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I'm doing a marketing project with five members (including me), and I was elected to be the group leader. (I also forgot to say that it's a school marketing project)

As part of the project, we made a team contract where everyone agreed to certain outlines of how we would contact each other, how to make decisions, etc., and we all signed it. The team contract was part of our group projects mark (worth 5% of our mark). It had a template we had to fill out and follow.

Once the team meeting came up, two members didn't show up. I texted that I would be giving them a "strike" (since 3 strikes means they're kicked out of the project, and in the team contract, team members can get a "strike" by not showing up to a meeting WITHOUT letting the team leader know in advance). They didn't give an excuse but they kept asking me why I gave them the strike even though I told them about the team contract they signed. They also kept requesting that I take the strike back.

What makes the situation worse (well maybe in my opinion) is that those two members requested I make the meeting on Zoom since they don't want to commute to campus to meet.

So they told me that they want to bring this to the professor, but I don't know if it's necessary. Plus I'm going to be working with them for the rest of the project. I want the whole group to get along and cooperate, but at the same time, I don't know how to set the bottom line.

I don't know if I can even kick them out right now (even though I would like to do so and it's a personal gut feeling that they may cause more problems in the future).

What should I say to my team members and should I bring this up with my professor? If so, how should I do that without sounding like a bossy team leader? I'm worried about sounding really bossy and rude.

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    Does the contract also cover how meetings take place, specifically whether they must be on Campus? What provisions are there for online/hybrid meetings? Also, did you actually ask them why they did not show up before giving them the strike? Feb 22 at 7:40
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    Did you choose the group or to be in the group or were you assigned? Feb 22 at 17:18
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    Your attitude towards them signing a contract reminds me of Count Volpe in Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio (2022). In such a small group, power play never ends up well. What if all four of your colleagues refuse to abide by the contract? Are you going to kick all of them? Then what? What will you gain except showing them that you got the power?
    – padawan
    Feb 22 at 22:48
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    Are you talking about an undergraduate group working on an assignment for one of your classes, or a proper postgraduate marketing project? Either way, coming up with a contract is an odd way to do things if no money is involved... Feb 23 at 2:01
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    @MisterMiyagi The contract covers we will have meetings on zoom specifically, and I sent the zoom link on the day of and a week before. When I asked, they said they forgot. Feb 28 at 17:45

4 Answers 4

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Your group agreed to a 3-strike system in writing, with strikes received for certain actions. You have personally assessed that these 2 members received "strikes" under the system. This was part of your job under the contract (?). They disagree with the assessment and will appeal to a higher level.

If you believe you have correctly followed your contract, there is nothing unprofessional about sticking to your guns. Simply continue conducting your part of the project in a professional way. If they appeal to your professor, you must be prepared to present your reasoning for assessing a "strike". Perhaps they will determine that a contract was not appropriate, or whatever number of things. Let them figure it out.

Incidentally, if you did not respond to an inquiry about the format of a meeting (in-person/hybrid/Zoom) that was made in a timely way, or flat declined to hold a meeting partially online without a clear justification, that was potentially a management mistake. You should think on that.

In the mean time, simply keep working. The situation may now be somewhat less collegiate, but you can still keep things professional by simply continuing to execute the project in a professional way according to your contract. Fulfilling your end of a contract in a firm but polite way isn't "being bossy", it's getting things done.

Meanwhile, you also said you "would like to kick them out right now", even though you have also said that they have "1 strike" under your contract, and "3 strikes" is the limit for being kicked out. It seems like you are saying you would like to violate your agreement. That is unprofessional, no matter what your speculation about their future conduct is.

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  • Gotcha, I guess that was my personal feelings into play. I also had a feeling that kicking them out would be immature of me too because there's still time left for the school group project Feb 28 at 17:51
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Have you considered the possibility that you are overmanaging and that you don't have a "team" of five, but a team of four with a manager? Assigning "strikes" isn't very collegial. Or friendly. Or helpful, Or productive.

A successful team doesn't lock in its responsibilities for all time but stays flexible. And, frankly, you do sound like a bossy leader.

Have a talk with the PI, alone and probably as a group. Make it collegial, not hierarchical.

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  • True, I guess it could've been better. I wish I didn't have a team contract but it was group part of our group project. Plus all of us didn't know an alternative so we went with the 3 strikes policy that was on the template. Feb 28 at 17:49
  • But that's definitely a good point to raise. Btw what is a PI? I'm in a school group project so I'm not sure what it means Feb 28 at 17:49
  • PI = principle investigator. The head of a lab or working group. Or just the advisor to a bunch of students in the same field. Generally a senior professor. The person you answer to.
    – Buffy
    Feb 28 at 17:56
  • This is certainly a possibility to consider. However, the "null hypothesis" -- that OP's group-mates are just lazy and whiny -- does not seem implausible either. It is a tricky line to follow: leaders need to make every effort to get the best from their people (even when it's often easier to just do the work yourself), while also keeping high expectations and being willing to "fire" people when necessary.
    – cag51
    Feb 28 at 18:19
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You are in an unenviable position ... not unlike many industry leaders who function well until they discover that they are actually powerless and are entirely dependent upon someone even higher up the managerial ladder. Additionally, your position, role, and power (such as it is) are all ambiguous.

Nothing in your post suggests that the rule-generating process undertaken by your team (i.e., developing a work-together contract, agree goals and requirements, etc) is either mandated or supported. Now, having done something that is notionally forbidden by the rules to which they agreed, two miscreants have discovered that they can just say "Nah ... we're staying. You can't kick us out; we'd tell on you!"

The one thing you do have control over, is you. In your position, I would politely resign. No recriminations; no blaming. Simply announce that you have had a chance to think about the dynamics and functioning of the group. You don't feel that you are the right person to lead the group at this time. You have discovered that you do not have the confidence of all the members, and so you are stepping down with immediate effect.

It's what is done in legislative assemblies (congress/parliament) throughout the world.

A relevant, amusing, and apposite example of stepping down comes from history. In 1971, John Gordon was Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party. There was a vote to remove him as leader but the vote was tied and therefore failed to pass (in your situation, think 2/2) ... but Gorton had the casting vote.

You can follow his example.

History footnote: "McMahon [John Gorton's successor] has been described as one of Australia's worst prime ministers by Australian political scientists and historians" (from Wikipedia)

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In group situations it's important to recognize whether the situation can be salvaged, or whether it's a setup for failure because the cards are stacked against you. I'm not sure I like the way your professor set up this contract---it basically means that one person has to be the bad guy and punish the others. In my experience, it's unlikely that any group of five people working on a project will be conflict free. In the real working world, there are systems in place to manage conflicts, such that a manager who has to discipline employees who violate company policies is not punished for carrying out that responsibility. In your case, you're at risk in two ways because there is no real system for protecting you. First, the conflict could get worse and jeopardize the completion of the project, affecting your grade. Second, you could be perceived as mismanaging the project and that could affect your grade as well. You have no assurance that your professor will back you up if you exercise the authority that was delegated to you. And if your professor does back you up, there's a good chance that the two rebels will not take it well and things will go downhill from there.

Basically 50% of your teammates are opposing your authority to reinforce the rules they agreed to. For that reason and the reasons above, I think this situation is a setup for failure and therefore I agree with CrimsonDark that you should resign, using the wording that CrimsonDark recommends.

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