Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back to the trenches: there's no "I" in TEAM but there is a backwards "ME"

With vacation days and holidays and sick days, I've not been at work nearly as much as I normally am. Which meant that today was a very busy day (hooray!).

I've found, in my time as a working person, that I really don't like to be in situations in which I have to depend upon another person in order to get my work completed. Unfortunately, part of my monthly reporting requires a piece of information from another person, and obtaining that information is always a challenge.

I remember in high school (and probably before) that I really didn't like doing group projects. The group work always felt unfair to me. I like (and liked) being responsible for my own grade. But if I was in a group and we all got the same grade, that meant that my grade might be lower than I wanted it to be, especially if the teacher assigned a bunch of dip$hit kids into my group. Or (and this is what usually happened), I'd do way more than my share of the work, thereby insuring that my grade would be fine. And then the dip$hit kids that were assigned to my group all got a good grade in the gradebook. (And if I remember right, some of those kids probably never got another grade so high in their academic career.)

This kind of educational strategy is popular: cooperative learning. When I was in my graduate program, we talked a lot about how great it was for kids. But I always had a nagging feeling that it wasn't fair. Sure, working in groups is great - kids learn teamwork, group dynamics, all that great stuff. But saddling the smartest kid in the class with a bunch of dummies who are dead weight when it comes to research skills, writing skills, etc., makes a resentful smart kid who picks up the slack and does too much of the work. If my teachers (and the other teachers out there who are reading this) would have graded us on individual effort, at least in part, those group projects would have been possibly more educational.

A lot of this plays out in the workplace. There are team members who coast by and team members who do not only their own work but plenty of other people's work, too. (Insert non-specified job rant here.) At any rate, I've learned to toot my own horn, and to draw better boundaries.

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