How to Work with People You Don’t Know

Awkward Group ProjectWorking in a group can be an uncomfortable experience — especially if you don’t know the people you are grouped with. Often, not getting off on the right foot can be harmful in the long run, so it is important that you have a good start.  Luckily, after three years of group-project experience, I have come up with five suggestions that can make the collaboration process a lot easier.

Break the Ice

When people meet for the first time, it can be a little uneasy. Thoughts of not knowing what to say or do in certain situations are constantly running in the back of our minds.  Try breaking the tension with a fun game, or simply engage in small talk to get to know everyone a little better.  Breaking the ice helps to lighten up the mood and can get people to open up.

Communicate Efficiently

Having a well-planned communications strategy is useful to stay connected at all times. The issue, however, is that not all of us respond to messages the same time, causing a delay in the communication process.  For instance, I find people tend to check texts more often than emails. While the use of email to communicate is sufficient, I highly recommend sending mass-messages or group texts as a more efficient and convenient way to reach out. The use of group texts allows members to instantly receive messages, notifying them immediately of any project setbacks, updates or tasks.

Set a Schedule

One of the hardest things to do when working with others is picking times that are convenient for everyone to meet.  Some members may have commitments to other activities such as a sport, job, or club, making it a lot harder to gather.  Instead of learning everyone’s schedule, determine when everyone is available the beginning of each week, set a schedule, and try to follow it as best as you can.

Assign Tasks

Prior to starting, expectations should be made clear.  If you don’t know your group members well, it can be difficult to tell them that they are not pulling enough weight.  Keeping a group to-do list will keep everyone on the same page about what needs to be done, who is responsible for each task, and when they are due.

Consider Other’s Skills and Interests

Before handing out assignments, it is a good idea to have an understanding of everyone’s experience and background.  Because people are meeting for the first time, discuss any skills or interests members may have related to the project.  When giving out tasks, keep in mind those with experience in a particular area may be better suited to take on certain assignments. It is good to find this out early on because individuals tend to put forth their best effort into things they have done before, truly enjoy, or find interesting.


Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 2.33.24 PM David Huang is a junior at Tufts University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics and minor in Communications and Media Studies.

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