Santa Clara University


The Big Q

Back to Blog

Picking Up the Slack

Monday, Mar. 11, 2013
The best student comment on "Picking Up the Slack" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
Greg and Natalie have been in business classes together since freshman year. While they’re not close friends, they have always enjoyed each other’s company in class and have been in the same social circle as they’ve moved from lower division courses to where they are now: senior capstone. Greg and a few of his friends invite Natalie to join their group at the start of the term, and they begin to work on their project.
Fairly quickly, though, Greg realizes that Natalie isn’t pulling her weight. Any aspect of the project that’s assigned to her has to be redone by other members of the group, she doesn’t pay attention in meetings, and she consistently shows up late or hung over. Greg and his other groupmates think that Natalie needs to step it up and take this project seriously, but they ultimately agree it would be more trouble than it’s worth to confront her about it. They decide to just push through and let her do her own thing. Natalie continues to participate marginally in discussions, planning, and writing, but makes it clear through her actions that their final presentation is not her biggest priority. 
After Greg’s group gives its final presentation, the members are asked to write an evaluation on their teammates that the professor will use to determine individual grades. When it comes to most of his teammates, Greg easily gives them all A’s and B’s for their participation and contributions to the project. However, when Greg comes to Natalie’s evaluation, he is faced with a dilemma.  It’s their last big project before graduation, and if he were to evaluate her in a harsh way, it could negatively affect her cumulative GPA. He doesn’t want to throw her under the bus; however, her apathy and poor work ethic put a huge burden on everyone else’s shoulders, and Greg had to personally sacrifice a lot of time and effort to make up for her mistakes or tasks that she left undone.
Is it worth giving her an honest evaluation, just so the professor will give her the grade she deserves? Or is giving her a bad evaluation petty and unnecessary, considering that they are all about to graduate and their group received an A, regardless of her performance?
Useful Resources

Comments Comments

Jeremy said on Mar 11, 2013
I'd like to preface this comment by saying that Greg should have informed Natalie that she needed to start taking the project more seriously. Not addressing a problem and then facing a dilemma when the problem becomes larger is short-sighted and foolish, and if they are on the good terms that they are, Natalie probably won't take it the wrong way. Greg should give Natalie an honest evaluation, not out of spite that she made the project harder but in order to not diminish the work the other project members put in. By getting an A after refusing to do any work, it teaches Natalie that she can get the same results for less or worse-quality work, resulting in unethical behavior in the future. Since Natalie is a senior, having a mediocre grade (as that's what it sounds like the work earned) would probably not have much of an effect on her GPA. - Like - 7 people like this.
Mikaila Read said on Mar 12, 2013
It may sound crass-- but it's absolutely worth it to give Natalie an honest evaluation. Furthermore, Greg should not feel guilty or responsible for the potentially negative effects it may have upon Natalie's GPA. For, her own efforts alone determined what Greg's evaluation of her must be (if he is to remain honest, that is). The phraseology in the question that states, "just so the professor will give her the grade she deserves," however, carries negative connotations along with it and a stark sort of residue of the resentment. In the most charitable interpretation this phrase could mean the individual writing a poor review is genuinely concerned with fairness and justice, and wishes to offer a proper reflection of the work Natalie contributed. However, when I read the phrase it seems more likely meant to represent some snide and malevolent intentions behind it. Even if the negative review is warranted, somehow the malevolent intentions (if present) taint the moral action of submitting and honest evaluation or review. Greg and his fellow group members may hold towards Natalie for not "pulling her weight." Performing an honest evaluation in the name of "payback," is one thing (perhaps, tainted in a moral sense), whereas performing an honest evaluation in virtue of the fact that the professor requested it is another. If Natalie's lack of participation put a huge burden on the rest of the group, Greg's potentially poor evaluation is nothing, but fair and necessary. Again, in terms of Greg's potential to affect Natalie's GPA, he has no direct correlation with it through his review. Had Natalie chosen to be a more active and contributing member of the group, Greg would not be faced with this dilemma in the first place. What is more outrageous than Greg, "throwing her under the bus," is the idea that certain individuals receive grades that are not properly reflective of the efforts they put in or the work they've produced. - Like - 7 people like this.
jmatta said on Mar 13, 2013
Being close to graduation doesn't suddenly excuse Natalie's choice to force her group mates to do more than their fair share of labor. However, grading her harshly isn't the only option. It might be more personally satisfying for Greg to pull her aside one day and let her know that while he was likely going to gloss over it on the official feedback forms, her behavior isn't acceptable in the real world when performance reviews are due. Furthermore, why is a girl who Greg generally found agreeable (suddenly?) tardy and slacking? Is she suffering a college student's senioritis, or from something deeper? It would probably be made fairly clear if Greg would talk one on one with her. A bad grade might anger more than it would teach a lesson, which is one of the reasons this case is far less than black or white. -JM - Like - 6 people like this.
Samantha said on Mar 14, 2013
While as a student I have been faced with this dilemma very often, I find I may take a different approach when looking at it from an ethical perspective. I think the intent behind Greg's evaluation needs to be taken into consideration. For example, I think if Greg honestly wants to give her a reflective evaluation of her work because its the honest truth, perhaps he should have thought to be more honest with Natalie. Its completely unfair to blind side her with a negative evaluation if she went unwarned that the group did not accept or appreciate her "slacker" behavior. Greg operated on the assumption that she knew her actions were negatively affecting the group, but did not in fact confront her about it and ask her to change or help more because it "wouldn't be worth the trouble." Furthermore, if his intent to give her a bad grade is coming more from vindictive feelings of "she should get what she gave" this seems morally shady at best, because again he is just as much as fault, having never spoken to her. I think the best remedy to both help her learn in the future and still allow her to pass the class, is give her an A or B evaluation, but pull her aside and talk to her about her serious lack of contribution to the group. - Like - 2 people like this.
KFuelling said on Mar 14, 2013
Alright, so it?s time to talk about the oh-so-wonderful group project. Each and every one of us has encountered this at least once in our educational careers, if not once a year or once per quarter. There have been times where I felt the need to gloss over the situation and pretend everything was fine. However, I learned that this did not truly reflect the situation and while it allowed my partners to receive a good grade for the project or the class, it gave them a false sense of security. If they knew that they could get away with slacking off, it will only hurt them in the long run. Imagine their reaction when they leave school and realize they won?t get very far if they don?t pick up the slack. It may sound harsh, but I am a believer in the truth and find it necessary to give an honest evaluation, even if it is a close friend. Today, so many teachers have anonymous evaluations that your partner will not (or should not) ever know, unless you felt the need to bring the situation up. What Greg and his group mates should have done is confront the situation towards the beginning of the project. This way, if Natalie was warned, but failed to step it up, Greg could give her a truthful evaluation without feeling guilty. There may be a way to discuss the situation with the professor, so that the professor understands what the group was going through, however I?m sure the professor will bring up the question, why did the group not discuss this earlier in the project? Greg and his group have brought this situation upon themselves by allowing the situation to get out of hand. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Muhammad Nabeel Shamim said on Mar 17, 2013
Natalie's evaluation should be based on her performance, doesn't matter if it's the final project before her graduation. Because if she would be evaluated with good marks, which she doesn't deserve as she didn't contributed and co-operated properly, it would affect her life after her graduation as well and after graduation it could also increase this unethical behavior of her in her life ahead when she'll be in corporate structure where such behavior can affect her more, both professionally and financially. So it is better that she should be punished at this stage so that her careless attitude would be stopped here, rather facing more severe problems in her life ahead. - Like - 9 people like this.
Brie said on Mar 21, 2013
Greg should give Natalie a bad review. Obviously not to be mean, but because she clearly deserves it. Natalie obviously does not care about the group, and this in return should not return a good evaluation. I hope this group evaluation is anonymous, but if not, still it's Natalie's responsibility. As an SCU student she should pull her weight and it she doesn't, it doesn't only affect her but it stresses out her group and makes it really unfair and mean! Greg should give Natalie a fair evaluation for her performance, because that's how she would be treated in the real world. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Robert said on Jul 5, 2014
When you begin a job you know your actual performance will be reviewed at least annually. You also know your boss may seek feedback from your co-workers. The unethical part here was the action of the teacher in not making it plain at the beginning how the students would be evaluated. With such a gross miscarriage of ethics on the part of the instructor Greg's only ethical choice is to not evaluate anyone. Which is what I did the one time this was sprung on me at IUPUI. I'm not, nor have ever been, a student at SCU. Just a googler in search of educational ethics. - Like
Post a Comment

Tags: capstone, evaluation, group, group project, project, senior, teamwork