Plenty of organizations pride themselves on having a collaborative work environment, promoting the values of cooperation and teamwork, but how many truly live up to their reputation? For every workplace that genuinely strives to build a foundation of mentoring and knowledge-sharing, there are others that directly or indirectly encourage competitive, even cutthroat, behavior in employees.
A small amount of healthy or friendly competition can have its place in the office, inspiring employees to work hard for a goal, but competitiveness among co-workers can easily get out of control and overshadow the best interests of individuals and the organization as a whole.
“When [competition] goes too far, the manager has neglected his or her team-building responsibilities,” said teamwork and management expert Holly Green in an MSN.com article .
Supporting collaboration is a beneficial long-term strategy. It minimizes jealousy among colleagues, encourages the exchange of helpful information and puts the needs of the organization above anything else. Collaboration methodologies should be part management training courses.
Steps to a More Collaborative Work Environment
Hire the right people.
If you want to emphasize cooperation in your organization, make this value a high priority when you are in the hiring process. Ask questions about an applicant’s experience with cooperative teams, mentoring programs and conflict management. Avoid an applicant who seems overly competitive, individualistic or selfish (with an “every man for himself” attitude).
- Support mentoring.
A strong mentoring culture within your organization demonstrates how much you care about employee development, continuous learning opportunities and collaboration.
- Share information.
Create a collaborative work environment where everyone is expected to share best practices, knowledge and new ideas because this practice benefits the whole organization (and thus, it benefits individuals). Information hoarding hurts productivity and often wastes time and money. Find an information-sharing system that works for your team, whether that is a wiki, a whiteboard or a weekly meeting.
- Stay consistent with rewards and recognition.
Evaluate how your organization rewards individual and team performance. Does it single out individuals for recognition, while neglecting group collaboration? Ensure that your actions reflect the values you are trying to foster in your employees.
How do you encourage a collaborative work environment in your organization?
Learn more in EDSI’s Roles and Responsibilities on Teams course.