Group projects and the introvert

“Yay, another group project!” said no introvert ever.

It’s nearing the end of the term, which means students are knee-deep in group projects in every department at Portland State. And yes, introverts are hating their lives.

Professors assign group projects to teach teamwork and prepare us for jobs after graduation, even though they do nothing of the sort. Instead, group projects mainly teach us that aligning five student schedules is a big, fat mystery, and leaders can’t depend on anyone else.

Here’s the thing: Collaboration is a critical part of almost any job we’ll land now or after graduation. “Group projects” in the actual world of work, however, are nothing like school projects. Employers vet their employees, and members are experts in their fields. Employers don’t assign tasks arbitrarily, and everyone is qualified for their specific jobs and does them or faces separate consequences.

There’s more than a grade at stake, and no, there are no shared paychecks. Collaborating with a group of professionals creates an excellent product, but a mix of students who may or may not care about their grades creates a mess.

Introverts, especially, dread group work in school. It’s not just the weird hours and that one person who NEVER knows what’s going on. Sometimes it’s the anxiety of choosing a partner after working very hard to avoid eye contact all term. Mostly, however, it’s just being forced to interact with other people against our will that is overwhelming.

Being around others in general is exhausting for introverts, and school group projects are a million times worse than hanging out with friends we actually like. Every introvert would rather do the whole damn project by themselves than work up the energy to coordinate schedules and tasks, not to mention work with and trust other people. Sometimes there are even confrontations and warring personalities, which is never worth 5 percent of our grade.

So what can we to do?

Well, not much. The truth is, group projects aren’t going anywhere. Professors will always think they’re good ideas (they’re not), and students will always think they’re dumb as hell (they are). There will always be that confused student, that domineering student, that apathetic student and, yep, that introverted student. It’s best to accept that now.

We should also embrace one more fact: Group projects are like zombie apocalypses—you’ll stand a better chance of surviving if you stick together. That means now is not the time to retreat into our introverted, anxious selves, my friends. It’s the one scenario in which our combined efforts will be judged as a whole, so we need to speak up to get the job done or go down with the ship.

Acknowledge your strengths, point out bad ideas and set deadlines. Find methods of communication and ways of separating the work that are most efficient, which will limit the amount of needed interactions. Don’t be afraid to take charge if things go awry (introverts can be leaders, too), and pick your battles. Balance with a bit of “me time,” and, most of all, remember the project is temporary. After all, the trick to a successful group PowerPoint is as simple as bearing down and manning up.

Oh, and groups always respond well to treats.