Uncooperative Team Member

Has anyone every had a team member that just likes to argue about everything? How do you get a student that brings down the team while trying to bring themselves up? We don’t want to kick anyone off the team, but we have lost almost a week of build time because of one team members constant arguing, uncooperativeness and many of our team members are ready to quit the team because of one student’s behavior…

Positive reinforcement and team unity usually will pull the team back in line. If you have one person who is arguing all the time, establish a team rule that all discussion can only contain items that will get you closer to bag. Then dissenting opinions (often dissenting opinions can make the robot and the team better so listen carefully) have to be defended and voted by the entire team. Gentle reminders that only constructive comments are allowed will get you back on track. When a team decision is made, that is the direction the TEAM has chosen. A team is a sum of it’s members.
Please include adults in your discussions. There are times when a vocal student has a reason for their attitude. Adults are better trained to recognize when such issues might exist and how to handle them. I know that some of the most difficult students become better adults when they are on a FIRST Team.

Thanks for the reply. This one student in particular wants to do everything by themselves, and does projects incorrectly. When something is fixed, they get mad about it. They have gone to the school principal other higher-ups multiple times and won’t listen to any of our mentors or youth leaders at this point. Is there a way that you explain to these students that they need to work better with the team?

Best thing to do we found, is to take that student aside, speak to him/her directly, and state how the team feels and etc. Then take a day or even an hour off and do a team-building event like dodgeball, basketball, board games, etc to take their minds off building for 2 seconds and to re-focus on the next 3 weeks of building.

If fellow students/leadership cannot get the student in question in line, then a mentor should speak with them privately.

If the mentor intervention does not work, the mentor should talk with the the parents of the student. Last year I had to tell a parent that their student wasn’t ready for the commitment of an FRC team (i.e. showing up regularly, working with others in a constructive manner, and staying on task).

Being on a FRC isn’t a right but a privilege. It could also be the most important learning experience in the life of this student if this behavior isn’t tolerated. Chances are they’ve been able to get away with this “me first” behavior for a long time but it needs to stop. It wouldn’t be okay in a workplace so the sooner this student learns good team habits the better. I’d schedule an intervention where the conditions of future participation on the team are laid out clearly and stick to them. Otherwise this is going to be an unpleasant experience for everyone.

That’s good. I would suggest having 2 mentors for the conversation with the student to avoid any misunderstanding of what was said, and to have an impartial observer there.

I think that you need to look at what is best for the team as a whole and what fosters the most productive learning environment. If the student in question is arguing and disenfranchising other productive members of the team then you are letting one person harm the rest.

A great principal to use when talking about an ethical question like this is utilitarianism: the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this case what is good for the single student, letting them continue as they are, is harmful to the greater number of other team members that are being harmed by their behavior.

If the student in question has been addressed by both mentors and student leadership about the issues at hand in order to try and encourage a more conducive atmosphere toward progress, and the problem persist. Then I believe it would be time to look into options for removal from the team. As much as FIRST encourages inclusiveness of all people in learning STEAM, when a single individual is harming the same principals that you are trying to espouse then its time to rectify the problem.