Hate Working in Teams?

When asked to work in teams, is your natural inclination to respond like Herman Melville’s character, Bartleby and respond, “I’d prefer not to?”

If so, you are not alone.

For reasons too numerous to mention, a collaboration by working in teams can be a frustrating endeavor.

However, the need to balance our workplace projects with diverse viewpoints and skills makes working in teams, or collaboration an essential 21st-century skill.

Thankfully, a TEAM at the University of Michigan have developed a tool to help smooth out differences while providing support and tools for accountability.

The software, Tandem, according to University of Michigan engineering lecturer, Stephanie Sheffield:

“Our goal is that Tandem will determine when a team is not meshing in the ways that members need to and it will generate that support early on,” Sheffield said. “If it’s a minor issue, it will suggest readings or issues, and messaging to nudge them in the direction they need to go. Or nudge them to sit down with faculty or just raise the awareness that something’s going on here.”

And what do the students think about Tandem?

“My overall experience with group work has depended on the group, but it is always hard to figure out if members feel similarly about each other and the project as a whole,” said Michigan Engineering student Camber Hortop. “Tandem allows groups to quantify and track team dynamics. For those of us who like concrete data, it is a useful tool to translate into clear and visual terms how the group is feeling, in order to assess if further action is required.”

The tool is designed and developed in conjunction with the University of Michigan Academic Innovation office and is being further refined and tested in the next semester.

As I think of my next group project, I say to the creators, “Can I have a copy NOW please!”

Question for Discussion:

  1. Why is it frustrating to work on teams?
  2. What are two reasons why working on teams can be beneficial?
  3. What are some features of Tandem that might help minimize the frustrations of working in groups?
  4. What are some features you would like to see Tandem develop that would help you as a group member?


For more information, please read the article by Laurel Thomas, here. 

To read Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener, please click here. 


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