Collaboration drives work performance. Employees who work in teams are more productive, get things done faster and communicate more effectively. They also have a chance to learn from each other and hone their professional skills. In fact, nearly three in four employers rate teamwork as very important. Make sure you're aware of the disadvantages of teams before encouraging your employees to work together; collaboration has its shortcomings and isn't always the best approach.
Companies worldwide encourage teamwork and collaboration. PepsiCo, for example, rewards its employees with bonuses for helping their peers grow professionally. Back in 1999, Pixar converted its workspace into open-plan offices under the guidance of Steve Jobs to spur collaboration between employees and increase work productivity. Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s CEO, attributes the success of his company to teamwork and collaborative effort.
When people work together, they can share ideas, provide feedback and keep each other accountable. Teamwork allows for brainstorming and often leads to better decision-making. Employees can share the workload and help each other, which leads to greater productivity and faster turn-around times.
According to PGi, collaboration in the workplace can reduce time to market by 20 percent, increase innovation by 15 percent and improve communication by 50 percent. A staggering 88 percent of millennials prefer to work together rather than compete against each other. This approach often results in more effective communication and fewer misunderstandings and workplace conflicts. Business owners and managers need to understand the pros and cons of teamwork in order to create a workplace that fosters employee well-being, productivity and equal opportunities.
Teamwork isn't for everyone. Some employees prefer to work alone and achieve better results when they do so. Many famous leaders, such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, have taken full advantage of their introverted nature and turned it into an entrepreneurial strength. Introverts tend to have an analytical mindset, which allows them to research problems thoroughly and make informed decisions; forcing them to work in teams can affect their ability to focus and process information.
Missed deadlines, conflicts between team members, poor communication and reduced flexibility are all common disadvantages of teamwork. Employees with strong personalities often try to dominate the group and take over the discussion, which may affect team morale. Additionally, employees who work in teams may disagree on which path to choose. This can lead to conflicts and hold up progress on accomplishing the task at hand.
Successful teamwork has several key attributes, including interdependence, constructive feedback, open communication, good management, reliability and commitment. Unfortunately, few teams possess these attributes. For example, some team members may work more than others or complete entire projects by themselves, but their efforts go unnoticed. This scenario can lead to workplace conflicts, frustration and loss of motivation.
Team members have different work styles and use different approaches in their work. Some are strategic and idea-oriented; they're not afraid to take risks and experiment with various strategies. Some are extremely organized and detailed-oriented; these people will think twice before they take action or make recommendations. Others are data-oriented and have an analytical mindset.
These differences can be beneficial as they allow for a fresh perspective on the task at hand. But they can also result in conflicts between team members. Think about dreamers versus doers, leaders versus supporters and so on.
As a business owner, it's your responsibility to understand, recognize and manage the different work styles of your team members. This will allow you to leverage their strengths and assign them tasks that suit their natural abilities.
One of the main disadvantages of group work is that it often takes longer to make decisions and accomplish a given task. When you're by yourself, you can work at your own pace and decide on the spot what to do next. When working in a team, you may not have this freedom as more people need to be consulted regarding the task at hand. This can lead to longer decision times and missed deadlines.
Let's say your team is developing a marketing strategy for a client. The graphic designer, who is responsible for creating flyers and other promotional materials, works with copywriters to put everything together. Their work first needs to be approved by the marketing specialist, the manager and other team members before being sent to the client. If something doesn't look right, they must start all over and go through this process again.
Depending on the project, it can take weeks or months to get everything done. As a result, you may need to extend the deadline, which in turn, can affect customer experience.
Conflicts are inevitable in a team – and they're not always a bad thing. As a manager, it's important that you differentiate between the different types of conflicts and address them accordingly. People have different personalities, work styles and opinions, so you can't expect them to agree on everything. Employees who work together must learn to accept these differences and use them to improve the decision-making process.
Some types of conflicts can affect team morale and performance. For example, one team member may feel frustrated because a co-worker is taking credit for his contributions to the project. Conflicts can also arise when your team members don't fully understand their roles and responsibilities, blame others for their own failures or seek individual recognition. A clash of perspectives, poor communication, mistrust and personal agendas can lead to disagreements as well.
Make sure you acknowledge the conflict in the first place. Ignoring it can make things worse and stall the entire project. Ask each team member to present his point of view and back up his statements with facts. Depending on the nature of the conflict, try to turn it into a debate. Keep an open mind and insist on honest dialogue.
Employees who work in teams may hesitate to bring their own ideas to the table. Some fear criticism and judgment, while others prioritize the well-being of the team and suppress their creative tendencies. This can negatively impact innovation and keep employees from reaching their full potential.
Collaboration can harm individual creativity. The team members just go through the motions and do what's expected of them. Let's say that your IT specialist has a great idea on how to improve the company's website or mobile app, but it involves purchasing new software and outsourcing certain tasks. He may be afraid to share his idea because he's thinking that others will find it too expensive or difficult to implement.
Encourage your staff members to speak up and share their ideas. Show your support and refrain from making judgments. Reward creative thinkers with bonuses, gym membership discounts, extra vacation days and other incentives – or provide them with the resources they need to bring their ideas to life.
Your role as a manager is to encourage active collaboration, motivate your staff and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s in your power to overcome the disadvantages of teamwork. Lead by example and get actively involved in each project. Leverage modern technology, such as online collaboration tools, to streamline teamwork and improve communication between employees.