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I am in a Software Engineering class in college. Person A likes to be the voice of everyone.

For example, I would ask "What do you think of this?" And without any discussion and a very immediate response from person A, "We aren't doing that." All of a sudden, the voice of Person A is the voice of everyone and isn't open for suggestions. This instance has every meeting my group has had over the semester.

Is this something I should ignore since it is just a group project or should I confront it if it happens again next time? What is the best way to handle this situation? It irritates me as I like to bring suggestions to a group.

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    Since this is a group issue, how do the other group members seem to regard Person A's behavior? – Nat Oct 6 '17 at 5:34
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    As Nat asks, did you pull anyone aside and ask their opinion? Since this is a group project, I imagine a lot of the rest of the group are probably happy they don't have to make decisions so they go along. – Xander Oct 6 '17 at 6:24
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    Are you a TA, teacher, or another member of the group (a peer)? – Polygnome Oct 6 '17 at 14:25
  • Sorry for the late response everyone, I haven't personally talked to the other group members on how they feel. I think I will ask others opinions about the situation. I am also a member of the group and I am not a TA/Teacher. – bedtime21 Oct 7 '17 at 6:27
  • I think this question could be improved if instead of "what should I do", it was formatted as "what should I say to the leader" or "how should I address a problem with the group after the leader spoke for them". I would edit accordingly if I knew who you wanted to talk to next time this happens: the leader or the group as a whole. – HugoBDesigner Feb 21 '18 at 14:09
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In most any organization 10% of the people do 90% of the work... Sometimes taking a "management role" is a way to get away with that. Sometimes these people feel like they're "natural leaders." a variation of "I'm a thinker, not a doer"

In my experience it's worth openly challenging these people. When they say:

We aren't doing that.

A fun response would be:

Who's "we"? Got a mouse in your pocket?

It's not the most polite response, but it sets these people back far enough to get your point out.

Another, perhaps more polite, way to deal with it is to directly ask the other members of the group:

Hey, SoAndSo keeps saying "we", do you agree with them and/or are you ok with them speaking for you?

Admittedly some people will just go along with whatever the self-proclaimed leader wants to do, because they don't want to make waves, they just want to get through the assignment. Sometimes asking them directly forces their hand into having an opinion.

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    I like your answer, that's what I would also do but perhaps one thing to consider is that if the OP does indeed challenge the self-proclaimed leader, they better have backup from a couple of people in the group. Meaning that if they turn to ask the rest what they think, if nobody bothers to answer, it will cement the "leader's" power over the group. I would suggest to pull aside a couple of people from the group and gauge the situation. – Xander Oct 6 '17 at 6:30
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    "Do you agree with them..." forces them right into the middle of the conflict. A response I'd expect from that would be somewhere between "Yeah, I guess", "I don't mind" and "Don't drag me into this". – NotThatGuy Oct 6 '17 at 8:19
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    Directly asking fellow members of the group is a great approach, and there's no need to make it a conflict at all to start with. You can simply say, "Okay, thanks. B, I'm curious what your take on it is," or some variation. All A can do is listen as well, or rudely shut down even asking B, in which case you can be more explicit about what you're doing: "We've heard from you now, but I think it's valuable to hear everyone's thoughts." If they end up shutting down other members of the group you can increase your pushback in turn, or they might just sit and listen impatiently, which is fine. – Euchris Oct 6 '17 at 13:44
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    @LukeSawczak Also, when A answers without being asked, you can raise it with him directly (maybe later), because it's not what A is supposed to do. (As opposed to answering a question directed to all.) – yo' Oct 6 '17 at 20:33
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    @yo' Which ties into another possible strategy for the OP — stop asking open-ended questions of everyone, but target each and every one until the problem is solved. – Euchris Oct 6 '17 at 21:10
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There's more in 2 brains than in 1. So, you can (and always should) listen to anyone willing to improve for group's sake. Do you have to stick to what they unilaterally decide? I don't think so...

What I always did (and still do) when I was facing such a issue, was:

  1. Have a scheduled meeting with all the points that were to be discussed / disputed.
  2. Send a reminder to everyone involved, and ask for suggestion.
  3. Stick to the set agenda for the meeting.
  4. Go around the table, asking everyone if they have something to say.

This way, you have time to prepare and finalise the points and the report. It helps the group, as every person involved has a chance to intervene and explain their POV.

When the meeting start, a quick reminder of the points and schedule is important. This way, people will know they can't move around, and dilute or go off track.

Then, you can discuss every point. I really recommend that you first listen to what this naysayer has to say, and want to do. When you know what's good and what's not (take notes while they're speaking), you can challenge what has just been said.

Stick to the facts. Nothing personal. Make it business matters.


  • Point #1: helps having more people involved, and a frame for the meeting.
  • Point #2: helps having more suggestions and pros-and-cons before.
  • Point #3: prevents from having off-topic matters and (often) rants.
  • Point #4: strenghten the needs for everyone to be part of the group and talk.

If the "loudest voice" gives great advice, take it! If not, your counter-arguments have to be better than his. If you need a leader for this particular group, he'll stand up by himself because of its added value to the group, not because of its loudest tone :)

Finally, the last round of the table: you ask everyone their opinion about the best way to handle every point you've just discussed. A meeting is like democracy, it needs a frame, some talks, and some "leaders", people who will first organize, work, think... Whatever is good for the group, at the moment. But all have to be involved. And the group needs to use each individual strength and qualities for the group's sake.

Navigating TheWorkplace.SE, I found this related topic: how to handle the situations where talkative colleague dominates.


Side note: in a meeting, I often saw people not being part of the discussion all of a sudden talk and make a decision! How and why? Because when the "big mouth" had just ended, you go around the table and just ask: who is taking that part? wants to write this part of the code? If they don't like the idea, then, finally, they'll speak up, because they don't like the idea and don't want to do it the way the "big mouth" said it would be...

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First you need more information about why he acts like that. Possibilities include:

  • He really knows best but sucks at management

  • He has no idea what he's doing but enjoys being the leader so he's bluffing

  • He's expecting a challenge to his authority, and won't respect you until you assert yourself

I would ask "What do you think of this?" And without any discussion and a very immediate response from person A, "We aren't doing that."

You can answer "I would like to know your reasons for reaching this decision." or something like that.

"I would like to" provides a non-confrontational opening, while framing it so that if he doesn't answer, he's being rude to you.

"your reasons" implies that you know he's not acting on a whim. It's flattering.

But you're still asking the question. Don't leave till he answers.

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Don't accept the immediate pushback. Smile, and say "A, it doesn't work like that. Okay, we have one proposal on the table. Let's gather more ideas and then hash it out."

Address everyone in turn -- including A -- as if A hadn't spoken, and get their suggestions. Write 'em up on whiteboard/blackboard/paper. Iterate through them all, getting pro & con on each.

You'll end up with a better solution that way.

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It really depends on the reaction of the rest of the group.

A response should be like:

Don't you want to discuss your decision with the whole group first, before answering? I give you 5 minutes to discuss this within the team.

This would be a polite solution and remind them that they are a team.

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I also studied software engineering, and had a similar situation. This people tend to be difficult, because they often believe that they are the best in the group and only their opinions/decisions matter (that was what happened in my cases).

Is this something I should ignore since it is just a group project or should I confront it if it happens again next time?

Definitely confront it. You are a group. Even if in the end everyone wants to do what Person A said, the thing to do is to first listen to every idea/opinion.

All of a sudden, the voice of Person A is the voice of everyone and isn't open for suggestions.

This is quite common as well. If the other members are lazy they'll go with whatever someone says. If they are less assertive than Person A, they'll feel intimidated and will remain silent to avoid conflict.

What is the best way to handle this situation?

What I have done in these situations is clearly explain to the person that we are a group and we will hear every opinion/idea. Person A needs to understand that other people can have valuable ideas to the group that are different that theirs. If Person A insists that their opinion is the only valid choice, make them explain themselves, to give reasons why. And after that, let the rest express their opinion about it.

Speak in a way that you leave it clear that you won't be doing what Person A says just because they say it, and if you do is only because everyone thinks is a good idea. Also speak in a way that your teammates understand that their opinions/ideas are valid and wanted. This may delay your actual task a lot, but is the best for the group, and for everyone, because they are learning how to work in a real life group.

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Meet individually with the other team members. Do your brainstorming and have your discussions when you're individually meeting with each one of them.

Then when you meet with him as a group, you can see if his reasoning coincides with yours as a group. It may be that it does, in which case, all is good. It could be that he's just faster at making good decisions than your group is (which is super annoying, but it's actually not the end of the world)

However, if your group doesn't agree with his reasoning, or if his reasoning doesn't make sense, and if he is unwilling to explain his reasoning, your fellow group members are much more likely to intervene if you had that discussion with them already without the loud guy being present. I believe that would help a lot.

But a couple of caveats, note that CS projects are hard and take a lot of time, don't be stuck in committee mode for too long. Do not openly defy him yet, for all you know, he could become your only remaining partner if the others don't do their job properly and drop the course. Now I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it's just that during a CS project, you just don't know who is going to make it and who isn't.

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In the OP it mentions that Person A, when provided with a suggestion, rebuffs/resist it ('We're not doing that!').

Do they offer alternative?

In my experience many of these 'loud' personalities are quick to block, but not so quick to provide a solution.

If they ARE offering a solution, just say 'Great ... when can you deliver that?'

Explore the suggestion and ask lots of detailed questions ....

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