Employee Development

Can Employees Be Too Collaborative?

Effective collaboration and communication are often high on the list of factors of success in any organization, whether it’s government, the military, sports, or business. Collaboration brings together the input and, hopefully, best ideas of a wide group of people who can share their different experiences, perspectives, knowledge, and skill sets. So, what could be wrong with that?collaboration

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Leadership Coach Rebecca Shambaugh argues that at work we can, in fact, be too collaborative. She says that instead of showing a strong ability to build consensus and work with others, being overly collaborative can end up making us look indecisive or unable to prioritize.

The Problem with Collaboration

“If I have a direct report or a team member who’s over-collaborative, they tend to not have a lot of self-confidence within themselves,” says Shambaugh. “So that’s why they continue to reach out and get other people’s inputs. They want to please everyone, right? And it’s impossible these days to please everyone.”

Shambaugh suggests it’s that desire to please everyone that also often leads to problems prioritizing work, given a potentially high number of stakeholders with competing needs and timelines.

Just Make the Call

So, what’s the solution to being overly collaborative? Shambaugh says that while there are some areas where you definitely need input from other stakeholders or your management sometimes, with other issues, you need to just make a decision and go with it.

“So there may be key areas where you have to prioritize or collaborate and get key influencers—your managers, if you will—input or ideas or perspective,” she writes. “But there are other things that, you what? You should just really make that decision, or you should really delegate that.”

Collaboration and communication are extremely important in any organization but not necessarily for every single decision. While it’s important to consult with, and get input from, key stakeholders on certain decisions, employees are also valued for their ability to think independently and be decisive when the situation calls for it. You can play an important role in helping them understand the difference.