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CAREER

Can Women Really Work Together?

Yes we can but...

BY Agnes Amondi

Sep 21, 2021, 08:11 AM

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In my university, group work was mandatory. This was a pet peeve of mine when I joined but I later came to understand the importance of it. You will always have to work with people. It’s just a fact of life so get used to it. 

Of course, you find all sorts of characters in campus group works. Those who are there to do the work, those who are there to joy ride and those who are just there, whether work is done or not, they don't care.
 
I always had a preference for mixed-gendered groups because I felt they provided stability as well as offering a variation of voice. If there was any clash, it was “easier” to negotiate. There was always someone willing to compromise. 

Now, this is not to say that all women group works do not have level headed brains. But from experience, it’s completely different. Take it from me.

It so happened that during my third and fourth years, I was constantly in group work with the same people. You know that circle of friends you share all your specialities classes with? Yeah. So we went on to work on group projects.
 
You bank on your friendship to be beneficial in your projects because you “know one another” and it’s just easier to collaborate with people “you know”. You guys have some chemistry and you hope to convert that into something meaningful for your projects. You hope that you’ll be able to talk things out when they start going South, like you do when one of you gets locked out of the house, a random example that is, for whatever reason. But it’s not as simple as that. 

Keep Them Happy

Your work and friendship persona is vastly different. With the former, there’s a lot at stake and it’s largely a personal pursuit even though you have to come together to make that grade. So you get down to the job. You agree to do certain tasks and everything is set. Or so you might think. You see each other every day, talk, crack jokes and all those things and the last thing you want to do is remember the group work you have.

You are very careful not to upset them. If they say, “let’s do it later” you are happy to comply. You even provide reasons why it’s “right” to defer the work to later. Deep down, you probably don’t agree but hey! You are trying so hard to get the grade and also keep a friendship. 

A clash of egos

Everyone wanted to be the one to call the shots.
 
“If I can’t be available on Friday, then I mean I can’t be available on Friday. And I am telling you, not requesting and definitely not negotiating. So you have to work around my schedule. If that can’t happen, it’s all your problem. After all, I already told you.”

And then everyone follows with their litany of excuses.  With no room for compromise mind you which is the beginning of all trouble.
 
This happened in my group work and it created unnecessary tension. No one had time to listen to the other. Of course, it backfired on us. We had to go back to the drawing board as it were. The worst thing? I think we all knew that it was going to come back to haunt us and it did.

I Don’t Like Them, So It Can’t Work

There’s an argument that women have to like one another to work together. Men don’t have to like one another to work together. For men, it’s about the common goal, for women, they view one another like rivalries.
 
In my six girl group work, for some reason, girl A didn’t like girl B. They had a “cold war”. Tension was always in the air whenever we met. You could see the dislike on someone’s face. Questions went unanswered when they were asked by a particular person. Mumbling occurred frequently together with those throw-away statements of discontent.
 
Then one day, the trigger went off. And people let all their feelings known. Names were mentioned, people walked out on one another, the work was not done, the professor got involved and we had to repeat it all over again. The lesson here? Burying our heads in the sand didn't help. Another is, at the end of the day, you still need the other person, however flawed you might think they are. More lessons on part two.