Is “Collaboration” A Scary Word in Your Organization?

October 23, 2017

For some employees, the word “collaboration” brings back some not-so-great team project memories from school: the ones where the teacher assigns a group project to you and several classmates, but somehow you’re the only one (or one of very few) who is actually committed to getting anything done. Rather than taking a poor grade, you shoulder all of the burden while other group members get a free pass.

Do you have similar memories of group collaboration, whether in back in the school days or even just years or months past?

This type of memory is actually pretty common, especially among people who generally care about their work and know a thing or two about teamwork.  And unfair as group projects too often turn out to be, they all have a common purpose: to teach people to work together productively.


Great collaboration = great culture.

Collaboration doesn’t have to be a scary word in your organization. Help your employees get over those bad team project memories by instilling a positive attitude toward collaboration. Because according to company data from over 300,000 companies reviewed on kununu, companies
 that scored best overall across 18 different workplace factors tend to have significantly better teamwork scores than those that performed worse – in other words, great companies have a great culture of collaboration:

  • Among highest rated companies on kununu (4 stars or higher), the average rating for “teamwork” is 4.46 stars
  • Among lowest rated companies on kununu (2 stars or less), the average rating for “teamwork” is 1.37 stars

Here are a few ways to transform your office culture into one that’s filled with high quality collaborations, which helps everyone in the long-run:


Do an Honest Assessment: Is “Collaboration” A Scary Word in Your Organization?

Getting honest feedback about your workplace culture can be tricky, because employees may feel pressured to give you the information they think you want to hear. The best way to get honest feedback is to talk to people at every level of the organization, from support staff through upper management. Hiring an external firm to complete a workplace culture assessment may also be valuable.

When completing your assessment, consider the following questions:

    • Do you most often work alone or with other people?


    • Do you feel comfortable asking a coworker (or manager) for help with a project?


    • When you’re working as part of a team, do you feel that your voice is valued? Can you provide examples of instances in which you felt less valued as a team member?


    • What is the system for assigning tasks to different employees in your department?


    • Do you feel overburdened and as though you’re pulling others’ weight?


    • Do you have access to technologies that make it easy to collaborate with your colleagues?


    • If you don’t know the solution to a problem, to whom would you turn?


  • What do you think we could do to make our company environment more collaborative?


How to Transform Your Workplace into a More Collaborative Environment

    1. Make collaboration an expectation, not an option. To truly transform your office culture, collaboration cannot be optional. A system in which employees can opt out of collaboration stunts creativity, limits productivity, and leads to that “dreaded school project” atmosphere. Instead, tie collaboration back to your company’s mission and goals.


    1. Provide clear expectations. Sometimes, efforts at collaboration fail because nobody knows precisely what they’re intended to contribute to a project. When creating a team, assess everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Define roles for each team member based on their strengths. It’s also important to create a clear chain of command to ensure that people know who to go to in case something isn’t working.


    1. Get everyone involved. Keep in mind that your organization has many different personality types. For example, some people are great at thinking on the fly, while others like to sit back and let their thoughts develop. Come up with creative ways to elicit opinions and ideas from everyone. One effective way of doing this is to define the problem, allow people to ask for clarification, and then wait a few days before launching into a brainstorming session. Allowing people to pitch ideas in writing rather than verbally can also help quieter team members feel valued.


    1. Use technology. Tech moguls have spent a lot of time and energy developing tools for use in the modern office place. So use them! For example, setting up a Slack channel for a particular project is a good way to keep everyone in the loop. There are many fantastic project management apps that allow you to track progress at every stage of a project.


    1. Facilitate mentoring. Transforming your workplace culture takes time, and some people may initially be wary of a transition to a more collaborative style. Matching team members with a mentor is a great way to facilitate collaboration, particularly between individuals at different levels of the organization who might not typically come into contact with one another. Plus, the mentored employees will learn valuable skills.


  1. Start at the top. If senior managers are judgmental and excessively territorial about their ideas, those tendencies will trickle down to the rest of the workplace. Model collaborative practices to demonstrate to your employees that you truly value cohesion and collaboration.




Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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