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I don't know if the title of this post is explanatory and descriptive or not, but I shall be giving a detailed insight of my problem below.

Situation:

So there is this committee in our college who organize various coding competitions, hold workshops and many more things related to technical studies. This year, in the month of May, they had organized their yearly project competition where there are groups of four who participate and make real world projects. You can't really tag it as a competition since their is no prize given to top scorers. It is merely for the sake of students to learn new programming languages and use it in practical life.

We are given a time period of 40-45 days to complete our project and prepare a presentation for the same. The groups are formed as per interest (not a compulsion for all to participate) and they are interviewed before the final decisions are made about the teams who would finally participate. So I had formed a team with these three other people and one among them had come up with the idea of our project (a website).

In the first week, we really didn't bother to look into it since we thought we had time. I do believe it is partially our fault for acting lazy and procrastinating. From the second week onward we focused into learning the languages and applying them, well at least it was true in my case. They were messaging that they too were doing their part of back-end while I focused on the front-end development.

Almost after 25-30 days of waiting (because they constantly said that they needed some more time to learn) they just dropped the bomb that were unable to code anything as they didn't understand. While on the other hand I had almost completed with designing the web pages and all. Two of the team members backed off during this time, so left were the other person and I. Even she didn't do anything other than proposing the idea at the very beginning. In the last ten days I had to work day through the night to complete the whole basic model of the project we had thought of developing in the first place. But when it was time to submit, the only person left, that other girl was adamant on adding her name in the list of "work done" list though she did absolutely nothing at all. I being the kind person that I am, added her name as the ideator and my name as the developer. That was the most I could have done. And when during the presentation I mentioned that I had worked on this project alone, diligently, the committee members (who are our seniors) were like, "You shouldn't belittle others, but speak of yourself with pride." That time I had replied like, "I am stating the facts, that's all."

Question:

What other ways should I have opted for defending myself without sounding insolent (though this is in the past, I would like to learn the polite way of back answering)?

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    what rude accusations do you need to address? – Kate Gregory Aug 7 at 23:32
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    We can't say whether you're right or wrong to do something or tell you how to respond, and any method you pick to communicate something may result in complaints. Can you be a bit more specific about what your goals were in mentioning it and how your approach didn't meet those goals? – Kat Aug 8 at 0:30
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    Fact delivery might be perceived as belittling ("especially by managers who are just ideators"; see how that is belittling?) - Did you consider a strategy of "leaving unsaid something the listener's mind will fill in" e.g. "I got to learn a huge amount about the full development process, having had hands on experience of the design and implementation of both the front end and the back end. I'd have liked to have enjoyed more team working experience but some members had to leave the project early on. The extra work required to fill in for them did teach me a lot about time management though" ? – Caius Jard Aug 8 at 5:07
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    @KateGregory The statement of the senior was the accusation I was speaking about? – Dhanishtha Ghosh Aug 8 at 10:44
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    Your title question is about responding to the committee member, but it sounds like (in the text and your comments) your main goal was politely expressing that you did most of the project work, is that accurate? If so, consider making an edit to ask how to do that instead. (IMO that would be more useful to know for the future too, so you would avoid the judges making comments like that in the first place :) ) – Em C Aug 8 at 15:44
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I cannot judge on whether the committee members’ comments on your attitude are justified as I was not present at the event; and much of people’s impressions on one’s attitude often have to do with the way, the facial expressions and the demeanour in which one spoke.

The reason why the adjudicators regarded your remarks that you did all the work alone as belittling others, while could be unjustified, might probably be due to:

  1. the “labels” that you used in describing a factual situation; and
  2. the “public” occasion which you used to get across the fact that you did all the substantive work alone when the occasion did not call for such an indication from you.

On (1):

This being a four-person team contest, it is totally reasonable for the adjudicators to expect the work being fairly (or at least agreeably) shared by the four of you, and the final product - no matter how the work was divided within the team - was being presented to them as a collective, group work. The fact that you kindly entered the girl’s name as the “ideator” would give people the impression and expectation of that girl having contributed as far as what that label literally means: the person coming up with the original framework of ideas and designs of how the final product should come into being. And you being the “developer” equally would mean what the word usually means: “the person formulating the technical means and logical flows to implement / give effect to a given set of functional, interactive and aesthetic specifications for an end-product, subject to the satisfaction of the commissioner

Simply by using those labels without elaborating on who was actually responsible for each of the factual tasks, it is understandably hard for the adjudicators to agree that all the work - not just the technical work but the conceptual design, the scope of functionality, the project definition, the market appeal - was done by you alone. Even if it were the case, the labels “ideator” and “developer” are not describing well enough the actual situation. And even if you indeed were the omnipotent “creator”, I bet it was not the intention of the contest nor was it fair to other teams for the adjudicators to give extra credit for your project just because there was a disastrous distribution of labour and lack of teamwork and solidarity in the process. Good intra-team communication is likely something that the adjudicators would expect and in fact seek to encourage through the contest. Teamwork is such an important skill in real life that should be the essence a real-life-problem technical contest should really try to test and evaluate, which a solo coding exam cannot otherwise engage.

On (2):

As mentioned above, “doing all the work alone” is never something the contest seeks to promote, nor should be seen to promote. The problems that you have faced in dealing with the other team members could possibly occur to other teams as well, but perhaps through better and more amicable discussions and conviction, the four of them could eventually pull things together for the presentation. The presentation is basically an occasion for the team (or its representative) to explain to the adjudicators how each of the evaluation criteria (such as what problem is being solved, and how and why is it effective) is being fulfilled. I doubt the allocation of work among team members is among one of them. However, the presentation is the most visible occasion for all those in charge to be told of everything they need to know in order to make the decision on which team should win. It is the occasion which all eyes are on and have their ears open to see what the teams have each come up with. “You doing all the work alone” basically means “Your other teammates did nothing at all despite having their names on the credits” - this as explained would not and should not add any points to your project; but would amount to an accusation which everybody present would hear; and worse still, your teammates would not have a similarly public occasion to make known their version of things or their explanations for not being able to contribute as much as they wish. If the adjudicators did not make those comments that they made, which in a way diluted the attack that you made on your teammates, your teammates would have to bear the sin of irresponsibility for good while you may have your part to blame for not communicating or escalating the matter to the organisers for resolution before the deadline. So what you did in fact was “lose-lose” in that you did not improve the prospect of your project while compromising the integrity of your teammates without offering them an opportunity to explain.

What You Could Have Done

The rude remarks from the adjudicators - while sound harsh to you - in fact are quite justified and what you deserve in that they mitigate the harm you did unilaterally (albeit inadvertently) to the reputation of your teammates at a wrong occasion to make known your grievances. At these presentations, whoever that presents a project should constantly ask himself whether or not what he says would possibly cause the adjudicators to add points to the project, and limit his speech to that. I am sure if you approach the same seniors (the adjudicators) well before the deadline and consult them on what you might do to resolve your grievances in the event of a breakdown in team communication, they will give you an entirely different and much more welcoming advice that is more helpful to you.

Lesson To Learn

The lesson learnt this time perhaps is: When the facts are with you, to speak the right thing at the right timing on the right occasion makes all the difference.

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