How does one leave one collaborative group for another, prior to the start of the research? This relates to switching project teams for graduate course work, switching research labs, or basically dropping any collaboration. How does one do so politely?

My specific situation:

I have been asked today by one of the best teams to join their group for our major University project. However, I have promised my friend 2 months ago that I will join his team.

How can I join the better team without jeopardizing my relationship with my friend?

  • Before people vote to close, please consider that this is highly related to graduate school and research collaborations as well. Mar 8, 2014 at 0:46
  • I don't agree with the reasoning here, but I'd like to see others vote to reopen rather than doing it unilaterally.
    – aeismail
    Mar 8, 2014 at 4:50

2 Answers 2


First make sure that this is what you want. This is a very important thing to do. Being in a better team is a chance, but also a burden. They will expect you to cooperate at a certain level, which means: stress, lots of work and being on time. If you think that's worth the result and that you are willing to dive into that, then do it.

If your friend is a good friend he/she will understand. I'd suggest to invite your friend for an activity that both of you enjoy a lot, then bring up the topic. Make it clear to your friend that you value the relationship and how difficult it is for you to take that decision, but also can't put down the chance. Ask him/her what he/she would do in your position to get your friend to see it with your eyes.

True friendship will survive that. And if not, then knowing that you took the right decision will help you getting over it.

  • I will do that. I am not afraid to work hard - i actually want to. The problem is that my friend is lazy
    – Napster
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:26
  • 2
    It seems you already make excuses for "dumping" your friend. You seem to think, it is his fault (he is lazy) and not you for breaking your word.
    – Alexandros
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:40
  • Some people legitimately are lazy. Personally, I would not be willing to risk my success in grad research by collaborating with someone who might hold me back, unless it was in an intentional effort to help them improve.
    – Tim
    Mar 8, 2014 at 6:50

Make sure that if you are going to do this, it leaves him enough time to find a new group (assuming this is related to a class or an undergraduate/masters project and not a phd collaboration). Going back on your word is one thing (subjectively unethical), but it would be extremely unethical to go back on your word if he does not have the time to adjust to your news accordingly.

If you two have already formed a project idea together, view every idea you have told him as his. Absolutely do not take anything from your current project idea to the new team (especially if he is unable, or too lazy to, find a new team that has their own idea)

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