Working in Isolation v. Collaboration

Written by Karis Leung

Group work: the bane of most university students and a true sanity stealer, but why is that? With sayings like “many hands make light work” and “a problem shared is a problem halved”, one would think that working in a team is the best way to go, but why is it that a sense of dread accompanies the idea of working on a group project, as opposed to solo projects? This article will dive deeper into the different paradigms surrounding the idea of teamwork, and how to best calibrate your mindset to create a green space of collaboration.

Why Team Dynamics Are Part of Us

Ever since the time of the hunter gatherers, we have known that the specialisation and diversification of specific skillsets benefit the whole community. As technological and social processes advanced, it has been proved time and time again that the most efficient way to work is to team up and split work into sections for each individual to specialise in. It can then be argued that teamwork has been evolutionarily selected into our internal mental processes. Simply put, teamwork has been, and is in our blood.

What Good Teamwork Creates?

 Building and working in an effective and cohesive team has many benefits, chiefly being the facilitation of self-efficacy; the faith in one self’s ability to accomplish tasks. With a stronger sense of job satisfaction through an uplift in self-efficacy within your team, productivity will skyrocket, and so will retention rates.

What Breaks Collaboration?

An easy trap to fall into that quickly breaks the sense of community and trust within a team is defensiveness, so keep a close grip on that within your team. Defensiveness is the bane of collaboration, in the sense that it’s a self-replicating process. Defensiveness breeds blame, which breeds resentment, and this in turn facilitates more defensiveness. The root cause of this is the perceived lack of control on the part of the defensive person, so keep an open channel of communication with all team members throughout your engagement.

Coactive Work v Collective Work

An easy fix to create a greater sense of autonomy and pride in the work produced is to structure your team coactively instead of collectively. This means instead of pooling all results together into one big pile of success in the middle, allocate praise and rewards for individual work done. This may spark a bit of competitiveness within your team, but if this is properly managed, and a positive and supportive environment is maintained, a little competition could boost the quality and quantity of work produced.

Next Steps

With teamwork being so central to most work environments, you’d think that it would come naturally. Unfortunately, like any relationship, internal team relationships need work and active and critical evaluation every step of the way. So, take note of any negativity and nip it at the bud. Any defensiveness that arises should be addressed immediately. Finally, give credit where credit is due. As a result of successfully implementing these steps your next foray into a teamwork situation will become an overall smoother experience.

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