What are the barriers to collaboration? (+7 ways to overcome them)

In this blogpost, we will describe the different barriers to collaboration. We will also explain the benefits of collaboration for an organization and how we can overcome barriers and obstacles which may hinder it. Through the implementation of effective collaboration, teams can focus on the bigger picture, helping the organization create a larger impact.

What are the barriers to collaboration?

The different barriers to collaboration are:

  • The organizational structure
  • The culture of the organization
  • Lack of time for collaboration
  • Bringing in the wrong team members
  • Challenges of remote working

Collaboration is still making waves in all types of industries today. Since collaboration makes the work flow smoother and teams well-oiled, it leads to better work process and also happier customers and clients. However, collaboration does face many barriers which can reduce its effectiveness. The barriers to collaboration are described as follows:

The organizational structure

Organizations can have different team structures, based on their leadership, the type of team members and the needs and requirements of the company. Some organizational structures, like traditional ones which have an autocratic leadership, may not allow for much interaction and collaboration between levels. Effective collaboration in these organizations may not be possible.

The culture of the organization

The organizational culture also can affect the implementation of collaboration. Many organizations have a fear based culture where vulnerability and risk-taking may be discouraged. Some cultures may also give more importance to status or position, which can further hamper the collaborative process. These types of toxic organizational cultures can lead to bad collaboration.

Lack of time for collaboration

Since collaboration takes time and effort from the leadership as well as employees, many organizations think twice about implementing it. The management might fear the employees might be distracted from their actual work tasks and that collaborative practices might cut into their company time. This can greatly discourage teams from collaborating.

Bringing in the wrong team members

If the wrong employees are involved in the group it can lead to ineffective collaborative practices. The right people should be those who know the value of collaboration, are committed to the shared purpose of the group and are ready to be interdependent on the team members. When team members tend to be social loafers, they might be an obstacle to collaborative efforts.

Challenges of remote working

When employees work in close physical proximity to each other, they have no choice but to communicate and collaborate closely with each other. However, as more companies are encouraging remote working, collaboration can also dwindle. As team members cannot see each other physically, they might reduce or not collaborate at all.

Collaboration faces many other challenges, which can be in the form of:

No mutual trust and respect

Trust is the foundation of teams. When team members do not trust each other deeply, they will not be ready to depend on them for help and support. Lack of trust can also discourage employees from confiding in one another and talking about their problems. This can greatly hinder collaboration as it requires mutual trust and respect to thrive and grow.

Poor leadership

Another scenario which is quite common in organizations is when team members are more than willing to collaborate but are not guided by the right leader. When leaders themselves do not advocate and demonstrate collaborative practices, it can pose a big barrier for collaboration. For collaboration to be effective, it first requires collaborative leadership.

Not having the right tools

This particularly applies to remote teams who require a digital collaboration tool to communicate and work with each other. This also applies to other organizations which have collaboration tools integrated into their work processes. If the right tools, which serve their purposes and also are easy and comfortable to use, are not implemented they can reduce collaboration among teams.

Presence of silos in the organization

While many management consultants encourage the taking down of silos in the organization, this might not always be doable. However, silos in any organization can be barriers in the process of collaboration, reducing cross-functional interactions and promoting information hoarding. Silos can also lead to dirty politics in the organization, further hampering the workflow.

Improper workplaces

Workplaces should stimulate and encourage team members to get together and work or interact. This is the reason many organizations invest in creating areas for employees to spontaneously gather and communicate. When workplaces confine their employees to stick to their desks and nothing more, they are discouraging teamwork and collaboration.

No opportunities for learning

Teams need to learn and upgrade themselves continually. This does not only mean learning new skills but also developing existing ones. Learning can also greatly improve the collaboration in the organization as employees share information and resources with each other. However, if learning opportunities are not provided, it can lead to less collaboration and more stagnation.

Lack of clarity about goals

For any process to be successful, the team members should be clear about the goal or goals. This also applies to collaboration. If the team members are not clear about the goals of the project, it reduces their commitment and engagement in the project. This also leads to less teamwork and collaboration among the workers.

Unwillingness to coach

While employees are required to learn and grow, they are also required to teach and help others grow, particularly new employees. When senior employees are not ready to give time and effort in order to coach the new guys, it can lead to an improper transfer of information, leading the new employees to learn bad collaborative practices.

Size of teams

The size of the team also greatly affects the type and amount of collaboration taking place between the members. If the number of team members is too many in the group, there might be less participation and engagement from everyone. However, if the size is too small, it might lead to frequent groupthink and a lack of diversity of ideas and suggestions.

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Benefits of collaboration for an organization

Even though the process of collaboration might be tricky and may require time to implement thoroughly, it brings many benefits to an organization. Some of the great benefits of collaboration are:

  • It helps in generating new ideas and opinions
  • Team members can share information with each other and learn
  • Collaboration contributes to efficient problem-solving
  • It leads to happier customers
  • It positively contributes to the physical and mental well-being of employees
  • Collaboration can help organizations grow and expand
  • It can bring remote-working teams together
  • It boosts productivity and work efficiency

How to overcome the barriers to collaboration?

While collaboration can face many barriers, there are plenty of strategies and methods to overcome them. Some of the highly efficient strategies are explained in this section:

Having leaders demonstrate collaboration

In order to guarantee effective collaboration in the organization, having the leaders demonstrate collaboration first is a great idea. This not only inspires the other employees to follow suit, but also shows the right way to collaborate in the organization. Leaders can advocate collaboration by communicating openly, trusting others, showing empathy and a willingness to learn.

Recognize and reward good collaborative practices

Good collaborative practices in the organization need to be recognized and rewarded. However, this can only happen when the leaders themselves know what correct collaborative practices are and have the patience to keenly observe for these behaviors among interactions in the team. When good collaborative practices are rewarded, it encourages other team members to follow.

Change up your performance appraisals

Performance appraisals can be intimidating for many employees. And many of the assessments used do not consider collaboration as part of the objectives. When this is the case, team members will not be motivated to collaborate as it does not reflect in their appraisals. Modifying the assessments to include collaboration as an important factor can greatly boost its effectiveness.

Make time for collaboration

Employees mainly complain about the lack of time for collaboration in the office. And many organizations simply do not invest time and they don’t see the point in it. Even though the return of investment might be way in the future, the implementation of collaboration is every bit worth it. Allocating time for collaboration and teamwork can lead to better practice in the teams.

Bring in the right technology

To achieve the right style of collaboration among team members, especially the ones who are working remotely, the organization has to bring in the proper tools and technology. The digital collaboration tool should have versatile features, be easy to use, have great security and also be readily integrated with other software in the company.

Encourage cross-functional collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration can not only help in taking down the silo mentality, but can also boost innovative and creative thinking among the employees. Through cross-functional collaboration, there can be more sharing of information and resources. Leaders can encourage this by conducting interactive activities, inter-departmental projects, collab coffee breaks, etc.

Promote external collaborations

Collaborating outside the organization can also be a great way to encourage collaboration internally. When team members collaborate with individuals outside, they can bring in new information as well as new ideas and resources. In this manner, the strength of the team can be increased and powerful connections can be developed.

Frequently asked questions: (What are the barriers to collaboration?)

What are 5 barriers to effective teamwork?

The 5 most common barriers to effective teamwork are:

  • When team members are not clear about the goals and objectives of the group
  • When individual team members are not ready to perform their duties, or perform them ineffectively
  • When there are too many conflicts between the team members
  • When the team members are not equipped with the right interpersonal skills
  • When there is too much groupthink in the team

Why do collaborations fail?

Collaborations can fail due to many reasons. However, the most common reason why collaborations fail is because the team members do not take the time and put in effort to get to know each other. This can happen because of lack of time for collaborating and communicating in the team. It can also happen because leaders do not encourage this practice.

What stops people from collaborating?

While collaboration is great for an organization as well as the individual, not everyone may be up for the job. People who do not collaborate can be those who are highly self-centered and do not want to work and depend on others. They can also be shy or introverted team members who prefer to work by themselves and not interact much with others.

When team members who do not have complementary personality types and working styles are put together to collaborate, it might ultimately result in bad collaboration. This can have a counterproductive effect on the team morale and team cohesion.

If you like this blogpost, please leave your comments and questions in the space below.

Citations

https://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2017/10/overcoming-common-barriers-to-collaboration-part-1.php
https://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2017/11/overcoming-common-barriers-to-collaboration-part-2.php
https://www.legalleadership.co.uk/knowledge/delivering-services/collaboration-and-communication/what-are-the-barriers-to-collaboration/
https://hey.space/blog/7-most-common-collaboration-barriers
https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelcyvjoseph/2019/10/28/4-collaboration-barriersand-how-to-overcome-them/?sh=4a77d1835b34
https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/w-031-3371?originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true

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