The reason your colleagues aren’t collaborative might surprise you

25 November 2015

There’s plenty of research to support the idea that collaborative  organizations are better positioned for success. But, what if you work in a team that just doesn’t collaborate?

If you understand the value of working together, it can be frustrating to operate in an environment where knowledge and ideas just don’t flow.

There are several reasons why some people just don’t work collaboratively. Here are the most common:

1. They are afraid of being wrong

We all hate to be wrong; it’s human nature. However, for some people the fear of being wrong is strong enough to prevent them from even entering into group discussions or projects, even when they have passionate ideas and a wealth of expertise to share. Help your team to understand that everyone is wrong sometimes and often the wrong answer is far more insightful than the “right” one. More often than not, someone else is probably thinking exactly the same thing! Collaboration requires openness, trust and transparency.

2. They feel ignored

We’ve all experienced a colleague or manager telling us “that’s not how we do things around here”. It’s the classic “Not Invented Here” (NIH) syndrome where individual or organizational pride presents a barrier to new ideas.

By definition, a more collaborative organization will break down these barriers, but if NIH syndrome is a team or organizational culture then you need a ground swell of support before colleagues’ confidence to share new ideas resurfaces. Tools such as Huddle can have an immediate impact across large groups of people and across multiple teams, allowing individuals to share thoughts and ideas and gather much wider feedback.

3. They are unconsciously competent

Every office has one: the employee that has so much experience and skill that they perform their duty with ease. It’s second nature to them. Problems don’t ruffle them because they’ve seen it a thousand times before and know just what to do.

Everyone can learn, and benefit from the expertise of these employees. However, the unconsciously competent often don’t actively share their knowledge; not out of any Machiavellian desire to protect their position, they simply don’t recognize the value of their expertise! Help them to understand their value and provide a collaborative platform where their expertise is easily shared across teams.

4.     Their managers don’t share

Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, some like to hold onto that knowledge to advance their own position. If a leader or manager doesn’t share knowledge or expertise, this habit too easily trickles down to the wider team.

In bygone days, employees weren’t expected to contribute to decision making. Today, informed collaboration is an essential. In an ideal world, employees at all levels understand that being successful requires collaboration, and organizations must be quick to break a knowledge-hiding culture by changing the reward mechanism and rewarding knowledge sharing or incentivizing teams not individuals.

5. They don’t have the right tools

While social and sharing tools are abundant in our personal lives, our working lives are all too often lacking in the tools we need to be more collaborative.

Email has been around and largely unchanged for more than 20 years. In its current form, email forces us into one-way email conversations and multiple-subject threads, and leaves us managing multiple document versions. And legacy collaboration tools like SharePoint – now 15 years old – are still struggling with user adoption because they don’t sufficiently fix the problem.

All too often we find ourselves hopping between multiple legacy tools just to accomplish our daily tasks and if your team can’t collaborate easily, they won’t collaborate at all.

Overcoming the challenges

Working in teams that don’t openly collaborate can be frustrating, especially when you recognize the value yourself. However, the root causes are almost always cultural and technological – both of which can be overcome.

The first step is to deploy the right technology. Today’s organization is virtual, collaborative and it includes customers, partners and suppliers, yet most are built on legacy technology designed to keep information in and third parties out. Tools such as Huddle are built for more collaborative business, helping your teams to come together and collaborate on projects in a secure, shared environment. Here they can share, edit and manage files, track projects and activity, and stay in communication not only with internal teams, but also those outside of your organization.