Why is collaboration so difficult?

In this post, we will be discussing why the process of collaboration is so difficult. We will also be looking at methods to make collaboration easier for everyone in the organization. Since many research studies are pointing out the need for collaborative alliances, many workplaces are emphasizing on this concept. However, collaboration is not always easy and can come with a set of challenges.

Why is collaboration so difficult?

Many workplaces find collaboration difficult to implement for various reasons. Some of these reasons are:

The collaboration does not have a particular goal

When collaboration is implemented with no specific goal, the employees will not be motivated to practice it in their daily work lives. For collaboration to be effective, it needs to have a particular goal and a vision with a set of values. These ground rules will guide the process of collaboration, while creating markers for evaluation and regulation.

There is no cross-functional collaboration

Collaboration should not be encouraged only among the members of a particular department or functionality. For collaboration to occur effectively, cross-functional collaboration should be practiced. Cross-functional collaboration is when there is interaction between different departments.

This type of collaboration ensures better knowledge sharing. It also improves the level of transparency in an organization, with everyone being clearly aware of what is going on in other departments. It also helps in creating and maintaining a flatter structure of organization.

Collaboration requires high emotional intelligence

For collaboration to be effective, high emotional intelligence is required among the members. Emotional intelligence does not come easily. It needs a lot of empathy, listening skills, cultural awareness and genuine respect. Many people learn about emotional intelligence through personal experiences.

However, this rare intelligence is necessary for collaboration. Since it demands high levels of interaction and sentimentality in the team, collaboration can bring many conflicts. Only when team members are highly emotionally intelligent, can they negotiate these sharp corners easily. Otherwise, collaboration itself is going to cause additional problems instead of being a solution.

It needs constant support

Collaboration can be effective only when there is a positive environment of constant support. When the team members support and help each other grow, the collaboration can lead to better productivity. This requires employees to think beyond themselves and let go of their egos. They should also be ready to empower and develop others for the sake of the greater cause.

Collaboration requires intimate relationships

Team members need to have healthy relationships with each other for collaboration to work productively. But this requires a lot of time and effort. It also requires the right kind of leader who will guide this process. However, many employees don’t take the time to get to know other members and thus the interactions are superficial.

Healthy work relationships means that team members know about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It also requires them to be aware of everyone’s skill sets and expertise. This can only happen when there is regular and proper communication.

Politics can get in the way

Politics, both internal and external, can get in the way of collaboration. When many people are involved in a project, conflicts can always arise. If conflicts are repressed, ignored or resolved in a negative manner, politics can become major obstacles in the way of collaboration.

It can happen not only inside the team, but also outside. This is common in cross-functional collaboration, where leaders of different teams can butt heads about various issues.

It needs a supportive organizational culture

Collaboration requires an organization to have a certain culture for it to flourish. This is difficult in traditional organizational structures where inter-level interaction and transparency is less. For collaboration to be effective, the hierarchy needs to be flatter. It also requires an environment of trust and mutual respect so that the collaboration process can be fruitful for the company.

Collaboration requires change

Implementing collaboration in an organization as a new concept can lead to many changes. Teams may be required to work differently with different types of roles. Leaders might also be required to change their communication or leadership styles. However, change is not always welcomed. People are usually resistant to change.

Collaboration requires individuals to step outside their comfort zones. Even though it is for the betterment of the organization and the individual employee, this is not easily accepted. Employees would rather complete tasks on their own as they might have had a bad experience working with someone in the past. Due to this, collaboration is seen as something which is negative.

How can we make collaboration easier?

Collaboration can be made easier and more effective in the workplace by following simple methods, such as the ones discussed below.

Make everyone more accountable

When there is accountability, productivity also increases. It also invokes a strong sense of ownership. However, it becomes negative if only a few people are accountable. Accountability itself should be mutual in the organization. It should be practiced across all levels instead of being focused on only a few individuals.

Increase inter-dependence in the team

Inter-dependence can sound like a bad thing for many people. They would rather work by themselves than depending on someone else’s effort. For a collaboration to be effective there should be inter-dependence. Team members should be able to rely on each other to complete a certain project.

This factor is not easily accepted and also challenging to implement. Inter-dependence can only take place when people can trust each other and also be honest with each other. It also requires an organization which supports transparency and accountability at all levels.

Work for a greater cause

Rather than working for simple goals and aims, team members collaborate better while working towards something much greater. When team members know that their project is going to positively change many lives, their involvement and effort increases. It also increases the feeling of ownership in the project.

This redefining of goals tends to mold a better mindset for the team members. Instead of achieving a simple business goal, they are now working towards improving their communities, all for the greater good. It makes the project more meaningful, making the team more responsible.

Increase idea-sharing

When ideas are shared more often and in a more open manner, it leads to better products from the organization. Even if they are not exactly beneficial from a business perspective, it can instill a feeling of brotherhood in the organization. It shows employees that their opinions are valued, making them more loyal to the company.

Boost employee morale

Work is hard and many organizations create a pressured mindset for their employees. Using negative reinforcements and scare tactics, they think they can make employees more productive. However, this is not at all true.

For collaboration itself to be effective, employees need to have a positive mindset. They need to be in an environment that supports creativity and innovation. They also need to feel like they’re an important part of the decision-making process. Boosting team morale depends highly on the leader. A great leader can instill a motivated mindset, implementing effective collaboration.


In this post, we have discussed why the process of collaboration is so difficult to implement in workplaces. We have also listed out different methods that you can use to make collaboration easier for everyone in the team.

Frequently asked questions: (Why is collaboration so difficult?)

What are the challenges of collaboration?

While collaborating, a team can face many challenges. The most common ones are explained in the following list.

Problems in communication

When a team faces issues in communication, their collaboration will also be negatively affected. Communication itself needs to be a two-way process, with the leader modeling it in the right manner. It also needs the environment to be one of trust and mutual respect.

Lack of a clear goal

When there is no clear goal or aim for the team, the collaboration process won’t be effective. The team members will not practice it as they do not know the end-goal of the project that they’re working on. While setting goals, everyone’s suggestions have to be taken note of. There also needs to be team goals as well as individual goals.

Trust issues among the members

For a collaboration to be healthy and productive there has to be high trust among the team-members. Only when employees trust each other, they tend to work better together. This improves the levels of interdependence, improving cooperation and ultimately project completion.

There is a negative mindset

When employees are more positive and excited to collaborate, the process will be smoother and will lead to better results. However, when there is a negative mindset and low morale among the employees, they won’t be open to any new change. And thus, collaboration also suffers.

Where should I use collaboration tools?

Collaboration tools are pieces of technology that can be used to improve collaboration in the workplace. While collaboration tools are used for many different purposes, they are mostly used for the purpose of:

Communication and interaction

Using collaboration tools, employees can interact faster and better with other team members. They can also communicate with employees in other levels and functionalities, which might not be possible otherwise. Communication can also take place even while employees work remotely.

Communication can be carried out through different modes like instant messaging, voice-calling or video-calling. Different collaboration tools offer many different modes for the various needs of the organization.

Project management and task management

Since project management itself requires a lot of work, it can be made easier through the use of collaboration tools. There are many tools that promote seamless and smoother project management and tracking progress of tasks. This promotes accountability and better work completion.

File-sharing and data sharing

Collaboration tools can help organizations share information in a safe and secure manner. Through collaboration tools, data can be shared with employees who are working remotely. It also promotes quick access to information, thus cutting down time wasted in searching for files. It further helps in project management as team members have all the information and resources that they need.

What are the disadvantages of online collaboration?

Though online collaboration is very useful and becoming increasingly preferred, it has its disadvantages. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • It needs a strong data connection all the time
  • Remote working employees might feel disconnected from others
  • There might be delayed responses
  • There is a risk of over-collaboration
  • Project management might not be coordinated well

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