Did you ever know a friend with an uncle Joe that would come over, eat all your friend’s food, sleep on the couch, play video games and refuse to look for a job or take on any responsibility beyond putting the pillows back on the couch in the morning after he woke up?

We’ve all some across people we felt were leeching off of others. What may have started as a friendly offer to help someone in need can occasionally take the form of entitlement. A lack of work ethic is not the only reason that someone may join a group in your online college class and fail to pull his or her own weight. But whatever the reason you need to learn to handle such situations so as to not let someone else keep you from accomplishing what you set out to do.

In my experience listlessness or slacking off happens most when there is not clarity and unity in a group. One of these issues deals with organization and the other deals with emotional cohesion. Some come to the table with the idea that it’s about all business and often get put with those who need more of an emotional connection with those with whom they are working. They may come to the group and assume the role of leader, determining the direction of the group, but if everyone has not bought into the idea themselves the group support of the project may be in for a bumpy ride.

Either extreme in personality can be problematic. The business minded individual can leave people not wanting to participate and the emotional individual can spend all their time developing relationships and not getting any work done. Keep it in your head that relationships aren’t incidental to your group work, but essential; and also that teamwork isn’t the only goal of your group getting together, you have a task to accomplish and it won’t help you to be united in going out for ice cream if you don’t get your work done.

One key to navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of an online college group is communication. We all grow up in different households with different communication styles. Some have learned to be highly sensitive to an agitated adult such that they instinctively react when they feel some sort of tension. Others never shared feelings growing up and are more likely to bottle feelings and thoughts if it means confrontation. Knowing this can help you establish clear communication between everyone in an online college class group.

For example, communicating with the group in small and simple ways lets them know when you are going to do things and when you have to duck out. It may be apparent to you that something else needs to take priority, but in not letting the group know where you are at in terms of confidence in the direction of the project, doubt in your ability to achieve your assumed role or anything else leaves them open to assuming what’s in your head. If you are feeling something, share it. Keeping it in will only leave people guessing as to what you are thinking. Also make it a habit of asking others what they think and feel about ideas you present or how the group is progressing.

These are some ideas to help those who are starting to get behind in group work. If your communication with them has been clear and they still are not meeting obligations it’s time to get your online class instructor involved (you may already have been involving him on the progress and he or she may have naturally seen that one was not pulling their weight). Always give the benefit of the doubt and be as understanding as you can, but don’t jeopardize your own class success because someone is choosing not to participate. Good luck!

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