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Collaboration at Work: A Look at the Pros and Cons

written by: nataliajones•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/7/2010

Some companies elevate teamwork, while others think it is more of a hindrance to productivity, but there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of collaboration in the workplace.

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    Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net Workplace collaboration can be an instrumental part of the decision-making process within an organization, but this tool needs to be properly implemented to maximize its benefits and downplay potential negatives. A discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration in the workplace follows.

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    What are the Advantages of Collaboration in the Workplace?

    There are several possible benefits to workplace collaboration.

    1. The Collaborative Process Combines Different Perspectives. When individuals from various professional and technical backgrounds come together to work on a project, the result is that all angles are considered. This is a particularly attractive outcome, especially in situations where the project is expected to command a huge budget, because it eliminates the possibility of errors arising out failures and considers the effect of contributing elements.
    2. Workplace Collaboration Encourages Creativity. Bringing together several different voices from within an organization helps to raise the profile of ideas that may never have come to the forefront if not for the collaborative effort. Teams that are well-structured consist of staff members from various levels of the company and these individuals naturally bring with them their outlook on the project. Creative solutions are often the result of simply looking at challenges from a different angle.
    3. Collaboration Takes Advantage of Synergies. The formation of a collaborative teams often involves the separation of duties. Within the structure of the team, certain members may be asked to focus on particular elements and put forth a recommendation based on their expertise. This kind of separation of responsibilities helps to bring the benefit of synergy to the project because areas of overlap are more easily identified and the incidences of re-doing work can be eliminated.
    4. Workplace Collaboration Brings Balance to Decision Making. The influence of several different stakeholders that may comprise the overall team helps to ensure that the decisions made are ones that consider the effect of all the interested parties. This means that workplace collaboration can root out the occurrence of biased or partisan decisions because each stakeholder has a presence around the table.
    5. Collaboration May Improve Delivery Times. If the stakeholders are able to recognize their synergies and leverage the experience of all the parties represented, a project that is a collaborative effort has the potential to be completed on or even before schedule.
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    What are the Disadvantages of Collaboration in the Workplace?

    Despite these benefits there are also several disadvantages of collaboration in the workplace. Some of them are listed below.

    1. The Incidence of Group Think. While bringing different stakeholders together for the common good can introduce various new perspectives to the dynamic of the discussion, there is also the looming threat of group think. This occurs when the stronger personalities are so persuasive that they manage to take over the discussion and supplant their ideas as the outcome for the group.
    2. Possible Ambiguity in Roles and Responsibility. If the responsibilities of the different stakeholders are not clearly defined their contribution may fall into ambiguity and the result can only be chaos. Ambiguity is particularly common in collaborative groups that are extremely large. The benefit of having several different perspectives starts to decline after an optimum number of members is crossed and this number may vary from project to project.
    3. The Cost of Collaboration May Be High. Although advancements in technology make it possible for collaborative efforts to cross international barriers and even time zones, the cost of doing this must be factored into the equation. The larger the number of individuals involved in the collaborative effort the greater the cost of the exercise in terms of directly facilitating meetings and indirectly because of the time spent away from their other duties.
    4. Collaboration Often Leads to Longer Decision Times. Quite simply, when more people need to be consulted before a decision can be made, the project lead times are extended to facilitate this extra consultation.
    5. Conflict Within the Group. When team members are constantly at crossroads over key points, the project suffers. Personality clashes have a lot to do with the ability to come to an agreement and if the chosen individuals are not able to communicate effectively, the overall project objectives will not be met.
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    Conclusion

    Although their are advantages and disadvantages of collaboration in the workplace, the effective use of collaboration in the workplace is dependent on the recognition of possible problems and a conscious effort to eradicate them, so the many benefits can be exploited.

    Image Credit: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net






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