BMH Blog

Group Work: Overcoming Challenges & Handling Conflict

You won’t all agree on everything all the time – life just doesn’t work that way.
The way we deal with tension and conflict is what’s really important.

When conflict arises, try to:

  • Remain Objective
    Focus on the issue and not the person
  • Remain calm & hear eachother out
    If the disagreement turns into a shouting match, call a “time out”, giving everyone a few minutes to calm down, then re-open the discussion with a rule that allows everyone a chance to speak
  • Use “I” Statements
    This requires people to take responsibility for their feelings and helps improve communication skills.

For example, instead of saying “We are sick of you arriving late for meetings”, you can say “I feel frustrated when you arrive late for meetings”

1 One of the biggest challenges include uneven contribution by one or more members and it definitely increases tension in the group.

Possible solutions:

  • Set clear expectations & guidelines for the group from the start
  • Assign roles & responsibilities to ensure equal contributions by everyone
  • Address the issue directly & respectfully with the person(s) not pulling their weight
  • Include a ‘record of contribution’ from each member in your project – this raises red flags for those not contributing and gives credit to those who are
  • Refer back to posts on the group: Group Work – The Basics, and Group Work – Getting Organised & Started


2 Scheduling problems may result in the work on the project starting late or not being able to continue.

Possible solutions:

  • Consider alternative ways of meeting or communicating, set up an email group or Whatsapp group for example, and use that as a way of discussing important items & keeping the project moving forward
  • Refer back to the post on: Group Work – Getting Organised & Started


3 Different Expectations & Work Ethics – Some members may be striving for a distinction, whilst others are just interested in passing. Some may also go out of their way to get work done ahead of schedule while others procrastinate and leave things to the last minute.

Possible solutions:

  • Keep work & project goals realistic a& attainable
  • Remember that your actions (or lack thereof) will impact on others in the group, or the group as a whole
  • Agree on a schedule up front & revise it periodically to ensure that everyone is keeping pace


4 Getting Stuck or ‘hitting a wall’ can result in procrastination & work avoidance.

Possible solutions:

  • Re-read the assessment brief focusing on the expectations & goals of the assessment
  • Call a brainstorming session so that you can generate & discuss ideas
  • Use mind mapping to link common ideas & threads
  • Set up a group-lecturer appointment to discuss the problem & get unstuck



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