Whether we like it or not, the modern working environment expects people to collaborate. Flatter organisations, virtual teams, the scale and pace of business make this a necessity. Research proves that a willingness to cooperate within a work environment strengthens a business. Collaboration encourages innovation and empowers the organisation to reach its goals. Knowledge and idea sharing enable employees to be more efficient and successful at their jobs. This, in turn, allows them to be a part of something larger than just themselves. Collaboration generates profits for a business.

A recent productivity report on collaboration in the workplace–Cornerstone On Demand ‘State of Workplace’, found 39 percent of employees thought people within their organisations did not collaborate enough. The survey also found 86 percent of executives and employees cited “a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication” as one of the main reasons behind workplace failures.

If you are human, there must have been times when you have found yourself being resistant to collaboration. What stops us from collaborating? Of course, each case is unique depending on the people and the situation. Based on my work in leadership development here are some common reasons that stop people from being at their collaborative best.

1.Resistance to sharing and helping

Very often even if you are helpful by nature, there is a strong need to protect your own interests before others. This may arise from not having trust in the people you work with or being in an extremely competitive environment. Try taking the high road and be the change you wish to see. Even if it backfires in the short timeframe, you will come out a winner in the long run. If you are not going to share information, time, or your knowledge, it is going to hurt your work relationships. Look at it from a broader vantage point.

2. Reluctance to reach out to others

Fear of being judged or ridiculed or not knowing enough are reasons that could hold you back in reaching out to people. Work on yourself to expose your weak areas confidently. It is possible you have impressions of past incidents on how people have reacted and are forming opinions based on that. Give people a chance.

Another reason could be that you believe you have a lot of experience and your way is the best way. Get down from that high horse to ask for help and collaborate with your team. There is always something new you can learn from another person. In a rapidly growing business environment, not learning constantly and not asking for what you need can stop you from growing professionally.

3. Difficulty finding the right elements

Sometimes collaboration is difficult because you cannot find the right resource to collaborate with. Keeping an open mind in such situations is most important. Maybe it will be two or three teams or people from an entirely different group that you need, to get the full picture.

Often, when things are too complicated, inability to find shared goals makes it difficult to collaborate. Collaboration efforts get bogged down in endless discussions if the wrong people are identified as co-conspirators. Therefore, it is essential to take the extra time and determine the right people to work with on a project for which their experience or expertise is required.

4. Working with people, you don't know or understand

In the global cultural melting pot that we now operate in, you have to interact with people with diverse backgrounds, mindsets, age groups and so on. If you are someone that acts out of biases, it will be difficult for you to work well with others. Try looking at yourself to check if that might be true. What will help is getting to know people personally. You can always find some things in common you can connect on.

5. Not understanding the need for collaboration

If you are someone that prefers working on your own and think it is unnecessary to expose yourself to the discomfort of relying on others, think again. Remember, success lies outside the comfort zone. The sooner you understand how important collaboration is for your professional success and growth, the better it will be for you.

Is collaboration a challenge for you? Look at the reasons above and notice which one may apply to you. By doing a few things differently not only will you be able to improve your working relationships but you will also see your performance improve.

(Views expressed are personal. )

Bhavna Dalal
Bhavna Dalal

The author is founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a Bengaluru-based global leadership development company. She is a leadership development specialist, an ICF certified executive coach and author of the book Team Decision Making.

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