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How do engineers ensure that members of a team all do their fair share?

In school, working in groups is often a challenge because some people end up doing a lot more work than others. Is it like this for engineers as well? How are issues like these resolved? #engineering

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Peter’s Answer

Caroline:


The above two answers are good for class assignment or volunteer teams. But in a professional, working environment such as a city public works department of an consulting engineering firm, the answer to your question of fair assignment of work to a team is more straight-forward. In this environment there is almost always a strong line of authority (Firm President/Dept. Head, project manager, senior/junior engineers, etc.). People are typically assigned specific roles and given very specific tasks along with associated task hours and schedules. Each team member is expected to produce his/her work on-time and within-the allotted task-hours.


Understand that this is not as authoritarian an atmosphere as it might sound. Meetings are held early in the project to assure each team member understands the project and its requirements. If a team member feels that he/she does not have sufficient allocated hours to complete the work or that the schedule is too demanding, adjustments can, and usually are, made. During the project monthly or even weekly team meetings are held to assure that all team members are completing their tasks in a timely manner and to resolve the problems or coordination issue that inevitably arise. But as professionals, "slackers", those who under-produce or greatly lag in getting things done, are almost never an issue. That is to say, an under-performer will be dropped from the team and ultimately fired, if such behavior is the norm for such an individual. Professional engineers are almost always highly motivated to do their job well. In my 40-year career as a Civil Engineer there are very few times I ever encountered a "slacker" on one of my teams.


Pete Sturtevant, PE

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Farzan’s Answer

Yes, that happens often. My suggestion is to have a candid group discussion in the beginning by assigning roles and responsibilities. Then review this with the group and see where each member is and if they are falling behind (for any reason), suggest to help out rather than make them uncomfortable.

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Ron’s Answer

The best solution to this is open & honest verbal communication. This happens more frequently than one cares to believe (beginning with high school projects). The best solution is deal with the situation early so that resentment is kept to a minimum. This situation does provide opportunities to become a leader.

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Greg’s Answer

Step 1 after a team has been assembled is to ensure ground rules are in place for the team. This could be meeting times, action item follow through, communication protocol, etc. after ground rules have been agreed upon, a visible action list with names and dates can be effective. If you think everything has been tried, then have a candid and transparent conversation with the other(s) that may not be holding up their end of the deal. But, always give them the benefit of the doubt going into the conversation. It can be difficult to know if someone is truly going through hard times personally for whatever reason.

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