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Group Projects Are Often Torturous

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 23, 2020

This takes place during what is supposed to be my last semester of college. I’m majoring in finance, and all business majors are required to take a capstone course before graduation. In this class, we basically do nothing but group work, and we are stuck with the same group for the entire semester.

I wind up in a group that has a marketing major, an international business major, and an independent studies major; she made her own major using business classes and classes from another degree program but still had to take the capstone class. The two girls in my group are who I mostly talk about because the one guy in the group does seem to sympathize with me but never does anything about how the girls are treating me.

The first few assignments aren’t that big, and we make it through all right. Then, we get to the first big project. The assignment is to take a well-known tech company and find a way to improve it. The first step is to look at the financials for this company as well as three competitors. Since I’m the finance major, we decide that I should do the financials for the tech company while each of my teammates does the financials for one of the competitors.

To properly do the financials, you must first go the SEC website, find the 10-K doc for your company, and copy the Balance Sheet, the Income Statement, and the Cash Flows statement into an Excel doc. My accounting professors all drilled into me that part of this process includes finding all the totals on these statements ourselves and not just copy/pasting them into Excel. Once you have these statements in Excel, you must then calculate about thirty different ratios using the data you pulled from the SEC site. Most of the ratios are straight-forward, but the last two or three give me some trouble. All in all, this whole process takes me about two hours to complete.

The day this assignment is due, we meet an hour before class starts to compile everything together and so I can look over their ratios. I quickly notice something is off with all of their documents. Instead of manually calculating all the ratios, they just Googled the current ratios for their company. “It’ll be fine; just check and make sure the ratios are fine,” they tell me.

“I can’t check them; there’s no math for me to check!” I explain.

“Then do the math,” they say.

Yes, they want me to do about six hours’ worth of work in forty-five minutes. I instead compare their numbers to mine, fix anything that looks really wrong to me, and let it be. They are livid when our professor gives us back a poor grade, saying 90% of our ratios were wrong and we didn’t show the math most of the time. Turns out, all but two of my ratios were correct.

Things get worse for me a few weeks later. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have a small assignment I think is due on a Thursday but is really due on a Tuesday. I find out an hour before class that I have my dates wrong. Luckily, I have the assignment half-done, so I quickly finish it up so I have something to turn in. My teammates do not like that, and this is the point when two of them decide I am a bad group mate.

I am taking a full course load that semester, and my teammates don’t like that I insist on going to my other classes, specifically my English class. I have put off taking my last 200-level English class, and the school actually has an attendance policy for 100- and 200-level classes. I am only allowed three unexcused absences a semester, and we use a clicker system to take attendance.

“We all skip our other classes to get this done, you should, too,” they reason. They even purposefully schedule meetings with our professor during my English class so they can make a case that I am not doing anything to help with the project.

As the time for our big presentation grows closer, we spend most of our spare time in the library. This is when I learn that I am the only stress-eater in a group of stress-starvers. If I insist on taking a thirty-minute meal break, they throw a fit. If I bring snacks, they say I am too distracting. If I bring headphones so I can listen to some soft music while I work, they say I need to contribute more to the group. When I say I need to leave by eleven so I can actually get some sleep, they whine and say I need to stay and help with the work. When I say I need to study for a quiz for another class, they say this is the only class that matters. There is no pleasing these people, so I stop trying.

In our presentation, we’re supposed to use an Adobe product — not PowerPoint — for our slides. Now, one of my other classes is also doing group presentations with this same program, so I am the only one on my team who is familiar with the program. As such, I volunteer to handle the slides. My groupmates aren’t quite ready when I ask for their parts, so I change my password on the site to something generic — I’m already using my college email address — and give them the login info so they can update the presentation on their own time. The night before the presentation, I check the slides, make a few adjustments, and go to bed.

The next day, I’m pulling up the slides on my laptop and to my horror, one of the girls has gone in and totally changed everything. There isn’t time to fix it, unfortunately. No surprise, we get a bad grade on the presentation. But when they have the gall to say I was the one in charge of the slides and making sure everything looked nice, I am furious. I go to our professor after the fact and tell him I cannot work with them any longer. He won’t put me in another group, but he does say I can do the work by myself.

I ended up dropping the class. I signed up to take my capstone class online that summer and begged the school to still let me walk at graduation. They said I could. Unfortunately, my grades in my other classes suffered that semester, and I only passed two of my classes. I did walk at graduation, but I had to retake most of my classes online that fall.

After I dropped the class, I was over at a friend’s dorm. Her dorm was more like a suite with one common area and three bedrooms with two or three beds in each room. Turns out, one of my groupmates was one of my friend’s suitemates, and my friend said she was a horrible suitemate. 

By far, this was the worst group project I ever had.

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