6.6 Team and Group Work in Action


Working in groups is a necessary and important skill. We will find ourselves having to work in groups in various situations—at home, at work, at play, and at school. When we find ourselves working in groups—whether in a formal or informal situation—certain things tend to happen. Often the natural leaders will emerge to provide guidance and direction, and those who are natural followers will act accordingly. Conflicts will inevitably occur, as people have different visions for the outcome.

Working in groups in educational settings is a common occurrence. Instructors often require group work because it is such an important skill, particularly moving forward into the workplace. Working on labs together, group project work, group assignments, even online group work with classmates who are all over the world, are all standard situations. Getting along is important, but working effectively together can make a better project when each team member contributes according to their strengths, resulting in a better project than each could have done on their own.

Working in groups has advantages and disadvantages and works better in some situations than others. Here are some reasons why you might choose to work alone or in a group:

Working alone versus working in groups
Working Alone Working in Groups
Free to make all the decisions Can collaborate
Can use your own methods Can share responsibility
Can be creative Can share ideas and talents
Can do things on own time schedule Can spread the workload
No disagreements A more sociable way to work
No compromising – can do everything your way Able to do something bigger and better
Can take all the credit Can demonstrate ability to work in teams

Effective Working Groups

Groups that work effectively have the following characteristics:

  • Group members share a sense of purpose or common goals that each member is willing to work toward.
  • The group that understands developing a climate of trust is important. In order to trust one another, individuals in a group must understand and get to know one another.
  • The tasks or objectives are understood and accepted by everyone.
  • There is free discussion leading to group commitment and no hidden agendas.
  • The group is concerned not only performing well but learning and working through the process.
  • The group periodically evaluates its performance.
  • The group members use one another as a resource.
  • Roles are balanced and shared to ensure that the tasks are accomplished and that group cohesion and morale are enhanced.
  • The group comes up with clear assigned tasks for people in the group.
  • Communication is clear, direct, open, and honest.
  • Group members continually try to listen to and clarify what is being said, and show interest in what others say and feel.
  • They feel freedom to build on each other’s ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged and freely expressed.
  • The group focuses on problem solving rather than expending energy on competitive struggles or interpersonal issues.
  • The group is willing to deal with conflict, and focus on it until it is resolved or managed in a way that does not reduce the effectiveness of the group and its members.
  • Confrontation is accepted as a challenge to examine one’s behaviour or ideas. It is not viewed as an uncaring personal attack.
  • Mistakes are seen as sources of learning rather than reasons for punishment. This encourages creativity and risk taking.
  • The group has a clear set of expectations and standards for the behaviour of group members.
  • The group that understands developing a climate of trust is important. In order to trust one another, individuals in a group must understand and get to know one another.

Effective, comfortable groups can accomplish a lot.

Managing Conflicts

Video: How to Deal with Difficult Group Project Members

When we hear the word conflict, we often think of it in a negative way.  Conflicts sound like problems and problems are bad right?  Think back to Chapter 2 and your attitude towards problems. Do you see them as something that will be a roadblock to your success, or as an opportunity to ask for help and  learn something new? How you face problems will impact your ability to solve them. You will read more about that in Chapter 8 on problem solving.

Conflicts among people who are interacting are natural. People have many differences in opinions, ideas, emotions, and behaviours, and these differences sometimes cause conflicts.  Successfully managing through conflict is a highly prized job skill and often requires you applying all of the 7 Job Skills for the Future like novel and adaptive thinking, resilience as you work through the complex problems that may arise when you are working with others.

A conflict cannot be resolved satisfactorily unless all people involved have the right attitude and the right tools.

Photo by Alena Darmel, Pexels License
  • Respect the opinions and behaviours of others. Accept that people are not all alike. Most situations do not involve a single right or wrong answer.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Focus on the behaviour and NOT the person. For example, if Claudia doesn’t respond to your email invite to a group meeting, avoid assuming she is not interested or is lazy. Reach out in another way, express concern. Perhaps she is overwhelmed right now with sick children and hasn’t been able to review her email.
  • Be open minded. Look at the other’s point of view. Be open to change—even when that means accepting constructive criticism.
  • Take a Step Back. You can’t work together to resolve a conflict while you’re still feeling strong emotions. Wait until you’re able to communicate without strong emotions.
  • Recognize the value of compromise. Even if you disagree after calmly talking over an issue, accept that as a human reality and understand that a compromise may be necessary in order to get along with others.
  • Using the right tools. As we saw in Chapter 2, we have the best chance of success to learn if we use multiple ways to communicate information. Conflict can arise if some people prefer to talk over tasks, while others will forget, and would benefit from written communication about what is required. In this way, they can review and reflect on it before being able to provide their thoughts.


In most cases, when the people involved have a good attitude and are open to compromise, conflicts can be resolved successfully.

Yet sometimes there seems to be no resolution. Sometimes the conflict can arise by group members refusing to engage in a group project, not answering emails or stops communicating with the group. This is often referred to as “ghosting” as the person has become invisible.

Review the requirements of any group work to ensure you understand the following:

  • Is your group project for a group mark or are you marked individually, or both?
  • Are you required to submit your individual work to the professor?
  • What are the consequences of putting your name on a group project if you know some of it has been plagiarized or not original work or is missing citations and references?
  • Have you set up group expectations for communicating, a timeline for the project and an list of consequences for not communicating?
  • Can someone be removed from your group and if so, how do you communicate this with the professor and the group member?
  • What do you do if someone shows up at the last minute and wants their name added to the project but they didn’t participate in the work?
  • Is there a part of this assignment where you will be asked to evaluate your group members and is that information shared with them? Does your feedback impact their mark?

This may mean engaging the help of your professor to better understand what the expectations are.  Once again, communication is key to solving this challenge.

Stages in Group Formation

Groups that form to accomplish a certain goal go through stages in getting to that goal. It’s not a bad thing that conflict happens along the way. In fact, it’s almost inevitable. How people handle the conflict will determine whether or not the process is a positive and successful one.

Video: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing

4.4 Team and Group Work” from Student Success by Mary Shier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

3 Successful students embrace a diverse community” from A Guide for Successful Students by Irene Stewart and Aaron Maisonville is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Fanshawe SOAR Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Cavanagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.