In this article, we shall be discussing if too much collaboration is a bad thing. We will also be looking at the different signs of over collaboration at work and what managers can do about it. Even though collaboration is highly essential in an organization, too much of anything can never be good. This also applies to collaboration.
Is too much collaboration a bad thing?
Yes, too collaboration is a bad thing. Over-collaboration or collaboration overload can lead to employee burnouts. This has become a common phenomenon in the post-pandemic world. Ever since the popularity of remote working, organizations have been switching over to effective collaborative practices and implementing more digital collaboration tools.
Even though these tools do lead to great communication , increased productivity and improved work productivity, many employees are getting stressed because of them. Hence, employees are at a higher risk of burnouts due to over collaboration in the workplace.
Signs of over-collaboration in the workplace
When an organization faces over-collaboration or collaboration overload, it can be observed clearly through a few signs. A few of them are:
Employees have high workloads
When there are too many collaborative practices in the workplace, employees can feel overtaxed. Though they might not have an excess of tasks to complete, they still feel pressured. Collaboration is of three types in the workplace. These are informational, social and personal.
While the informational and social collaborative strategies won’t be cumbersome, employees might have issues with the personal category of collaboration. This can lead to frustration and stress as team members need to complete tasks as well as play their individual roles in collaboration effectively.
Team members are burning out
It may be difficult to accept how collaboration can lead to burnout. After all, it brings many great benefits for the team like increased communication and interaction. However, research studies have shown how over-collaboration can lead to employee burnout on the job.
Since collaboration requires a lot of effort from the group as a whole and each team member personally, it can lead to additional work for the employees. Team members might find it hard to participate effectively in all their roles. Eventually, the additional stress and frustration can lead to employee burnout.
Unequal participation in collaboration
For collaboration to be effective, it requires the equal participation of all team members. However, when some team members are more engaged than others, it leads to an unequal sharing of the collaborative workload. This is usually seen when team members who are exceptionally skilled or experts in their field, are constantly pestered or asked for help.
Team members who look up to these experts in the team might not think of the extra work they are giving. They might even think this is what effective collaboration looks like. When this happens, some employees are overtaxed and this can lead to a bottleneck situation.
What can managers do to avoid over-collaboration?
In order to over-collaboration and ensure effective collaboration in the workplace, managers can follow the strategies given below:
Set the right goals for collaboration
When the team members are not clear about the goals for collaboration, they might not collaborate effectively. Instead, they might use practices that can lead to over-collaboration. For collaboration to be implemented right, the team members need to know the expected outcomes so that their work process is also guided in a smoother manner.
Make information easily accessible
While collaboration encourages knowledge transfer and information sharing, the right ways for this to happen should also be enforced. When the information and content is accessible for all the team members, they will spend less time asking for help and resources. In this way, collaboration overload can be easily avoided.
Reward good collaborative practices
Recognizing and rewarding effective collaborative practices can also help in reducing over-collaboration. This can inspire other team members to follow these strategies. Team leaders need to be careful while rewarding good collaborators. They should ensure they choose teams or team members through peer recognition programs or value-added performance metrics.
Ensure equal participation in collaboration
When experts or seniors in the team are asked for help constantly, this can lead to a bottleneck in the collaboration process. To avoid this, team leaders need to encourage team members to take up different tasks in collaboration. Through this, there will be equal participation in the collaboration process, ensuring a smoother rhythm.
Use project management tools
Project management tools can greatly reduce the risk of collaboration overload in the organization. These can also help in reducing the workload for employees while also improving work efficiency. Through these tools, team members are aware of the tasks they need to accomplish and also show more accountability and transparency.
Communicate through digital collab tools
Communicating through digital collaboration tools can also greatly reduce over-collaboration in the office. Digital collaboration tools allow both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Through this, team members are aware of when to expect the next notification or message. Digital collaboration tools greatly reduce the time wasted in inter-office communication.
Used shared docs to collaborate
Shared docs have the advantage of being self-serving and storing information for a long period of time. While using shared docs, teams can track when edits and changes are being made. They can also choose to access it on their own time. Thus, the work does not cut into their regular schedule and promotes a better work-life balance.
Set clear roles and responsibilities
In order to foster a collaborative environment and also avoid over-collaboration, there should be individual roles for all the team members to follow. When everyone has a responsibility, they will not equally participate in the collaboration process but also focus on their own tasks. While assigning roles, team leaders need to ensure that the team members have understood them well.
Have effective meetings
While meetings are encouraged to be held regularly, ineffective or unorganized meetings can be futile. In fact, they can be counter-productive and have negative effects. When team members understand that the meeting is going to be useful, they will increase their participation and engagement. For this, team leaders need to hold planned meetings in the right frequency.
In this article, we have discussed if too much collaboration is a bad thing. We have also looked at the different signs of over collaboration at work. In addition, we have explained several strategies that managers can use in order to avoid over-collaboration.
Frequently asked questions: (Is too much collaboration a bad thing?)
What can go wrong with collaboration?
While collaboration is essential for a successful organization and has great benefits, problems can still occur. The most common problems that occur in collaboration are:
Individual tasks go uncompleted
If a team member is coerced to collaborate more, then they might not have enough time to complete their individual tasks. Many tasks require workers to dedicate plenty of focus and concentration, which needs individual time. Ineffective collaboration may hinder this. Due to this, deadlines might be missed and work productivity might falter.
Unequal participation in the collaboration
In the collaborative process, team members who are seen as helpful are eagerly sought after for assistance. This can happen with employees who are considered more knowledgeable and skilled. Studies have shown that this phenomenon happens more with women. This lopsidedness leads to a few members doing a lot of the work in the team.
Employees can burnout
Over-collaboration or collaboration overload can lead to employee burnout. This is observed more in employees who are highly engaged in the process of collaboration and also great performers. Those who contribute highly to the collaborative process can burnout because of the pressure.
What is the hardest part of collaboration?
Effective collaboration takes a great deal of time and effort. If the right strategies are not used, it can lead to over-collaboration or bad collaboration itself. Collaboration itself has many challenges in the workplace. The most common challenges for collaboration are:
Problems with diversity
Collaboration encourages diversity in the workplace. While diversity is an important asset to an organization, many employees will have trouble dealing with it. To respect and understand diversity, one must have an open-mind and non-judgmental thinking. However, personal biases can get in the way of this if there is no proper sensitivity training imparted to the team.
Silos in the organization
Organizations have silos where they work independently and are reluctant to share information with any other department. However, silos can be an obstacle in the path of cross-functional collaboration. Silos are more apparent in traditional organizations as compared to ones with a flatter organizational structure.
Lack of trust between team members
For collaboration to be effective there has to be trust and mutual respect in the team. Trust does not come overnight and can take plenty of time and effort. For this, the team leader needs to encourage the team members to interact and get to know each other on a personal level.
The team members need to be on the same page about where they are headed in order to collaborate well. Many teams are not clear about their long-term goals and vision. When this happens, the collaboration between team members is not effective. Team members need to be aware of the long-term goals of the team and also how the outcomes fit into the bigger picture.
What are the three strategies for effective collaboration?
Organizations use many strategies in order to develop collaboration between various teams and within team members. Three of these strategies are explained below:
Creating groups of the right size
Group size matters for effective collaboration. If the group size is too large, then all the team members might not be able to participate in the collaboration. However, if the group size is too small, there is a good chance of ideas and thoughts getting repeated. Groupthink phenomenon can also take place easily here.
Encouraging creativity in the team
Encouraging creativity has benefits for both the organization as well as the employees. For the organization, this can lead to new products and services, translating into business profit. Research studies have shown that employees tend to be more satisfied when they are encouraged to be creative. This can also lead to better employee retention rates.
Taking on tasks that require critical thinking
When teams are given simple tasks, they might not collaborate too closely as the goal can be accomplished easily. However, when they are given projects that require critical thinking, team members demonstrate more inter-dependency. They also work closely with each other in order to come up with solutions for the task at hand.
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