Friday, August 29, 2008


Welcome to Weikin’s Blog Post on ES2007S. Today, I will be reporting “live” from an actual conflict situation at NUS. Taskforce Alpha, a team of 5 students (Eunice, John, Andy, Steve and Janice) has been assigned to work together on a project. This project is important as it will comprise 50% of their final grade in their module. However, one of their important teammate, John, is currently MIA and is holding on to a critical component of the project. To make matters worse, the deadline is in 3 days! The other teammates are extremely unhappy about this and are about to go on strike! I questioned the team leader, Andy, about what went wrong and why are the teammates so unhappy.

Me: “Andy, what happened to John?”

Andy: “We were waiting for him to compile the project, but he just called me to inform me that he is now in Malaysia attending a Liondance competition. He claims that he did not know that he had to compile project."

Me: “Why are you guys so angry then?”

Andy: “In the first place, John told us he was extremely busy this semester, so we gave him the least work. He was supposed to write an introduction for the project and compile the project once everyone completed their part. In the end, he did not even write the introduction, this responsibility was pushed to another teammate, Eunice, to perform. Whenever we have group meetings, he was always the last to arrive and the first to leave. He barely contributed to this project."

Me: “Have you all tried talking to him?”

Andy: “Yes we did, but he kept telling us that he was very busy. We tried to understand his problems, but this is the last straw!”

Andy storms out of the room.

Everyone seems really angry and confused. I'm trying to reach John for comment but he is unavailable. What caused this situation to arise? I believe that one of the main issues is that John has not been responsible for his actions and did not bother to be accountable. The team failed to identify this problem early, leading to the current situation. What should the team have done? What can be done now? We will now ask our in-house EQ experts, Brad Blackstone and his team of bloggers, for advice.

Stay Tuned!


Yu Ming said...

In my opinion, getting others involve goes beyond pointing out their short falls. Many people respond poorly to negative comments despite all the good intentions. However, most of us are reward driven and a little praise or flattery often goes a long way. Make them feel like their contribution matters and it is more likely to encourage further participation. By entrusting the 'easiest' job of compiling to John, it might have indirectly conveyed how insignificant the others consider his ability to contribute. As a result, John is pushed further away from the group and makes it more difficult for him to be motivated.

weiren said...

Hi Wei Kin:

I do not think the problem described is uncommon. In fact, it exists in every level of life and so we should all get serious about it. Not!

I personally take a lighter side of life. As a team leader, Andy must have caused quite a fair bit of panic having flared up and stormed out of the room. Leaders are supposed to be the one who managed the situations while the rest of the group tries to fight out their displeasure. With the deadline so close to submission, the more Andy should have composed himself and lead his team to a viable solution presented to them.

As for John, the team could have talked to him or report him to a tutor, even if it means that he might fail his project portion. A person should only deserve what he has done and likewise, suffer the consequences if he pushes his responsibilities around.

That's my five cent's worth.


Wei Kin said...

Yu Ming,

I agree that directly assigning the easiest task to a person without prior discussion is very degrading. However, in this case, everyone (including John) agreed to their own workload. In fact, John was very happy with his own portion due to his other commitments.

I personally believe that this conflict occurred due to several factors.

1) First portion of John's workload (the intro) was not done, leading to another person doing it.

2) Teammates failing to take any action against John for not doing his part.

3) John assumes it is ok to not do the compilation, since the teammates will cover for him, as done previously.

Motivation plays a major part in delivering quality work, but when a project is 50% of your grade, I'm of the opinion that responsibility is much more important.

Wei Kin said...

Hey Weiren,

Thanks for the comment. Yes I agree with you. As a team leader, it is critical for Andy to take control and manage the team in such situations, even if he is unhappy with the situation. Perhaps this is due to the fact that he was just a "leader" in name (fairly common in NUS project groups, someone has to be appointed the leader right? Everyone hates "saikang").

As for John, I believe he deserves a failing grade for flaunting the trust of his teammates. At the very least, he could had informed someone in the group that he could not perform the compilation and get someone else to do it.


Brad Blackstone said...

Dear Weikin,

I really like the way that you have framed this scenario. Very creative dialogue! You've also presented it that way clearly and concisely.

Excellent response to the assigned topic!