Does cooperate mean work together? (+7 ways to improve cooperation)

In this article, we will be closely examining the meaning of cooperation and if it means working together. We shall also be looking at the differences between collaboration and cooperation. In addition, we will be describing various ways to create a cooperative and collaborative working environment. When organizations encourage cooperation and collaboration, it helps to increase productivity and efficiency. Knowing the differences between these two concepts will be helpful in their implementation as well.

Does cooperate mean work together?

Yes, cooperation in simple terms means working together. It also implies that people work together for a mutual benefit or a shared goal. Research studies show that cooperation is highly important in organizations. Cooperation itself consists of different aspects like communication, team process and leadership. It can also vary between workplaces depending on organizational climate and diversity factors.

Differences between collaboration and cooperation

Though many organizations use these terms interchangeably, collaboration and cooperation are indeed different. In this section, we will be describing the differences between these two concepts.

  • Shared goal vs individual goals

Collaboration is when all the members of a team work together to achieve a shared goal. Cooperation on the other hand is when individuals achieve their own goal as part of a team’s shared goal.

  • Levels of interaction differ in the two

In collaboration, we can see high levels of interaction between the team members. Each member communicates openly and honestly with the other members in the team to get the job done. However, in mere cooperation, the levels of interaction are considerably lower than that in collaboration. Here team members may have regular communication for updates and tracking but might not interact that often otherwise.

  • Collaboration needs inter-dependency

For an effective collaboration, team members need to depend on each other for successful achievement of the goal. It is not as if the individuals can’t achieve goals on their own. But they prefer to work with the help of others in order to improve productivity and efficiency.

In cooperation, there is less or no inter-dependency. Each member is assigned a task and is individually responsible for it. This leads them to have better accountability, but might not be that fruitful in efficiency.

  • There is more ownership in collaboration

Since collaboration is done in a positive and transparent environment, there is more ownership among the team members. Everyone’s suggestion is taken and seen to be valuable in various steps of collaboration. It can be in the goal setting process and even the decision making process.

The team members exhibit higher ownership of the goals and their achievements because they feel valued and respected. The ownership is not as high in cooperation as compared to collaboration.

Creating a cooperative and collaborative environment

We can aim to create a cooperative and collaborative environment using the tips described below.

  • Setting clear goals for the team

When team members are clear about the goals, the process will also be smoother. This will ensure the project is completed in a smoother manner. The goals also need to be in line with the organizational vision and values.

It also is useful to create goals with a greater cause in mind. This makes the project more relatable and more meaningful to the team members. It will ultimately lead to a better work process and efficient task completion.

  • Giving the right information

For a cooperative and collaborative team, it is important that everyone has access to the right infotion. This not only improves the knowledge sharing process but also creates better trust and transparency in the team. While sharing the information, it is important to use the right communication style, displaying openness and honesty.

  • Offer support to the team members

Not every day is a good day. And everyone can definitely use help from time to time. Offering the right support to your team members can be the sign of a collaborative leader. This compassion can invoke a sense of brotherhood among the team and also improve levels of loyalty. When leaders demonstrate more supportiveness, the team members also follow eventually.

  • Regularly updating your team and stakeholders

While working on a project, every team member needs to be on the same page for it to be completed effectively. This is extremely important for remote teams and remote workers. The various project stakeholders should also be updated. This not only shows respect for everyone’s time and effort but also displays high levels of integrity.

  • Creating a collaborative contract

When a team agrees on goals together and also charts out a plan to achieve those goals together, it becomes a collaborative contract. In this way, everyone knows everyone else’s responsibilities and can support whenever needed. It also ensures the work is done in a transparent manner, increasing the accountability of different team members.

  • Designing both team and individual goals

When there are both team and individual goals, there is more employee engagement. There is also less waste of company time, since everyone is working regularly and properly to complete the given task. While assigning individual goals, leaders should keep the personality type of the individual in mind.

Tailoring the goals to the individual mindsets allows them to be accomplished with less pressure and with better quality. Having individual goals also creates more accountability and ownership of the entire project itself.

  • Using diversity as a resource

Teams may consist of individuals from various backgrounds and diversities. While many organizations shun conversations around diversity fearing conflicts, diversity itself can be an amazing tool. From diverse backgrounds and cultures, we can learn many different ways to achieve a goal.

We can also learn ways to relate to a certain population. However, for diversity to be used as a strength it requires high levels of trust and friendship in the organization. It also needs proper understanding and empathy wherever required.

  • Celebrating successes regularly

When team members work hard to achieve certain aims and goals, they also expect to be rewarded for putting in extra effort. While celebrating successes, leaders also need to acknowledge individual contributions, no matter how small it may be. Overall, the team as a unit needs to be recognized for their work. This further improves cooperation and collaboration.


In this article, we have examined the meaning of cooperation and if it merely means working together. We have also looked at the differences between collaboration and cooperation. Additionally, we have described various ways of creating  a cooperative and collaborative working environment.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the meaning of ‘cooperate’?

The meaning of the word cooperate can subtly change depending on the setting it is used in. According to Merriam-Webster,

  • It can mean acting or working with another or others
  • It can mean acting together in compliance with a certain policy
  • It can also mean associating with another or other for mutual benefit

How do you cooperate with others?

We can implement many steps in order to cooperate with others. A few ways to do so are explained below:

  • Practicing team-cohesion activities

This is implemented by many organizations during their induction or onboarding periods for new employees. Here, many activities are performed and games are played in order to foster cooperation among the team members.

Teams can often play such games during their collaborative process so that teamwork is encouraged. This not only instills cooperation and collaboration but can also be a stress-reliever for team members.

  • Modeling cooperation from the top

 When cooperation is implemented from the top, the other team members are more likely to follow. When leaders themselves strongly advocate cooperation, it creates an open organizational culture and becomes a core company value. However, if team leaders don’t model cooperation, then team members are also more likely to create conflicts and avoid cooperation.

  • Encouraging problem-solving and decision-making

Asking other members in the team to participate in the decision making process is a great way to encourage cooperation. When employees participate actively in the decision making process, they tend to follow through with the decisions better and also show more ownership.

Problem solving also needs to be a team process rather than an individual one. Taking the suggestion of everyone in the team shows employees that their opinions are valued and respected in the organization. This also improves the level of cooperation in the team.

  • Recognizing accomplishments

While working on a project, or after its completion, it is important to celebrate successes and recognize accomplishments. While acknowledging accomplishments, it becomes important to give more focus to the team rather than individuals. Though individual accomplishments also need recognition, more focus on team success ultimately leads to better team spirit and better cooperation.

How do you deal with uncooperative team members?

While an organization or team might boast of their cooperation and teamwork, there can always be uncooperative team members in the workplace. Here are a few ways you can deal with them:

  • Confronting the team member

It is always better to be direct and upfront with the team member from an early phase. In this step, it is important to be respectful and empathetic while listening to their problems. Problems in cooperation can stem from many factors including work conflicts, career conflicts, personal issues, health issues and even familial problems.

  • Work together towards a solution

More often than not, the team member is aware of the problem and already might have a solution or a variety of solutions for the same. It is crucial to give your support while coming up with a solution that will be beneficial for all parties. While solving the issue, it is also important to align it with your organizational values and ground rules.

  • Follow-up with them

To avoid a repetition of such issues in the future, it is important to follow-up with the team member. This not only instills more confidence in the system but also allows you to keep track of their progress.

What makes a bad team member?

Bad team members can lead to problems and conflicts in the group. They are usually unlikely to cooperate with the other team members and don’t follow through with their tasks. They also show poor interest in the shared goals and might only work when forced to do so. Bad team members usually don’t show high interest in the team activities and might make other team members fulfill their duties for them. They also don’t interact with the other team members in a productive manner and turn out to be bad listeners. They not only can lead to conflicts but can also waste company time and effort.

If you have any comments or questions about this article, please post them below.


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