Group work is a balance between the needs of each person in the group. Sometimes people try to dominate the group and act selfishly to get only what they want, not caring about the others. Often though, the opposite is the case. Sometimes people are embarrassed to speak up for themselves and allow themselves to be dominated by other group members. This is not good either. In a healthy group, each person should expect to get what they need. You should care about the other members in your group and respect their feelings, but you should also care about your own needs and feelings. What is a good way to strike a balance between your needs and the needs of others in the group?
First of all, be honest with yourself. Are you getting what you need from the group? Are your goals being met by working in this group? You may well have many goals (like getting grades, learning, getting a job, earning money, receiving praise for your accomplishments) that are not completely satisfied by working in this group. That is OK. It’s not fair to expect any single workgroup to provide everything you need out of life! But if your group work helps you get some of it, or if it even helps you move just a little bit farther in some direction you are trying to go, then your work with your group can be worthwhile. It’s perfectly fair for you to expect something for yourself out of the group. Are you getting learning opportunities? Are you getting to practice skills you want to practice? Are you learning anything from other group members? Are you listened to? Are your contributions acknowledged? Are you allowed to influence the direction of the group, if even in a small way? If you can say “yes” to at least some of these questions, then working in the group may be good for you. If all these answers are “no”, then something needs to change. You can either try to change the group, or you can just change groups! If you really are not fitting in with your group at all, and if you are not learning or getting anything from the group, asking for a change is a good idea. But before you give up on the group, be sure your goals in the group are realistic. Expecting a learning experience from a group is fine. Expecting it to be easy all the time, expecting everyone in the group to want to be your friend, expecting constant praise from your teammates – all of those are signs that you are looking for things a workgroup is not really meant to give. Whatever your needs are, they do need to be taken care of! Just remember, workgroups are for work, so you may need to look outside of school or work from some of the other things you need in life. But any workgroup should respect and take care of each of its members. That means you too!