From communication breakdowns to full-blown interpersonal conflicts, the price of ineffective collaboration is high. According to Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives attribute workplace failures to a lack of collaboration. Similar studies have also shown that ineffective collaboration results in bad performance, lower engagement, and even lower stress levels.
Considering how integral good teamwork to a company’s healthy functioning (and its bottom line), managers must create the right conditions for it to take place.
A sinking ship that needs to stay afloat, though, has to first get rid of what’s weighing it down. Likewise, managers need to first look at the barriers to effective collaboration in the workplace to help push the needle.
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The biggest and most common reason for bad teamwork is ineffective leadership. No matter how dysfunctional or underperforming a team can be, a good leader knows how to galvanise his people into action and smoothen out the kinks for more cooperation.
Toxic managers, though, only exacerbate teamwork problems by creating atmospheres of high distrust and hostility at work. Negative work environments like these are hardly conducive for the kind of “all for one, one for all” team spirit that often underpins good teamwork.
You’d think that it’s better to be a negligent manager than a toxic one, but studies have shown that absent leadership has an equally adverse impact on collaboration. Going to your boss to show what you’ve been working on, only to find him utterly disinterested, feels the same as being slapped in the face.
According to a recent survey by Clear Company, 97% of employees believed that a lack of alignment is usually directly responsible for undesirable task or project outcomes.
Every team, regardless of its nature, purpose, or function, has to first rally around a common cause to be able to work well together. Even if you gather the most capable people you can find and tell them to collaborate, they won’t get very far if everyone’s trying to go in a different direction.
Worse, if the objectives they’ve been told to work on together are too abstract and unclear, it can cripple team effectiveness.
Bad communication is often what lies at the heart of ineffective collaboration; if you can’t understand one another, you won’t be able to work well together.
In fact, Slack’s 2018 International Work Perceptions survey found that around the world, people tended to cite communicated-related issues as the hardest part of collaboration. The US and UK, in particular, both identified communication as the most important and yet hardest part of working together.
Some of the issues cited, for instance, included:
It’s no secret that psychological safety is indispensable in effecting good teamwork. People want to feel like they’re not going to get judged or seen in a bad light at work and in life.
It’s the reason why Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the subject was so popular; despite it being such a fundamental concept to interpersonal relations, psychological safety is surprisingly elusive.
People are less likely to be authentic, straightforward, and truthful to those whom they don’t know very well. In other words, the more emotionally and socially distant team members feel from one another, the less likely they are to feel psychologically safe around one another. During discussions, then, they tend to hold back from asking questions or sharing information, which in turn has a negative impact on collaboration.
In the worst scenario, the presence of toxic and manipulative individuals in the team can jeopardise collaboration entirely. When you know (or even suspect that) someone on the team is out to get you, you’ll focus your attention on “playing defense” instead cooperating.