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Essential Study Skills

Dealing With Problems

Are the constant arguments getting in the way of actually doing work? Or maybe you can’t seem to figure out a good idea? This module explains some strategies to help you avoid conflict and work through problems when they come up.


  • Communicate early. Discussing things like roles and responsibilities, and setting out a timeline of work when you get started can help you avoid problems later on.
  • Be considerate when scheduling meetings. Try to accommodate everyone’s scheduling needs by rotating who chooses the meeting time/location, and trying alternative forms of communication.
  • Embrace different perspectives. Don’t get stuck with one accepted idea; evaluate all ideas critically.

Solving Problems in Your Group

Solutions for Common Group Problems

Problems are to be expected in group work, but learning to deal with them is an important skill.

Below, learn about some strategies that can help you avoid or work through potential problems in your group.

When group members have conflicting schedules, it can create roadblocks to getting started and continuing projects. Group members may get frustrated when they feel that others aren’t compromising or taking their situation into consideration.

How do you handle it?

Conflict among group members is natural, but it can also distract you from working on your project and disrupt the collaborative environment of the group. If two group members aren’t speaking to each other, that’s not going to be a very effective team.

How do you handle it?

  • Focus on task. You just need to get along well enough to work on your project together.
  • Try not to let personal feelings affect your work.
  • Be compassionate towards your group members.

A common complaint about group work is that one or two people end up doing most of the work. This imbalance of work creates tension and is unfair to group members.

How do you handle it?

  • Set up clear guidelines and expectations at the start of your project. A good way to do this is to create a group contract.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities equally, so each group member knows what they are responsible for accomplishing.
  • If you feel that someone is not meeting their responsibilities, talk to them directly and respectfully.

Are you working towards perfection or just passing? Are you going to work on the project in plenty of time, or procrastinate? Different expectations can create tension because the group is not working towards the same goal.

How do you handle it?

  • Communicate your expectations early so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Make a timeline of how the project will get done. A good way to do this is to create a group contract.

When you hit a mental roadblock, it is discouraging and can lead to procrastination and avoidance. It can be tempting to put off working on your project until later, and just hope that inspiration strikes at some point in the future. That’s not really a very effective way to work.

How do you handle it?

  • Re-read the expectations and goals for the assignment.
  • Brainstorm ideas with the group. You can create a mind map to visualize connected ideas.
  • Seek help.

When members of a group agree with other group members in order to avoid conflict, it is known as ‘group think’. The problem with this is that it stifles creativity and constructive evaluation of alternative ideas. There could be a really good idea that your group doesn’t pursue because no one wants to ‘rock the boat.’

How do you handle it?

  • Think critically. Offer alternative ideas, and consider the ideas of others.
  • Embrace diverse opinions. Considering other perspectives and ideas improves your process.