You’ve been there. In class or at work, minding your own business trying not to get noticed, when your teacher/boss announces that it’s time for a group project. The fear sits in the back of your throat like a wad of old gum. You know what a group project means. You’ve seen this hell too closely and too frequently.
It means late nights, miscommunications, unfair work share, and really dumb group mates with poor hygiene. You promise yourself you’ll delegate work, and won’t let it all fall on your head at the last minute like last time. But you’re naive and stupid. Group projects are built to destroy rational people, mainly because of the antics of the following types of irrational people:
1. Mr. Micromanager
This guy loves to use the word “enunciate.” He’ll dominate most of the group time explaining really obvious things that everyone already understands, or by repeating one section of the instructions over and over again. Despite clear, rational logic that might dictate otherwise, he will not deviate from the instructions at all. He might even cry if he finds out you did behind his back. Then he’ll get angry and send a petty, whiny email to your teacher/boss.
Mr. Micromanager will spend more time sending you elaborate step-by-step instructions about your role in the project, than actually working on the project. He will complain that you are working too slowly, even if he has not completed any of his own section. To add to this, he will call and email you constantly asking for status updates, making it impossible to get any work done. He’ll ask you to call him at times when normal people are on their third pint.
This guy is a jerk, who thinks he knows best because he’s told everyone he knows best. If you give into him, he’ll only do 5% of the work, but take 100% of the credit.
2. The Lone Wolf
You have a bad feeling about this one from the start. She doesn’t say much and always scowls at everyone else, like they are hyenas trying to eat her newborn children. She dresses badly, smells like pistachios, and has a seriously dated hair style.
If she shows up to a group meeting, she’ll be late, and angry about it. If you ask her why her work isn’t done, she’ll make up an unquestionable excuse, usually involving serious illness or family death. None of her work is ever on time, and she never adds to group discussions. You can email her if you want, but she’ll never email you back. The phone number she gave you is for a Papa John’s in Iowa.
After a while, you have to just abandon her and do the project with your other group members. On the day the assignment is due, you’ll be CC’d on an email that contains a finished – but completely different – version of the project. The Lone Wolf did it by herself, and it’s a piece of shit. You are then forced to explain to the teacher why there are two versions of the assignment being handed it, and why The Lone Wolf is a bitch. The final presentation is disjointed and awkward, because she has no idea what the rest of your group is talking about.
3. The Annoying Overachiever
At the start of the project, you hand out assignments for each person. This girl wants triple the assignments anyone else has. She promises she can handle it, because she “works well under pressure.”
She’ll start sending emails at all hours of the morning, showing the rest of the group how much work she’s done. After a few days, you start to feel guilty, because she’s finished 3 times the amount you have. Then you realize it doesn’t matter, because the project isn’t due for weeks. You assume the girl does loads and loads of cocaine.
After a few more days, you’ll start to get emails from the girl, asking for your sections. Even if you carefully explain that you’re not done (or haven’t started) because of conflicting priorities, she’ll lose her shit. She’ll claim she’ll get fired, or fail the class. She’ll tell you that her mother would disown her and she’d lose her awesome studio apartment. You wish she’d shut up and leave you alone.
When you finally do provide your content, she’ll scrutinize it like it’s going to land on the desk of the President. Her feedback is unnecessarily brutal, so you ignore most of it. By the time the assignment is due, she’s completely burnt out and has some horrible sickness. The entire group stands on the opposite side of the room from her.
4. The Dude
This guy, for all intents and purposes, is nice. He’s amiable and loquacious, even funny at times. When you form the group, he makes the instructions into jokes, and everyone in the group seems to like him.
At your first meeting, he shows up an hour late, wearing sunglasses indoors, reeking of cheap booze. He falls asleep twice during the meeting, and apologizes that he’s “sick.” He leaves the meeting early, presumably to vomit.
When asked for his share of the work, he’ll respond with canned phrases like, “Aww, dude, I forgot!” or “Shit! I knew there was something I didn’t do.” He never shows anyone any of the work he’s doing, but assures them very energetically that it will be done soon.
On the day before the assignment is due, he calls you, freaking out. He explains that he hasn’t done any of his portion, offering 442 different, weak, unbelievable excuses as to why. Fortunately, you knew he was a flake, and had already done most of his section anyway. You stay up late to finish everything. During the presentation, he makes a joke about beer and everyone laughs.
5. Mr. or Mrs. Question Mark
You’re very apprehensive to work with this person, but you had no other option. You can’t focus on the assignment because you can’t decide if this person is male or female. He (or she) has an androgynous name, and you can’t tell if those are boobs or just fat.
This person lacks most social graces, often snorting or gyrating most inappropriately. She (?) will reference odd things like specific episodes of obscure Japanese Anime, and be confused when no one gets what he’s (?) talking about. Every time you get an email from this person, you cringe, hoping they don’t want to meet in person…again.
Their work is satisfactory, but they always manage to tack on something – like a quote from a death metal album – that makes it creepy. You spend an above average amount of time working them out of the presentation, secretly hoping that they’ll be too caught up in some ritualistic auto-erotic asphyxiation to show up.
They show up wearing a purple shirt with unicorns on it or a Metallica themed tie. They’ve grown a mustache since you last saw them, but it still doesn’t help you identify what they are. During the presentation, they reference sexual torture. Everyone in the rooms wants to leave/die.
6. The Self-Flagellator
This girl is nervous at all times. Her hair is a frazzled mess, and she’d likely jump and scream if you said something to her without making eye contact first. She offers to be in your group, and she’s a better option than Mr. (?) Question Mark.
You start receiving emails from this girl almost immediately. They ask for your feedback, and more importantly, your approval. If you say anything negative, you’ll receive 6 more emails apologizing for her terrible work, even if you didn’t even kind of say it was terrible. She’ll continue this trend with everything you send her, until you finally just tell her “it looks great!” in response to any question she asks.
During meetings, she’ll constantly look at the door, and chew on her pen until it falls apart. She offers to let you review a document on her laptop, but you can’t see anything through the 3 privacy screen covers she’s got on it. She’ll often ask you to watch her as she walks to her car, just in case you need to call the police for her.
Come presentation time, she’ll show up, do a good job, and sit in the corner clutching her laptop, waiting for everyone else to leave before she does.
7. The Fearless and Clueless Leader
This guy (sometimes a girl) is more than happy to lead the project team to submission glory. He’s strong headed and confident, which he is clear to point out when he does an impromptu “vote” where he somehow becomes the de facto leader of the group.
He’ll organize meetings, conference calls, even suggest alternatives if the group can’t meet up. He’s ready to tackle any problem the group might have, except for the assignment itself. When you ask him about the assignment, it becomes very apparent that he has no idea what anyone in the group is supposed to do, and is making up his own plan which is based in a reality very far detached from the recognizable.
After a week or so of listening to the captain’s order, the group starts to secretly communicate and meet behind his back. They let him hold the illusion of leadership, because explaining why he is wrong would be pissing on an inferno. The project gets finished, and someone in the group is forced to trick the leader into thinking it’s exactly what he planned. During the presentation, he reminds the class that without him, this project would have “totally sucked.”
8. The Lump
You’re not sure how or why this girl got into school/is employed. She has the personality of a rotting grapefruit. Her eyes are dead and lifeless, like a shark.
She was defaulted into your group but doesn’t have strong opinions about anything. She never actually agrees to any of the work she’s assigned, but instead casually dismisses it by saying, “yea…” or “whatever.” You think at times she’s trying to be funny, but her humor is so strange that you’re not sure if laughing would be offensive.
She responds to emails with unpunctuated, not-capitalized one-liners. She never has any feedback, and everything she reviews is “ok i guess”. She does her work, but it’s bad and not completely finished.
When she doesn’t show up for the presentation, you ask your teacher/boss if they can send an ambulance to her apartment.
9. Mr. I’ve got better places to be
This guy is awesome. Or so he wants you to believe. He’ll tell you his golf handicap, and complain he’s already spent too much time on something so trivial.
If you manage to get a hold of him, it sounds like he’s in a dance club, even if it’s only 2:30 P.M. All of his emails say, “Sent from my iPhone”, suggesting he’s never in one place long enough to have a computer. He does his best to contextualize all the work you’re doing, reminding you that “he does stuff 10 times this difficult every day.”
He never sends in any work, so you and your other group mates do it for him. He doesn’t show up on the day of the presentation, so you’re forced to show your boss/teacher the Facebook photos of him on the beach that he uploaded 38 seconds ago.
Here you are, stuck in the middle of this nightmare. You’re probably pretty normal, and just want to do a good job/get a good grade. You’ve also probably about to have a shitty week or two.
I suggest you figure out who is the dead weight, drop them quickly, grab a beer, and do the whole damn thing yourself. It sucks, but it’s pretty much the only solution.