Why it is Difficult to Collaborate

Published: July 21, 2015

As obvious as the benefits of teamwork might be, collaborating is difficult. Imagine what it would be like to enjoy the outcome of joining our talents without having to make the sacrifices required to share. Unfortunately, letting go of self-interest is a primary ingredient of the teamwork recipe. Sadly, working in silos is easier despite the subtraction of advantages that come from working together. Let’s look at the spectrum of hardships required for healthy collaboration.

Civility & Respect: Day-to-day kindness is not as easy as it seems when under stress.

Mission and Value Alignment: Although there are many paths to the same destination, the purpose must be clear.

Productive Management of Conflict: The only way to harness the power of different perspectives is to sponsor constructive disagreement.

Trust & Accountability: Earning our partners’ faith begins with doing what we say we’re going to do.

Willingness to Take Risks: Innovation takes the courage to run in the dark.

Effective Response to Change: Mourning loss depletes energy but is a necessary component to moving forward following a disappointment.

Anticipating the Future: Embracing a brighter tomorrow is hard when there’s no evidence that it will be better than today.

The above challenges are rooted in relationship skills. You only need to practice them when your work requires the strengths of other people. If you live in a vacuum and can change the world on your own, there is no need to grapple with these ambitious requirements. Otherwise, it’s time to struggle.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.