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A true story of group work

It's challenging to work with a diverse group of people. That's for sure.

An adviser here at Drexel told me this story about a group of students who had to figure out how to work together. Names and identifying attributes have been changed.

Stephen, Rashida, Ellen, and Jens were assigned to work together for a project that would take two full terms. They decided to meet each week at 7pm on Wednesdays to check in with each other to make sure that their project was on track and moving through the timeline.

Stephen, Rashida, and Jens found Ellen exceedingly difficult to work with. She would arrive to the meeting on time, but she would grow grouchier and more combative during the meetings. She was so horrible that her teammates started to talk among themselves, wondering if they could "fire" Ellen from their project. She was impossible!

Stephen, who watches a lot of reality TV, decided that they needed to host an intervention for their difficult teammate. The next Wednesday at their meeting, they decided they would talk to Ellen to try to find for her contribute positively and productively to the group.

In the "intervention," Stephen explained to Ellen that the group found her difficult to work with. The meetings started out OK, but that she seemed to get angrier and she seemed to shut down as the meeting progressed. Ellen didn't realize that she was so hard to work with and the negative impact she had on her group. She explained that she worked a part time job, went to class, and then went straight to the group. Often she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. She didn't time to have lunch and skipped dinner to make sure that she made it to the group meeting on time.

Jens suggested that they move their meetings to Drexel Pizza, and Rashida recommended that they'd all chip in for a pizza. Ellen was relieved that she wouldn't have to meet with her group while she was so hungry, and the group was relieved that they'd found an easy solution for dealing with their difficult teammate.

Here's the lesson of this story: If your group finds one team member difficult to work with, please communicate with him/her. There may be a logical reason or an easy fix to help your team work together and succeed!


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