The following is a word-for-word (read: copied and pasted) portion of an email I sent to an American friend of mine. It details the frustrations I have encountered on this journey which I like to call “group work assignments and fighting off the urge to shake your partner”. Enjoy.
I must vent about my Event Project partner. This semester we are working together to put on the closing night party for a dance and performing arts festival. I’ve kinda taken charge of the admin side of things and she got started on her part of our first assignment pretty early on. Now while I didn’t start my share of the assignment ‘til a few days later than her, I still got it done by the date we’d agreed on. A week prior to this I had a test and assignment due so I asked her to get our lecturer’s signature on a form which is in her possesion. It would seem that in her haste to get our assignment done she has neglected to do this. Gah!
Ordinarily I’d be fine with this and just get on with things and sort them out myself. Except for the fact that I spent two hours last night fixing her formatting of our assignment and pretty much everything in our budget. Now you must understand that this wasn’t just me being fussy and changing things to be the way I want them. No. A whole bunch of stuff she’d done didn’t make sense at all! Why would you have three different sheets for one budget? Why does every item in our budget need it’s own table? And why is there a graph on our profit-loss summary page?
Initially I was super impressed when she showed me the budget and I thought it would all be fine because we have to do an accounting paper as part of our degree. Apparently not. She’d downloaded a template and didn’t have a clue how to use it (this is why you create your own budget and administer the appropriate formulas yourself). Then after I’d spent an hour helping her fix it up, she sends it to me, inserted in our final assignment document. The original budget and template had a colour scheme of blue, red and green, which I told her to change to greyscale while explaining that colour doesn’t photocopy well and business reports are often photocopied. And then, well, and then… Oh my gosh. The final version had inconsistencies in the colour scheme. It was awful. Half the borders were still blue and there were random lines of red here and there. Not to mention the lack of footnotes explaining why a particular value was calculated as being so.
I actually created a ‘comprehensive budget’ aka ‘this is how the budget should be, with an easy to read layout, no colours or graphs, and containing footnotes to explain what is not already clear’. This took me 10 minutes. I still ended up spending 2 hours fixing everything because I couldn’t slam all the hard work she’d done. It’d kinda be rude of me really.
Our poor assignment. This girl has never heard of a page break. Or the table of contents function in MS Word. Or page spacing. The worst thing was the lack of consistency in her formatting. I know the reason behind the inconsistencies though. It’s because she formatted as she went. GAH! She started formatting the document before even having my parts to insert! WHO DOES THAT?! Evidently she does. It was awful. I hadto strip back all the formatting she’d done and redo it from scratch. Formatting’s the last thing I do. Always. She’d even done the title page and numbering system (1.0, 1.1, 1.2 etc.) before we’d put it all together. This meant a lot of going back and forth and changing titles and the contents and shifting stuff around. She’d also created sections for parts that didn’t require a section. Oh man. It was just so messy! And awful! And it hurt! It was almost offensive to my pedantic and perfectionist ways.
I totally understand that she was being proactive and getting things done early and all that jazz, but really she should have just left it all unformatted. In other group assignments we’ve always typed up our sections with the default settings, put it together and then formatted as a whole. Please tell me that I’m only overeacting slightly and that while her intentions were good, her actions as times were just stupid. Ok. Maybe stupid’s a bit harsh but you get what I mean.
For the most part I’ve kept the formatting effect that she looked to be going for. I’ve just tidied it up, made it more consistent and made sure we used page breaks and the table of contents function. For the next two assignments I’m definitely gonna be in charge of formatting and putting it together. And I’m gonna ask her not to format her contributions coz it just makes it that much harder when you go to put it together. And it’s hugely time consuming trying to undo someone else’s errors. If I hadn’t thought she’d be offended I’d have gotten rid of her budget and timeline all together and done it myself.
Is there really any hope left for mankind?