Problems associated with group work

Due to the nature of working in teams, group members can sometimes find that they are not working effectively, which negatively impacts on their progress, and their ability to be successful.  Some common problems identified by individuals working in teams are:

Tasks not being completed by deadline

To ensure your task is completed on time it may be beneficial to:
  • Discuss and establish timelines that ALL members can agree on.
  • Ask each member to present a progress report each meeting on what they have completed since the last meeting.
  • Offer to assist one another to complete tasks if necessary.

Difficult to get started

To ensure that your group gets off to a good start it may be beneficial to:

  • Take time for all members to introduce themselves, including name, background, specific strengths.
  • Develop a shared understanding of the task by brainstorming.
  • Ensure each member has an opportunity to speak and make suggestions.
  • Develop an agenda and a timeline.
  • Nominate someone to act as the manager or leader, either for that team meeting or for the term of the project.
  • Exchange names and contact details, including email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Decide on jobs or sub-tasks for each member.

Ideas are not thoroughly discussed as a team

To ensure that you have enough information to complete your task it could be beneficial for your group to:

  • Engage in more brainstorming, particularly focusing on the ‘What if …?’ and ‘What else ..?’ type questions.
  • Ask each member individually for ideas.
  • If few ideas are generated, organise to complete some further research individually and then meet up as a team at a later date.

Members not contributing

To ensure that all members contribute to the group task it may be beneficial to:

  • Establish why a member is quiet or not participating.
  • Communicate that all opinions will be valued.
  • Ensure that each member gets their turn to contribute, this may mean ‘going around the circle’.

Ineffective communication

To ensure effective communication between members it may be beneficial to:

  • Identify specific issues which seem to affect communication.
  • Consider how to address such issues.  For example, if team members seem to be misunderstanding each other, it may be helpful to clarify what is being said.

Conflict between team members

To ensure that disagreements between members are dealt with effectively it is important to:

  • Respect the ideas of other group members.
  • Show that you have heard other member’s ideas and when disagreeing do so politely and respectfully.
  • Understand that working in a team requires some negotiation and compromise.
  • Take a break to diffuse the situation and recollect thoughts at a later meeting.

Domineering personalities

To ensure that people do not dominate group discussions it may be beneficial to:

  • Create time limits on individual contributions or have a ‘talking stick’.
  • Ensure that each member has a chance to speak, without interruption.
  • Remind all members that it is important to hear all opinions in relation to the topic and respect those opinions.

Inability to focus on task

To ensure that your group does not get off task it may be beneficial to:

  • Set particular tasks to be completed in each session
  • Meet first and then go for lunch after you have completed some work to give yourselves a reward for staying on task
  • Ensure that individuals prepare for meetings and talk through what they have completed since the last meeting.