I started writing this post about five days ago, but I was reluctant to post it. My heart felt that it was too personal. My mind rationalized that there will be those who might think that this is very insulting.
But, I think that this is an important learning lesson to me. And, I’ll post it here to hear your feedbacks. I need to know for reflection and learning.
To those who think that they might be involved in my writing this post, I would like to say: Yes, of course you are involved. Every day in our lives, the people we meet, the stories we hear, the things we see influence our thoughts. And, for the past two to three weeks, these group projects had consumed most of my student life.
So, as I struggle here trying to manage four groups. Oops, nope. Three groups. I thank my earlier, smarter self who delegated a leadership role to a very responsible guy (Thank you for making my life easier!). And, luckily for my Chinese group, my groupmates are pretty efficient (Europeans, got to love them!), and the job is more or less settled.
But, in the other two… tum-tum-tum-dummmm. There are many times when I feel that I’m the only one putting the extra effort.
During meetings, I tried to be enthusiastic because in my opinion, if I were energetic, the others would be motivated to chip in as well. Oh, how can that thought be so wrong? I quickly discovered that if I stopped talking, the entire room became quiet. If a crow starting cawing at that very moment, that would be the only sound that one would hear in the room. That silence unnerves me to death.
My mom who is studying counselling, later tells me that I should have let the silence further resonate in the room. Let the awkward silence pervade the room, and that would induce the rest to talk. My sister also told me that my groupmates could see that I’m of the responsible and dedicated type, so they are taking advantage of me. I hope not because I will not stay a doormat forever.
That’s not the only thing. When it comes to idea generation, why does it always seem that I’m the only one coming up with them? What happened to open collaboration? What happened to talkative people? What and where have I done wrong?
From the very first day of my taking up the leadership roles, I kept telling my groupmates to feel free to contribute, to feel free to speak out their feelings or opinions, feel free to email, feel free to initiate anything. My being a leader was just a supportive role, I told them. I thought being a democractic leader, it would induce creativity.
But, did it really?
Nope, it didn’t. So, to inspire them to do work, I proposed to meet every week. I write cheery emails. I set up work plans, Gantt charts, distribute work loads by further creating sub-groups for higher efficiency. And, I kept emphasizing that since we met up so infrequently, I hope that email communication would be rampant to promote idea-sharing and collaboration. But, did it happen?
Nope. Usually, the emails are generated by me. If the rest would have to choose a middle name for me, it would be Chrissy “Spam-generator” Phoong. Gosh! I know that emails are terrible communication methods, but with timetable clashes, what else can we do, but email?
I do not want to let this affect my equilibrium too much, but there’s only so much that one human being can do. One group expects me to read 80 journal papers in the next 4 days because of their reluctance to narrow the scope of the topic. Ridiculous, no?
I feel like preaching to them to think wisely, but considering that they are either my peers or hello, graduate students?, I will refrain.
Okay, so after all this dark rampaging, I need to ask and reflect:
- Is it only me, or are people relying on me too much?
- Why do they shoot down all my ideas, but don’t generate any ideas of their own?
- Am I such a difficult person to work with? Too exacting?
- Am I such a bad leader? Too friendly? Too nice?
I’ve learned that learning is supposed to be difficult. So, the more difficult this is, the more I can learn from this. But, for now, oh gosh!