If you are anything like me, reading the words “you must complete a group assessment” at the beginning of a semester, fills you with both surprising joy and overwhelming dread. Your heart drops, a cold sweat breaks out, but then as you think it through, you start to believe that it may just be okay. I’ve found, especially when completing an online degree, a group assessment means that I am not alone. It means that I have a group of similar minded people all excited to be working through our subjects together, ready to expand our knowledge, complement each other’s strengths, and shore up our weaknesses. But, it also fills me with that feeling of impending doom. I mean, how can we possibly work together as a cohesive unit so that everyone feels heard and as though they have contributed? And why does it feel as though working on a group assessment is so vastly different from working with a team on a project in our everyday workplace?
The problem as I see it
As a definite sufferer of imposter syndrome, I am always worrying if I’m smart enough and good enough to be doing this degree. However, when placed in a group setting, this feeling seems to be multiplied by a factor of a thousand. I am constantly worrying if I am contributing enough, and if what I’m contributing is both on topic and at the same intellectual level as the rest of the group. While I am almost certain that everyone in the group experiences these same thoughts at some point, there are times when I feel alone in these feelings.
Adding to this, we have all had to work with that one person whose personality just doesn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the group, who thinks their ideas are better than everyone else’s, and who can’t take feedback on their work. Sometimes, the hardest part of a group assessment is not completing the set task, but ensuring everyone is able to work together.
So what can we do?
Throughout my degree and work life, I have found some tips and tricks to use to help work with those ‘clashy’ personalities and combat those thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.
The age-old saying of ‘Fake it till you make it’ is one that people both love and hate, but simply put, for me it means that confidence breeds confidence. If I tell myself I can do it and act like I can do it, there is no reason why I can’t. I just need to believe that I belong here, that I am smart enough to have progressed through 3 years of coursework, and achieved more than passing grades. I am able to manage a team of others every day at work and provide a safe and friendly workplace, so I just need to be confident and apply this to my group work. We all have our own strengths, and the best aspect of working in a team is that the work is shared between everyone. Some of us are going to be more tech savvy than others, or be able to write more academically than others, and it is just a matter of identifying what group members are able to contribute to which section, the same as you would a project at work. Delegation is key.
A few things I find best to remember when working in a team, is to ask questions, keep an open mind, and be open to feedback. We are all going to see a problem or a situation differently, and we are all going to have our unique take on how they should be solved or implemented. Many of us are, let’s face it, stuck in our ways, we can’t see any other way than ours, which can cause friction when working with others. Keeping our mind open to other perspectives and asking questions are the best way to ensure cohesiveness within the group, and that the results and experience will be positive. As for being open to feedback, just remember that feedback is not a criticism of us as a person, but an opportunity to improve. It may feel as though we are being attacked, but it offers us a chance to step back and think about how we could integrate this new perspective into our work. Use it as a tool for growth and to achieve your best results.
For me, now, group work isn’t the fear-inducing exercise it once was, but an exciting opportunity to collaborate with others who are as passionate about our field as I am.