It's quite likely that it's the Type As among you who are nodding your heads in agreement while enduring flashbacks of evenings spent redoing a member's contribution to the "group" project. Type As want nothing more than to finish the work efficiently, correctly and without other humans mucking things up. Type As want control and that's exactly what's lacking when the assignment calls for teamwork. Even when you respect your group members and, in general, find them to be competent human beings, you're still likely to mutter, "I'd rather do it myself."
In the past year, I have been reminded several times of the evil that is group projects. I experienced sympathy pains when my colleague Kelly announced that she was working on such an assignment in one of her MBA courses. On another occasion I met with a fairly large group of school parents who are going to work together to put on a successful fundraising event. This "project" revealed an interesting dynamic that I would title "The Swarthmore Syndrome." The way it works is that all the parents from Swarthmore know best. 'Nuff said.
Perhaps the pinnacle of my personal group-based experiences, however, have been two years worth of committee and sessions meetings at church where the unfortunate among us were called into service to re-envision and rebuild our fellowship. I love my church family dearly, but putting Christians together in groups leads to the longest, most drawn out processes ever, accompanied by hushed side conversations, overcommittment by 20% of the frozen chosen, discussions ad nauseam, a great deal of private grumbling, and a lot of public prayer. I think the only thing that could make the experience bearable would be providing adult beverages during meetings, but that would be in violation of the new drug and alcohol policy.
Lest we let the workplace off the group project hot seat, I'd have to say that this is where you're going to find the widest range of so-called team contributors. I suppose this is a result of the salary element. Now, you might think that a paycheck would make a noticeably positive difference in teamwork participation, but based on my personal experiences of the past twenty years, you would be mistaken. In fact, to help those of you are just now entering the workforce, I've created this simple guide to identifying those you may encounter on your team:
- The Naysayer: It can’t be done.
- The Boxer: Don’t ask me to think outside of it.
- The Historian: That’s not the way we’ve done it in the past.
- The Soother: Don’t worry about it being perfect, no one gets fired here.
- The Amnesiac: If we just ignore it, the boss soon will forget he even gave us the project.
- The Suck Up: Quick to volunteer, less quick to work, quick to offer to present it to the boss.
- The Millennial: Assigned to task, encounters first obstacle, commences whining.
- The Thrill Seeker: It won't take long. We'll get around to it.
- The Meet-aholic: Let's meet to discuss next steps, again. I'll bring donuts.
- The Bucker: It’s not my job.
- The Pre-Retiree: Been there, done that. It is what it is.
- The Once and Done: I tried. It didn’t work. Oh well.
- The Know-it-All: Type A without social skills.
- The Fantasizer: Let's try to run a six-month television ad campaign with the $200 in our marketing budget.
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood (a.k.a.: "Relax, Don't Do It"): There’s always tomorrow. I’m heading home. I've had enough for today.
And then there's my personal favorite:
- The Dismisser: The beyond-ballsy colleague who simply declines when presented with an "opportunity" to take on a new project.
A colleague and friend of mine (someone whom I'm delighted to work with), sent me this helpful venn diagram. Please refer to it the next time you're asked to lead a team. You'll save yourself a good deal of pain and may actually find you enjoy the group project experience!