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How to Deal with Conflict in a Group Project

three students sitting at a table outside working on a group project

Group projects are supposed to be about teamwork, but the reality is that sometimes one or two people do the majority of the work while someone else slacks off. It’s easy to feel frustrated that this person is dragging down your grade and forcing you to do extra work.

But before you lash out, realize what may happen:

  1. You come across as aggressive.

  2. They feel attacked and become defensive.

  3. The rest of your group takes sides.

  4. The project is delayed and feelings are hurt.

If your goal is to deliver an A+ project, then lashing out is counterproductive. But you still need to address the problem somehow. How do you do that productively? Let’s walk through it.

Set Expectations For Your Group Project Early

As soon as the project is assigned, decide how you’ll split up the workload. If everyone has a clear understanding of what they’re responsible for, you’re less likely to run into issues. Try to assign work based on what people feel comfortable doing. People are more likely to do the work they’ve chosen.

Hold the Team Accountable

Have regular check-ins to make sure everyone is on schedule. Set due dates for different parts of the project. Deadlines should be realistic and everyone should agree on them. During check-ins, see if anyone needs help accomplishing their part of the assignment. Use this time to work on the project together.

Address the Problem Privately

What should you do if you realize one of your team members is behind on the project? Instead of calling them out in front of the entire group, speak to them privately. Avoid accusations. Instead, ask what’s going on – is there a way you can help them catch up?

Keep in mind that they may be having some personal issues. Maybe they’re struggling to understand the assignment and are just too embarrassed to ask for help. Listen to their problems and put yourself in their shoes.

Use lots of “I” statements when speaking to them. For example, don’t say, “You’re jeopardizing the entire project by missing deadlines.” Instead say, “I noticed you didn’t meet the last deadline. I’m worried we won’t finish the project in time. How can I help?”

Put Solutions into Action

Readjust workloads and due dates to accommodate your teammate’s needs. Either set times to work on the project as a group, or work one-on-one to address their questions about the assignment.

Last Resort: Talk to Your Teacher

If nothing improves, it’s time to talk to your teacher. Not only will your teacher be able to provide extra help to the struggling student, they may also extend your deadline. The teacher can also act as a mediator to resolve any remaining conflict.

Group conflict can only be resolved when someone stands up as a leader. Are you ready to take on a leadership role? Learn how to become the leader your team needs with LeadYouth.


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