Collaboration – working with others to get something done – is a desirable, productive action. The meeting of multiple minds usually means a better outcome than could be achieved alone. Because of this bias toward collaboration, the downside is sometimes ignored. Not by those smart folks at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Their post, Too Much Togetherness? The Downside of Workplace Collaboration, points out the potential pitfalls, including:

  • Too many disparate demands that can derail focus
  • Slow decision-making, because so many people need to get on board with both the problems and solutions
  • Meetings, emails and phone calls take up nearly all available time, so it’s hard to get individual work done
  • Talented individuals get tapped for too many collaborative projects, so they become overburdened and dissatisfied
  • Women do much of the collaborating, yet they are rewarded less often, because they are unconsciously expected to do it more often than men

Feeling like an overwhelmed collaborator? You’re not alone, and there is some solace in that. Want to break the cycle of unproductive collaboration? Wharton suggests:

  • Saying no to new projects if it means you cannot do your critical work
  • Be aware of others’ capabilities and suggest another competent colleague in your place
  • Block chunks of time on your calendar to get core work done, then you’ll know if you have time to take on something more
  • Offer short blocks of time for collaborative work (e.g. if asked for an hour, offer 30 minutes)

Humanergy would offer another suggestion to collaboration overload. Know in advance what you’d say “yes” to – the collaboration efforts that would align with your purpose, goals and strengths. Think about what kind of work brings you joy, and do more of that. “Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us.” Marcus Buckingham

Have a super tip (or a to-don’t) for team greatness, not chaos? Comment below or message Humanergy.


Photo by Csaba Balazs on Unsplash