Can you be too collaborative? (+5 tips to avoid over-collaborating)

In this article, we will be considering whether we can be too collaborative. We are also going to discuss the different reasons for over-collaboration and the common collaboration mistakes. Most importantly, we will be showing you how to avoid over-collaboration. Since collaboration is taking over the corporate sphere, this is an important question to ask ourselves.

Can you be too collaborative?

Yes, you can be too collaborative. Over-collaboration or collaboration overload is a common phenomenon these days. Especially since corporations are emphasizing collaboration in every team and department, this phenomenon is contributing to a lot of the anxiety being experienced by employees.

According to this study by Harvard Business Review, collaboration overload is becoming more and more common. In the past 20 years, organizations have doubled their collaborative activities. It has further added that a major chunk of effective collaboration comes from just 3-5% of employees.

Reasons for over-collaboration

The reasons why many employees become too collaborative are various. Three common causes are discussed below:

  • ·   Employees who lack self-confidence tend to be over-collaborative. Instead of making decisions by themselves, they tend to ask inputs from many different people.
  • ·   Team members who have a strong need to please everyone can also become over-collaborative. They don’t only interact with others highly for the sake of brownie points, but also seek many opinions often.
  • ·   Workers who find it difficult to manage tasks on their own also tend to be over-collaborative. Since the manner in which they prioritize and handle their tasks in not so effective, they would seek a helping hand in every step of the way.

Common mistakes while collaborating

Though collaboration is very effective in the workplace to improve team productivity and employee satisfaction, it has to be implemented in the right way. When collaboration is implemented effectively, we can avoid issues like over-collaboration and bad collaboration. A few common mistakes made while collaborating in the workplace are listed below:

  • ·   Roles and responsibilities are not clear

For a team to collaborate effectively, roles and responsibilities should be defined clearly. Only when a team-member knows their role with proper clarity will they be able to perform it properly. The better an employee understands their role, the more they accept it as an important task.

However, if roles and responsibilities are not explained explicitly, employees might get confused as they wouldn’t know what is expected from them. If you want your team members to perform their roles effectively, they have to be explained properly so that they understand their part in achieving the team goal.

  • ·   Active listening is not practiced

When employees feel that they are not being listened to, their level of motivation and participation will decrease. Not listening to your team members also reduces the feeling of trust and respect in the team. This leads to an overall decrease in productivity and morale.

When active listening is practiced in a team, there is a big generation of ideas and inputs that improve the performance of the entire team. Not only that, but also the decision-making process becomes more democratic as everyone’s suggestions are being taken into consideration.

  • ·   Not having a clear plan

Collaborating is essential, but it is more important to know what you are collaborating for. If your team-members feel that they are collaborating for nothing or that their collaboration is not going to lead them somewhere, they will automatically stop. But if the goals are clear for the team, they step and collaborate to make it work.

While creating goals, it is also important to remember that there are group goals and individual goals. As a collaborative leader, it is your job to ensure that the team goals and individual goals align with each other. When both the goals are in tally with each other, the members feel a lot more motivated to work and take up additional responsibility. While team goals are decided by the management, it is not so with individual goals. The only way to recognize them is to create a trusting work atmosphere.

  • ·   There is no trust

If there is no trust between members of a team, eventually the productivity will decrease and the team itself will dissolve. For trust to be present in a team, open and honest communication is important. It is not only the communication but also creating an environment of flexibility and support.

  • ·   Not communicating effectively

If matters are not being communicated properly to team members, this eventually leads to a decrease in productivity. It is a major problem if the whole team is working on something and one member is not on the same page because of miscommunication. Information, goals, principles, values, changes in requirements and updates all have to be communicated regularly with the team members.

  • ·   There is no training

This is not just about on-boarding training. For an organization to grow there has to be constant learning and development. If employees are not trained in certain skills, they will continue to perform tasks without those very skills. Team leaders should know what skills their employees need to be trained in and provide those training tools.

Regular updating of knowledge and skills through training also ensures your employees grow with the organization. This will also solidify their loyalty and longevity with the company.

  • ·   Team members lack autonomy

When team members are not given autonomy, they won’t take personal accountability for their tasks. While autonomy is mainly an individual issue, autonomy and collaboration work very effectively together to create a better work environment. With autonomy in the picture, team members tend to perform their work better with the help and inputs of others.

  • ·   Conducting too many meetings

While meetings are a great way to effectively collaborate with one another, there can be such a thing as too many meetings. Just as the saying goes, “Too much of anything is bad for you!” Meetings require a lot of resources as well as time. It takes quite a bit of effort to coordinate bringing employees in and conducting the session. Many times, the point of the meeting itself can be concluded with a company email or some other communique.

Collaboration tool overload

Since we are talking about collaborative overload, it is also good to delve into collaboration tool overload. Though collaboration tools are meant to improve interaction and productivity, they can sometimes lead to more problems than solutions. This happens when the right collaboration tool is not chosen for the team. It can also happen when the collaboration tool is not being used properly.

Many workers find that constant notifications from collaboration apps reduce productivity and lead to distraction. Employees also find that a lot of time is wasted on these apps. According to research, up to 80% of an employee’s productive time can be wasted while taking on additional tasks, such as messaging on collaboration tools.

How can you prevent over-collaboration?

Being labelled as too collaborative or over-collaborative can hurt your career and decrease your growth. Let’s look at a few ways through which you can prevent over-collaboration:

  • ·   Saying No

While employers and mentors would advise you to agree often, saying no is also important. Saying no actually denotes assertiveness in an employee. This is a trait that is often looked for in leadership. When we learn to say in a respectful manner, we tend to reduce our risks of burnouts and thus improve our productivity.

  • ·   Choosing your team-mates wisely

Since you will be spending a lot of time working with this person, it makes sense to choose this teammate wisely. Selecting someone who complements your skills and your personality make work more enjoyable. It also increases your productivity in the team. Together, you can learn and grow, creating a mutual benefit for all the involved parties.

  • ·   Specializing in something

Rather than be a jack of all trades, you can become a master of a certain topic. This gives you leverage and superiority in the team when it comes to that particular area. Specializing in a unique area can also give you better autonomy and more opportunities for growth. It helps you rely on others less while reducing the risk of over-collaboration.

  • ·   Balancing ‘we’ and ‘I’

The better we balance our team and individual goals and projects, the more recognition and independence we might have. Though effective collaboration puts the team above the individual, it is also important to follow our individual projects on the side. This helps in preventing burnouts, increases motivation and improves job satisfaction rates at work.

  • ·   Reducing the number of meetings

Meetings are a great way to meet people. However, they place too much stress on employees while diverting them away from their tasks at hand. When too many meetings are conducted, the company loses a lot of time and energy. It also increases the risk of over-collaboration as employees are burdened with additional tasks and formalities.

  • ·   Strategizing collaboration time

To reduce the risk of over-collaboration, creating a proper plan for how collaborative time should be used is important. Strategize and limit the number of hours needed every month for team collaboration. Also, plan the activities and tasks to be conducted in these collaborative meetings. With a better collaborative plan in hand, a team can figure out what works and what doesn’t work for them. This creates better collaboration with less risk of over-collaboration.


In this article, we have deliberated whether we can be too collaborative. We also discussed the different reasons for over-collaboration and the common collaboration mistakes employees make. We also examined the various ways in which we can avoid over-collaboration.

Frequently asked questions:

What is excessive collaboration?

Excessive collaboration happens when employees feel fatigued by constant work interaction. It can be due to physical or virtual meetings, conference calls, texts, emails, etc. Employees feel pressured to go through and respond to all these notifications. This leads to distraction from the task at hand while reducing productivity. Excessive collaboration can also happen when the right collaboration tool is not used for the organization.

What is a downside to collaboration?

Though collaboration is very important for the workplace, it can become a hindrance to work when not used effectively. Two common disadvantages of collaboration are listed below:

  • ·   Decision-making takes time

Since everyone’s vote is required to make a decision, the process itself may become time-consuming. It is not only the vote, but suggestions are made and points are argued and discussed. If not conducted in a proper manner, it can become a waste of time.

  • ·   There can be too many opinions

When there are too many opinions, it can lead to further arguments. The discussions themselves can steer the team away from the main point while also giving space for inter-personal conflicts and tensions.

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