Posted by: Steph | April 3, 2007

Hills to (not?) die on

Disclaimer: I started to ramble and just went with it.

A few people have asked me what my 601 team is going to do for mark allocation, and the truth is, I have no idea. I don’t think that the Schulich student culture is one that promotes accountability – and students would often rather everyone have the same marks than go through the discomfort of acknowledging that some people have contributed more than others.

There are two issues at stake: quality and value of work, and effort and energy. I have to admit that I find it difficult to penalize people for lower quality work if it is representative of their best effort. Maybe this is wrong of me – after all – I find the North American shift towards “No one fails anything and everyone is special” quite idiotic. But I don’t want to be the one telling someone that their best simply isn’t good enough within the context of being an MBA student. I have been in groups where we have quietly omitted and/or re-written the entire contribution of one member simply because we didn’t want our names attached to crap and we knew that this person had actually worked hard.

Maybe this is a mistake and a more direct approach would empower these people to take responsibility and find other avenues in which they can contribute. I know that I would rather be told that my work isn’t quite right and given an opportunity to make it up in some other way – or just at least be able to say thanks and know that I owe them one.

When people freeload and have no accountability for their actions it’s as though someone pushes a fury button within me. It shows such a lack of respect for the rest of the team. According to my value system, that sort of behaviour should have consequences. What does it say when an entire 601 team keeps quiet about the fact that one team member just skipped a phase, or another handed in his work long after the report was done? If we behave like this at work it isn’t going to reflect well on us. Why are so many of us terrified when it comes to being direct in addressing these issues?

Now I’m not exactly shy or quiet, and people often assume that I find it easy to address these group issues and that I always take the direct and blunt approach. In actual fact I am terrified every time I have to address one of these issues. I have a deeply ingrained fear of upsetting the person and feeling guilty. If I approach it intellectually is ridiculous that I should suffer the consequences of their laziness instead of risking upsetting them. I’ve been practicing being more upfront and direct about these things throughout the program and what it has taught me is the following:

By approaching these problems early it becomes possible the determine the possible value of the individual. When things are out in the open some people will surprise you and new possibilities can be found. Often a little upfront discomfort can have a lasting positive impact. On the flip side, people who refuse to take accountability for their actions are worthless irrelevant deadweight, and often compound problems. They should be dropped as soon as possible.

Anyway, with regards to the 601 points allocation – it might be quite a battle, or maybe not. I have the luxury of not caring about my mark, and I think I will follow my gut instinct and see how much I choose to invest in the outcome. If “the problem” pulls his stunts and refuses to sign unless we are all equal, maybe I will leave the rest of the project up to him to make up for lost time. Maybe I will choose to accept whatever outcome and work hard anyway because my pride will take over and I will be handing this in with my name on it. In some regards “the other problem” has been worse for the team as a whole – what will I accept with regards to him? I’m not sure if I am comfortable signing something stating that we are all equal, but I doubt that in the grand scheme of life that this is a hill to die on. I am willing to get a little bit wounded on this hill as long as there is no scaring.



  1. My suggestion:
    Have everyone agree to let everyone rank the whole group independently, then average them out and put that on the final form.

  2. In this, as in all things, again Darwinism is stomped into the dust.

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