What are the challenges of collaboration? (& how to overcome them)

In this article, we will be discussing the various challenges of collaboration and how to overcome them. We will also be explaining the obstacles in cross-functional collaboration and how to make this collaboration effective. Collaboration in the workplace can only be achieved when there is a good level of understanding of team goals and values. Knowing how to overcome challenges in collaboration will help you become a better leader or a team member.

What are the challenges of collaboration?

The various challenges of collaboration are explained in this section. These challenges have been closely studied in research further helping organizations overcome them. The challenges are explained as follows:

  • Lack of clear goals for the team

When the team members are not clear about the goals of the project, the will not collaborate effectively as they don’t understand the work process. The productivity also falters because the team members are not clear about their objectives.

While setting team goals, team leaders should take suggestions into mind. They should also align the goals with the organizational vision and values. In addition, they should also try to create meaningful and relatable goals, in order to motivate team members and ensure better project completion.

  • The communication is not smooth

When the communication process between the team members is not smooth, then the collaboration also will be rocky. In a workplace, there should be an emphasis on open communication. This should not only be between the team members but also advocated from the leaders.

In an open communication system, the members are allowed to express their thoughts and feelings clearly, thus creating a stronger bond in the team. It also promotes employee participation and engagement which will ultimately lead to an increase in productivity.

  • The team members don’t trust each other

When there is a lack of trust, it can lead to a toxic work environment. When team members don’t experience trust, they tend to falter in their assignments and reduce transparency. Lack of trust can also lead to micromanaging by the team leaders.

Though trust does not come overnight in a team, the time taken to build trust will nevertheless be highly valuable. It promotes a positive environment that allows productivity and efficiency to grow.

  • Employees are pessimistic

Though organizations emphasize on positive thinking and a growth mindset, they often don’t practice it daily or make enough effort to promote the same. When team members have a negative mindset, it can easily affect the mindsets of other employees as well. Roadblocks are seen as impossible tasks rather than constructive challenges.

Pessimism or negativity can also bring down employee morale. It affects the leaders and management as well. All in all, a toxic environment where conflicts, arguments and blame games are common is created.

  • There are too many ideas

Though successful organizations promote creativity and innovative ideas, it can become a huge problem when too many ideas are brought to the table. Sometimes this can occur outside the brainstorming phase. When team members keep bringing new suggestions while a project is happening, it can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

It can also lead to a failure of meeting the team goals, since new goals and projects are continually cropping up. In this scenario, the team members lose sight of the roles and responsibilities originally assigned to them and try to do something else. Ultimately, it leads to less productivity and missing deadlines.

  • There is competition among the team members

Effective collaboration requires team members to strongly let go of their egos. This is not easy but very essential to the progress of the team. When a member considers another team member as competition, he/she would not be ready to share ideas and work together.

This happens when the leaders or management don’t take time to build the team as one unit. The team members need to realize that they can succeed or fail as a team and that the individual does not matter.

  • The digital technology is not helping

Digital technology is increasingly being used in organizations for communication and interaction. However, when the right technology is not used, it can become an obstacle for collaboration. It can also be because of improper use of the technology itself. This is common in companies that work remotely.

How can we overcome challenges of collaboration?

Though collaboration can be challenging in organizations, it is essential for work productivity. Team leaders and managers need to know how to overcome these challenges in order to create a positive work environment. Some of these ways are explained below:

  • Reducing competition among team members

Due to personal egos and individual goals, there can be high levels of competition between team members. While competition can be a healthy feature, it can also lead to unnecessary conflicts and less productivity.

To reduce or avoid competition, the team leaders need to highlight the importance of the team as a whole. Creating and recognizing a team’s identity more than individual identities can be a useful method for this. Praising the team’s success as a unit more than praising individual successes can also reduce competition among team members.

  • Improving trust levels in the team

Trust takes time to seep into a group. But sometimes, a group needs high levels of trust to function, even if they know each other only for a short while. In this case, though there might be highly skilled people in the group, they might not collaborate effectively. This leads to a decrease in productivity.  

Managers can improve the levels of trust in a team by creating an environment which is safe and judgement free. By allowing smooth and regular communication between  the members, trust levels can be increased in the team.

  • Using the right technology

Implementing the right digital technology can lead to a seamless communication within the team. Digital collaboration tools can be useful not only for communication and interaction but also for project management and task completion.

To ensure that the digital technology will be used in the right manner, team leaders need to ensure proper training for all the team members. This allows the members to stay on the same page and can also be a helpful team building activity.

  • Improving communication levels between the team members

Communication problems are common and can lead to many conflicts in the team. However, without communication there is no collaboration. Communication issues can arise from many factors including vocabulary, body language and also passive listening. For communication to be effective, team leaders need to enable the right kind of communication style from the start.

In a team, communication needs to be two way. The message needs to be received properly with good understanding. Doubts need to be clarified right there and then. The environment should also be open enough to allow questioning as well as feedback.

For communication to be effective, team leaders can encourage using different platforms for interaction. They can also encourage questions during the conversation. Most importantly, team leaders need to encourage active listening among team members to increase collaboration.

  • Implementing proper planning

For teams to collaborate well there has to be a proper plan. Proper planning does not only include setting clear goals and assigning tasks. It also means outlining the time frame, the resources for the project and its budget. The stakeholders of the project should also be mentioned in the planning. The involvement level of the stakeholders should also be communicated to the team members.

  • Boosting team morale

Negative morale can greatly decrease the productivity of a team. It can also be a major obstacle in team collaboration. In order to boost team morale and uplift the mindsets of the team members, team leaders need to encourage creative and innovative thinking. It also is important to recognize the value of the employees and their importance in the organization.

Obstacles in cross-functional collaboration

This type of collaboration occurs when members from different departments work together for a project. They can be from various functionalities having a range of skill sets and expertise. This kind of collaboration leads to more innovation in an organization while making the environment fun and interactive. Some of the obstacles in cross-functional collaboration are explained below:

  • Ineffective communication between teams

When there is no effective communication between the teams, it can lead to a poor collaboration. This can happen more in cross-functional interactions as these departments are not used to working together.

  • No trust between the team members

Since the departments collaborating usually do not communicate with each other that often, there can be less levels of trust between them. It can also be because the members do not know each other that well.

  • High competition between departments

Since members of different departments work together, they can have competition between themselves. In this scenario, the team leaders have to continually identify the team as a unit and encourage their cohesion and bonding.

Creating effective cross-functional collaboration

In order to create better collaboration between different functionalities, the following methods can be used:

  • Implementing proper leadership

When the leader strongly advocates collaboration and integrity, the members will also fall in line. The leader chosen should be someone with great expertise and good problem-solving skills.

  • Setting clear goals

When goals are clearly set for the team, the team will work better together. Goals allow teams to work with a sense of purpose and can also guide them when things go wrong.

  • Implementing the right tools to collaborate

When the correct methods of collaboration are being followed, teams will work better together. Implementing the right collaboration tool can improve communication and help in project management as well.


In this article, we have discussed the various challenges of collaboration and how to overcome them. We have also explained the obstacles in cross-functional collaboration and how to make the collaboration effective.

Frequently asked questions:

What makes collaboration difficult?

When people in a team don’t take the time and effort to interact with each other, they don’t get to know others well. This also reduces trust and increases the risk of conflicts. Since their communication is not of quality, the collaboration also reduces. Ultimately, it leads to an issue in productivity and work efficiency as all the team members are not on the same page.

What are the benefits of overcoming challenges?

When teams overcome challenges together, the individuals build higher strength and resolve. Challenges also help in motivating work. In addition, challenges are helpful for leaders to demonstrate their effectiveness in solving problems.

What prevents effective collaboration?

When a team is made up of the wrong team members, collaboration automatically reduces. Individuals who are not team players will not work with others to achieve a common goal. These members can prevent collaboration.

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