to get used to things. But, fortunately, we had one of the best supervisors. She was so cool and so easy going and so bloody helpful.

Anyhoo, this Indian girl had great ideas initially. She talked about how we should share the research articles we find etc etc. The two of us agreed to it because it would make things easier considering we had the same topic. Anyway, indian girl turned up for the first couple of meetings and then vanished off the face of the earth. She was hard to contact and made excuses of working extra hours or having a hangover. She was rarely seen at class. Soon she stopped attending meetings with the supervisor as well.

Anyway, we had to hand in our literature review towards the end of the first semester. Th night before the lit review was due, I get a call from indian girl to ask for some of the articles we had used in the lit review. I was shitty with her anyway and since I was out said that I didn’t have access to a computer at that time. She then started talking to me in Hindi and went on about how Indians should stick to one another etc etc. Well, she chose the wrong person to try out the whole solidarity thing. Needless to say, I didn’t help her (She dug her own grave by bludging so much). However the other girl helped her out by sending through a few articles (She’s way nicer than I am!) Fortunately for us, indian girl got her just rewards for not attending meetings etc without us having to say a word.

I hated that experience of working with her and was especially appalled at her wanting me to give up the rest of the group’s hardwork just because we came from the same country. In my opinion we were all international students in the group and we were trying to juggle a new country, work and uni. What made her different from us? If she had put in the effort, I’d have been more than happy to help. But she didn’t.

Masters, first year: This one is hilarious and annoying at the same time. Once again, not knowing anyone, I was in a group with three others for two units and it involved presentations. One of the girls was the kind of person that doesn’t bother listening to anyone else. It’s her way or the highway. She would put forth her views on some sections and didn’t listen even though the rest of us suggested it be done differently. Then there was a time she didn’t show up to a meeting because apparently she wasn’t informed — this despite the fact one of the members sent all of us emails! We spoke several times about keeping it within the time limit. And then, the day of the presentation, she’s the second person on after me and she rambles and rambles rambles off the point on a case study. The last two had to cut short their bits which were more important as it focused on interventions and practical aspects.

It doesn’t end there — for another subject at the end of term, she slept in! Luckily we were the second to present and luckily we knocked on her door. Else she would probably have slept through our presentation. She almost did that for another group she worked with and came in when they were already going on with their presentation.

Masters, second year: Ended up with a mate and a control freak. When I say control freak, I mean control freak! We were each working on our sections and sent her our powerpoint slides and she changed stuff within our slides. She threw a hissy fit when she had to wait for an extra 10 minutes for a meeting because we got held up elsewhere with a lecturer and didn’t get a chance to text or call her. I’m not kidding — she screamed at us and told us how bad it was that she was left all alone waiting like an idiot (in the crowded cafeteria, mind you). She then sent us emails about how hurt she was. I wasn’t close friends with her but my friend was and it put a dent in their relationship.

I guess, suffice to say, I do not enjoy group work. I’ve had few good experiences but the bad ones over-run these. The few good ones have been in pairs (so they aren’t exactly group work). There was one good one working with 4 others but that’s probably it.

I am quite glad that at work, my role is quite independent. I do things my way. I don’t have to worry about bludgers. I don’t have to worry about another control freak.

How about you? Anyone else experienced any nightmarish groups? Or have you been that person? Whether it’s at work or at uni, do share.

Until next time,


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  • Mumbai Diva
    9 June 2009 at 7:06 am

    Oh boy! me too. i hated groups when i was in school and college. i was very aggressive and a bit of a self assumed leader 🙂 i would get pretty upset if things were not going my way. But working has mellowed me over time. Now I handle a team and still tend to be a bit of a control freak but am more patient and allow others to take lead sometimes.

  • ♥ Braja
    9 June 2009 at 7:18 am

    No, I’ve always remained in an independent situation and anyway if I’m in that sort of environment by fate, then I’ll always speak out and redirect some of the control so that it benefits all, not just one or two or some…

    I also hate that language thing and consider it extremely rude…a

  • Kartikey
    9 June 2009 at 11:17 am

    What? No romantic tales?

    I was hoping you’d be candid.

    Control Freak One: If the presentation is bad, then I shall bludgeon you to death and drink wine.

    Control Freak Two: I shall have the wine poisoned the night before.

    And they live happily ever…


  • Anita C. McCants
    9 June 2009 at 11:40 am

    At first I had trouble figuring out
    where to comment. I’m used to
    seeing the comment thing at the
    end of the post. :~)


    My daughter is in college, and she
    is not thrilled about grouping off
    either. It just puts so much stress
    on the dedicated party.

    Your situation was worst than my
    daughter’s. To top it off, you had
    to put up with the rudeness of
    people in your group communicating
    with each other in a language you
    couldn’t understand.

  • MilesPerHour
    9 June 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I hated when profs gave out group assignments. It was always a headache and someone always didn’t pull their weight.

  • Ersa
    9 June 2009 at 7:16 pm

    ohhhh psych, how many times will you make me say “i sooooo know what you are talking about!” :-)…

    i hated working in grps too…very few were fun, but many turned out to be nightmarish…and the first scnerio you mentioned, i was in a v similar situation in one of the projects i worked on during undergrad…fun times, haha !

  • legallyalien
    11 June 2009 at 3:52 am

    ohhhhhh. Its assignment week at uni and this is exactly what I went throuh. one of my courses this sem was entirely based on group work, mid sem, presentation & end sem & I have such a bad group. As there are very pg journalism students at my uni, sometimes some of our courses are held with the undergrads and i got stuck with a group of spoilt brats, some of whom didnt bother to turn up for class most of the time. I am bit of a control freak too and I haaaaate group assignments.

    on the other hand, i had one amazing experience this sem for another class. I was with a girl from PNG & a guy from China and since the class was about journalism & cultures i thought i was very lucky to have group mates from diff cultures. we worked so well with each other, our presentation had examples from each of our countries and needless to say we got amazing marks coz we made the extra effort of understanding journalism in the three diff cultures.

    abt the indians should stick together thing, luckily for me thr arent too many indians doing my course ta uni. however my bf got stuck with an all indian group in his first sem and while 2 of the others came out of hibernation towards the last few weeks of sem, this one guy actually wanted his name to be included in the assignment despite not doing a bit of work saying again, in hindi, “we indians should stick together”. yeh right! how about sticking together when hard work is required?

    last assignment due soon. i will be back on the blog soon! got so much i want to say!! 😉

  • Psych Babbler
    11 June 2009 at 11:47 pm

    @ MD: Hehe…you know, the funny thing is even though I’m a control freak, I’ve never been assertive — and so it’s probably been harder coz things shit me and I don’t say anything about it!

    @ Braja: It’s best to be independent, eh? Btw, do you face the language thing a lot more being out there?

    @ Kartikey: Lol…sorry to disappoint you!

    @ Anita: Welcome! You’re right about the added stress group work puts on people.

    @ MPH: Yeah…I’d dread group work. I still haven’t figured out whether it’s better to work with someone who doesn’t pull their weight or with someone who is in denial or with someone who is a worse control freak than me!

    @ Ersa: Lol…too many similarities! But it’s not that we hate people or groups — other people are just not good enough 😉

    @ legallyalien: Oh that’s nice about the group you got! Like you, there were no Indians in my masters course but there were 2 others in the 4th yr course — what were the odds that in a class of 100, I got stuck with one of the Indian girls?! Your bf’s situation is probably not uncommon when similar cultural groups of international students get together.