Each year, some FYP groups inevitably have a free rider, i.e., someone who for whatever reason doesn't contribute much to the project. Whatever the reason, free riders can make the other teammates feel disappointed and upset. Usually, most students are patient and endure such a situation as long as possible, but in most cases, the earlier that action is taken to deal with the problem, the better! Avoiding the issue and just hoping it will go away often makes matters worse for the entire group, especially after December. If your group seems to have a free rider, here are some possible ideas to help you deal with the situation.
Before accusing anybody of being a free rider, stop and think. Why do you feel that he/she is a free rider?
If the group has consensus that one person is a free rider, then it's time to deal with the problem. The first step should always be to try to think of the best way to rectify the problem in a friendly, harmonious way. Asking your FYP advisor to split up your group to relieve you of your group's free rider is usually not the optimal solution. Here are some possible approaches to rectify the problem:
When all attempts to find a solution have failed, then you have three basic choices:
The most common choice is to endure the situation until the end of the project, part ways after the project and let somebody else deal with the person later in life, e.g., his/her parents, employer or wife/husband. But ask yourself the question: is this really best for the person in the long run?
If you choose to take the matter to your advisor, keep in mind that the further along the project is, the harder it for the student to start his/her own solo project, so the advisor may be reluctant to split groups up after December.
In most cases, the earlier that action is taken, the better! Avoiding the issue and just hoping it will go away often makes matters worse for the entire group, especially after December.
In any case, keep in mind that you are helping both your team and the free rider. In case he/she does change and do his/her share of the work, you will have helped him/her achieve his/her goals and your group achieve its goals. It also might be good to mention that eventually someone is going to make the free rider face reality (e.g., an employer or wife/husband). A true friend will try to help him/her face reality sooner rather than later.
What if you think someone is a free rider but other teammates don't think so or don't care? In that case, you can either talk to the person individually, seek your advisor's help or just endure the situation and try to be a friend, since you are a minority.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that many FYP groups and professional programming teams face issues like yours, so this is a good learning experience! Just be sure to learn from it, especially when you next pick teammates for some other project.
If you feel the situation you are in is unfair, also keep in mind that life is often not fair. However, there is a principle called "the Law of the Harvest" or "karma," which says we reap what we sow. If we simply focus on doing our best in our own responsibilities, then in the long run, we will benefit. Conversely, free riders will somehow suffer someday for their negligence.