Telltale signs that your groupmate is slacking off

October 05, 2022


Groupmates slacking off? 

Have you ever heard of the remora fish? It is a type of fish that attaches itself to a shark and feeds on leftovers  from the shark’s meal while not having to work itself out.

Remora fish on a shark.

Image source: Pexels

While doing group work,  chances are, you will encounter these ‘remora fishes’ that latch themselves to your group while feeding on the grades that you and your other groupmates worked hard for - while they did absolutely nothing!

Irritating, isn’t it?

Signs your teammate is slacking off

1. When they don't respond to your request for a progress update.

Groupmate yawning.

Image source: Unsplash

Silence is golden, but not in this sense! One of the major signs that your groupmate is in incognito mode is when they are silent in group chats. Most likely, these people will not respond to any inquiries, do not contribute to any discussion, and maintain their silence until deadlines are closing in. 

Although sometimes that isn’t the case, it is crucial that you take note of this behaviour earlier on to prepare for contingency plans should this groupmate turns out to be slacking off.

2. When they casually reply “I’m on it” without actually contributing.

A bit better than silence, but way deadlier! When you are asking how their work is progressing, some of them would say “on it!”, and they would go missing for days. 

As assuring as their initial response sounds, it will be helpful for you to ask exactly what they are working on to avoid last-minute ‘surprises’. 

If they are really working on their task, they would be happy to share their progress with you. 

3. When the 'Wikipedia wanderer' submits plagiarised work.

In some cases, you can’t really detect that your groupmate is slacking off. They will submit their part normally, which does look good, well-structured, and informative, until they all look too familiar. 

A simple Google search or plagiarism check would reveal that the excellent work mentioned is simply being ‘plucked’ word-by-word from Wikipedia, or copied directly from websites across the Internet. 

If this happens, your work might fail the plagiarism check, and will most likely be rejected - and all your hard work will go up in flames. 

Wikipedia page on laptop screen.

Image source: Unsplash

How to deal with slacking teammates?

1. Communication is key.

Communication is the first step in conflict resolution. Try to ask, why aren’t they doing their part in the task. 

Sometimes these people are facing much bigger problems, such as sick family members, financial problems, and many more. 

After you know the cause of the problem, you can then try to find the solution with your other group members.

Student communicating with others.

Image source: Unsplash

2. Check their progress persistently.

Some people won’t budge when you are being a saint, so you will have to step up your game. Be persistent with your progress check: You can keep reminding them through text, call, and even face-to-face meet-ups.

However, make sure to not lose your composure despite how frustrating the situation is..

Keep your calm and if they ignore or block you, you can always move to steps 3 and 4, which we will mention below. 

3. Carry their workload for this particular project.

Items stacked on a car.

Image source: Pexels

‘Carry’ is a term well-popularised by the video game industry. It refers to a situation where one team member or more ‘carry’ the non-functional team member on their backs to win a match.

In the same way, you can apply this concept when dealing with a slacking groupmate.The clock is ticking - time to work on the entire assignment even if it means shouldering extra responsibilities. You don’t want the ship to go down because of a mere crew, do you?

Of course, this method will put more workload on you and the rest of the group. Thus, it is only advisable to do this when only a small part of your group is slacking - and if the situation is on the contrary, it is advisable to follow the next advice.

4. Bring this up to your lecturer/supervisor.

When nothing else works, you can always discuss it with your lecturer, instructor, or supervisor. Keep in mind that your lecturers are humans too and they can understand your situation, as long as there is solid evidence that shows your team member slacking off.

You can either negotiate for an extended deadline, or you can also let the lecturer know which part of the project is done by that person.

Mostly, lecturers will go for the latter, where they will assess you and the rest of the group by the work you have done and assess the slacking ones by their own respective part of the task.

Of course, sometimes the ones slacking would direct their anger towards you, but all in all that is the only thing that they can do - and with all due honesty, it is not worth failing your class just for one remora fish. 


Written by: Engku M. Fakhruddin

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