I'm in a college video game design course with a strong emphasis on group work. I'm highly invested in the outcome (I'd like to use the final game for a portfolio, if possible) so I decided to create a Discord server the day after the group was assigned, just to show some excitement and get things rolling.

Note that I'm not the assigned team leader so I tried to do this without stepping on anyone's toes. The rest of the team - save one - has joined the server, so I assume it went over well enough.

That one teammate has strongly resisted joining. At first, they said that Discord was not accessible to them because their phone was too full to install another app. That struck me as a bit of a flimsy excuse, but I took it at face value and suggested they use the website or desktop version of Discord instead, since the majority of the team had already joined the server.

They had also suggested a group text or Facebook as an alternative - I responded that Discord is probably a better tool than group text, but I avoided mentioning Facebook. That's another issue entirely - I don't support Facebook as a company, but I didn't want to bring that up and come off as feeling morally superior. I definitely do not judge anyone for using Facebook, and in fact I still have an account, but I avoid using it as much as possible. I feel strongly about this.

They responded:

Yeah I know it’s available on PC. But to be real with you I don’t use discord on a daily basis if not ever. It’s gonna be difficult to use this as means of communication since it’s not very accessible for me.

I know discord has voice functions but that’s something available in other applications. And that’s why I proposed Facebook.

I don’t really know how to contact the others in the team so I guess it’ll be easiest to get together before or after class next week and just discuss.

I'm conflicted here. On the one hand, I feel like they might have deeper issues with Discord that they aren't bringing up, and I'd like to respect that, if possible.

On the other hand, this response comes off as kind of combative to me, and it's hard not to feel like they're avoiding Discord out of laziness and slighting me in the process. I have reason to believe that English may not be their first language, but I haven't spoken to them in person.

This is admittedly pretty minor, but I feel like if this becomes a pattern in the group dynamic then we're going to run into trouble for the rest of the semester. If they can't make a minor sacrifice like this, will they be able to compromise on later decisions? I'm also worried about whether this says the same about me.

I don't really see a resolution, given the facts I know, that isn't me using Facebook or them using Discord (I certainly don't expect them to use another service given their reasons for avoiding Discord, although I would be willing). I'd love to find another solution, though.

What's a polite way to respond here? How can I approach this in general? It would be nice to resolve this over email before we meet in person, but I would understand if that isn't feasible.

  • When your team member says "It’s gonna be difficult to use this as means of communication since it’s not very accessible for me" is it possible that he has a disability and Discord is literally "not very accessible" for him? I know a college student who has to deal with accessibility issues and for her, using new software can be difficult / impossible. – DaveG Sep 15 '18 at 22:42
  • I'm not sure. They used the same wording in their first message when they said their phone was too full - ie, something like "Another tool would be more accessible for me because I don't have room to install another app." I think English being a second language might factor into the use of "accessible," but again I can't confirm that. – anais Sep 15 '18 at 22:44
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    It seems that you are asking "What should I do" which is off-topic here (see here: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic). In order for us to help you, you need to edit your question with a specific goal in mind. Maybe something like: "How to tell him that we will use Discord unless he has a good reason not to" – Ælis Sep 16 '18 at 5:29

What's a polite way to respond here?

A first step is to think about advantages and disadvantages of establishing something new. Obviously this communication server is new to them.
Often someone very engaged in a task tends to establish new things. For others this often sounds like unnecessary additional effort. Why install something new on the smartphone?

Next thing: Some people really don't want to be bothered with project specific messages all the time. The emphasis is on all the time, all over the day whatever they do. It is not helpful to be out and get information that you can't handle right now when you are not busy on the project.
Personally I started to tell people that write me on Whatsapp "could you please look up xy in your files" or "could you tell me xy when you are at home": yes I can but I am not at home right now so please send me an email because this messenger is not the right place to keep messages unread or process them later. There is no "I will try to remind" - I won't. I explicitely make clear that their message in this medium will probably be forgotten. Not because I am stupid or lazy, it's the nature of this messengers. No, I don't set a message to unread that irritates me everytime I check my smartphone. Period. No discussion. It works :-)
So you should be sure this way of communication really helps your project to advance. Showing passion is great - but don't overpower yourself and others with it.

Establish a culture of communication. You will need that to draw boundaries, you can't be present for this project everywhere and at every time.

Yeah I know it’s available on PC.

Great. Show the advantages, for example that no smartphone must be equipped with this messenger, they can keep it on their PC that they will need to work on the project (your don't do that stuff on smartphones?), they can turn it on when they are ready to read messages and keep it off otherwise.

But to be real with you I don’t use discord on a daily basis

Well now they should. Show the advantage over Whatsapp and Facebook if you think I am right about that.

discord has voice functions

You probably don't want to use voice messages to do important communication. Do you like to read things again if required or do you want to play hundreds of voice snippets back and forth to find something again?

I don’t really know how to...

Show them the basics. Don't use every feature only because it exists. Make it easy, it shall help and not irritate all of you.

I guess it’ll be easiest to get together before or after class next week and just discuss.

This guy is my hero! Of course this is the best way to get things done!

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This kind of dissent is futile in the workplace. When you join a software development team, you will be told what application will be used for group communication, and you are expected to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you can participate.

The point of team-based assignments is so students can understand how teams integrate and produce software out in the real world. Which is to say, if the majority of the team have chosen to use Discord, then the dissenter should go along with the group decision.

Period. End of debate. You need to move quickly past these kind of petty details in order to get the real work done.

Just say to the lone holdout:

You understand that the rest of us have joined this server, and if you choose not to join, you won't be part of the discussion? We have to pick a tool and go with it, otherwise you're just holding the rest of us back.

As a side note, I agree that group text and Facebook are not good alternatives for software development. I don't know that Discord is either, at least compared with more common tools like Slack, but then again it's not a bad idea to use something you're familiar with so it doesn't distract from building your project.

(Edit) in response to the assertion that I'm being "impolite": Sorry, but the earlier developers learn this lesson, the better. Out in the real world individuals normally won't get their own way -- the point of team projects is to teach students about the inevitability of compromise. The team has a job to do, and the more one member wastes time with trivial objections, the more likely that person will be let go because they don't fit in.

Moreover the suggestion of group text or even Facebook for team communication suggests this person is very new to the field and needs to get up to speed. Might as well get familiar with something like Slack now, because they're going to be using something like it the rest of their career.

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    Your proposal sounds not very polite. It seems like it's aggressive. – Volker Siegel Sep 16 '18 at 10:42
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    It is not about politeness in itself, but whether it's on you to decide. If you were the team lead, you would say: "We're professional here. We have agreed on a decision. It's done. Next step.". But as you are not, you are one of a group of people negotiating a decision. It's not on you to make assertions. You can make your point, even strong so. If you make the decision alone, you disrespected all others, in a very obvious way. That is the problem - even if your solution would be agreeable for all others otherwise. – Volker Siegel Sep 17 '18 at 15:37
  • @VolkerSiegel OP explained this. The team decided. They all joined the server, except for this one person. The team leader should probably say something, but that doesn't mean the others in the team can't also speak their minds. – Andrew Sep 17 '18 at 15:46
  • You overstepped your role. You could have said: "I decided I am the team lead. So we do foo, because I said so.". But it is worse, you said only "We do foo, because I said so.". You took the right to choose from each other member - and were lucky that only one complained. In a fair discussion, you can make a good proposal, and most of the team accept it as good. – Volker Siegel Sep 17 '18 at 15:55
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    "The rest of the team - save one - has joined the server, so I assume it went over well enough". They have joined the server, but that does not imply they liked it. Maybe everybody else was angry, but just did not want to start an argument! That's not "well enough.". – Volker Siegel Sep 17 '18 at 15:59

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