There is danger in promoting collaboration – this is why it does not work.

Swan not sharing pond with ducks

It has been demonstrated that collaboration is important in the work place and it works. It has also been shared why collaboration is so hard. Today’s focus is on why collaboration does not work.

As a matter of full disclosure, I help clients resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders. I believe in collaboration. I am also a mediator. I help mediate complex and difficult situations business to government (IRS), business to business and within businesses.

However, collaboration is not always possible. It may be a people or process issue.

Why isn’t collaboration always possible?


It starts at the top. Leadership may not be on board. They may verbalize it. They may profess it. They may clearly not demonstrate it. If that is the case, employees are smart enough to see what is happening and they won’t buy into it either.

If collaboration is demonstrated at the top, have only the same ones that always jump on board bought into the process? Are the key employees that impact others in the firm fully on board too? If the influencers are not board chances are they will be negative related to a collaboration effort.

We know from neuroscience that we are hard wired to view new things negatively. That is part of survival in our genes. We survived a long time as a human race by being skeptical. Being skeptical is not necessarily bad. We want people that ask good and hard questions. That is helpful. We want to encourage good questions, but not adversity that is detrimental to a healthy discussion.

Authoritarian leadership that has made a decision, but that has not thought through all of the ramifications and that does not listen to others concerns can have short term compliance, but long-term difficulties.


It simply is not clear. It has not been fully thought out strategically and tactically. It needs to be well thought out and be clearly articulated to address all of the elements of

  • human resources (job elements and performance evaluations),
  • labor relations,
  • training and education,
  • leadership sharing,
  • employee engagement,
  • labor management relations,
  • customer interactions, and
  • bottom line results.

How will this change in process benefit the firm, growth, employees and customers?

If the influencers were not sought out and they are not on board the effort is likely dead in the water before a new process is even introduced. The decision was made to go ahead with this initiative without having thought about all of the potential negative ramifications.

If the decision has been made and the process does not allow for feedback and changes based on real world concerns, the process will fail. The latest flavor of the month will again melt away.

The climate has not been and once again is not a climate that encourages open honest transparent communication that is accepting of others and is responsible to all of the stakeholders.


Collaboration is in the best interest of the organization. Sub-optimization to the individual is only natural for survival and self-interest. Only by taking proactive steps to address the people and processes that may undermine collaboration may it be possible to promote collaboration for the betterment of the organization.

Contact Mike Gregory to speak to your group or consult with you, and check out his website, books and helpful content on the right side of his About page. Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court, is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders by emphasizing collaboration. Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. Mike has written 11 books including The Servant Manager, 203 tips from the best places to work in America and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at and at (651) 633-5311.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]