Group Dynamics: Learning to Work With Control Freaks

Last Updated Mar 12, 2008 10:01 PM EDT

A few months ago, I wrote a post about one of the major components of our MBA program -- "group learning." Many of our classes include a group project or group homework.

At the time, I was highly optimistic about my team's group dynamics. We all have similar situations, and we get along pretty well. In fact, we're very much alike.

While I'm still optimistic, however, the harsh light of reality is starting to shine through. The fact is, we are really alike in personalities: We took some sort of personality measurement at the beginning of the program, and all of our results huddled together along the same part of the spectrum -- mostly smack in the middle -- for extroversion, dominance, patience, and formality.

Now, there's nothing wrong with having things in common, but it can cause as much trouble as team members from all extremes. Because none of us are very extroverted, we don't have a defined leader, and we tend to stumble along in meetings trying to find our course. Conversely, we all scored fairly high on formality, meaning we have a strong desire to stick to the rules and know expectations.

In other words, no one wants to take charge officially, but we're all pretty adamant about how we think we should approach a project. No problem at all, right?

Most people who know me consider me to be a major control freak, and many thought of me as an overachiever when I was an undergrad. Now, however, I'm really one of the slackers in my group -- not because I've changed, but because I've found myself surrounded by people just like me and yet even more intense.

It's definitely leading to some interesting consequences, I'll tell you. While I'll be the first to admit that I've subjected my coworkers to substantial venting about my team members, I feel that these experiences could be some of the most beneficial of the entire program.

After all, who hasn't been on a team with someone they found difficult to deal with? Working with other people is a universal -- no matter where your career leads you, you're going to be working with someone. And I've admitted from the beginning that this was a skill I could use a little work on.

But now that I'm here, I'm struggling. On the one hand, it's a fantastic lesson to work with control freaks instead of being one. On the other, it's getting to me. Most of my group members are all about working ahead; I'm a total procrastinator who waits until the last minute. Most of the members are early birds, who think meeting at 7 P.M. is too late; I think a meeting at 8 A.M. Saturday morning is criminal.

So now I'm looking for advice on handling the situation. How do you handle control freaks on your team? Do you sit back and let them do all the work without batting an eye, or do you feel guilty and paranoid that they think you're not doing your share? Are there any fellow control freaks out there? Have you ever met your match like I apparently have?