Having a freeloader groupmate just adds a layer of stress to an already tiring and stressful endeavor. But how can you deal with them in a productive and considerate way?
We’ve all met them. Some of us may have been them, inadvertently or otherwise. As much as we hope to never experience it, the challenge eventually presents itself. The freeloader, the ghoster, the pabigat. Once, I was in a trio with two other classmates, and my other groupmate and I tried to subtly urge our other groupmate (who was MIA the entire time) to participate at the tail end of the project and give their input. And all they did was tell us that the project looked good. Thanks a lot! A bad groupmate comes in many forms, and we often deal with them in various ways.
A freeloader groupmate causes plenty of frustration in an already stressful environment. The remedy, to put it simply, is to communicate—whether you’re the freeloader or the burnt-out groupmate. Clarify what’s been happening and how you can move forward. But if you need some more direction, we’re here to help you out. This is not a step-by-step guide nor a foolproof manual to relieve you of the burdens a pabigat groupmate leaves on your shoulders. However, it could be a blueprint to help you formulate your own way of dealing with someone that’s just not putting in the effort.
CONSIDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES
Of course, you should approach the situation with a clear mind first. For the most part, you’ll have some kind of idea about what kind of student someone is prior to the groupwork, so just observe and consider. Maybe your groupmate is going through a tough time. Maybe they’re just not responsive in group chats, but they’ll do the work.
If the former is the case, then, make it clear to them that all they need to do is be honest and tell the group what’s going on and what workarounds you can all try. How can the rest of you help them out? You can even help them loop in your professor. Encourage communication early on so that you’re prepared for what lies ahead.
GO OFF ON A RANT (TO SOMEONE ELSE)
If you need to express your frustrations, whether to your fellow groupmates or your friends, feel free to do so. It can help you process and clear your mind. It’s perfectly valid to feel upset and frustrated that a groupmate isn’t making an effort to work when everyone else is. Because now you have to take on their workload when it was supposed to be an equal split. So, feel free to let it out—but preferably in private. Putting someone on blast on social media may sometimes feel cathartic (and you can even warn others), but first ask yourself first how productive that actually would be.
CONFRONT THE PERSON DIRECTLY
Look, we all know how daunting confrontation can be. Many of us have instead gone down the path of simply removing the groupmate’s name from the project or even keeping it in and letting them slide, because sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth the hassle of the alternative. However, communicating with your groupmate about how much of a freeloader they are is the most effective way to deal with the situation. Whether in private chat or in the group chat, make it known how unfair it is for everyone else when someone isn’t doing their part.
Don’t be afraid to seem makulit or bossy—take a kind but assertive approach to groupwork, whether or not you’re the “leader.” You’re all after the same goal anyway: to finish the project and get a good grade. If the groupmate doesn’t seem to share the same goal, be assertive in trying to address the inequality experienced by the rest of the group. Tell them what they need to do or tell them what you’re going to do if they continue to ignore their share of the work. They’ll have excuses, for sure. But if you’re being fair and honest with your assessment of the situation, and your other groupmates agree, then go off.
INFORM YOUR PROFESSOR
If solving the problem on your own as a group isn’t really working, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professor and inform them of the situation. They’ll hopefully be willing to help in various ways, like talking to the freeloader or taking into consideration the freeloading when it comes to grading.
Peer reviews (especially those included in the final grade) are a godsend in that students have the opportunity to let out their frustrations and share to their instructor what went on during the project. Even if someone ends up with a bad grade as a consequence of their own actions (or inaction), that barely takes away from the fact that you had to take on the burdens that come with a freeloader. But hopefully, at the end of it all, you’re satisfied with the way you handled the problem.