27 September 2023

Two words that help organisations thrive

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Catherine Mattice* considers the difference between ‘collaboration’ and ‘cooperation’ in a workplace setting and how both are needed to promote individual and organisational success.

Collaboration and cooperation are used interchangeably in the workplace, but should they be? What’s the difference between them?

One is facilitated by managers and the organisation, while the other is a personal choice (which can of course be influenced by managers and the organisation).

Collaboration is facilitated by management teams that support people working together for a common goal.

There’s a shared purpose which elevates the organisation’s core values.

You can embed a collaborative performance process in the culture of your workplace.

For example, there’s room for the healthy free flow of ideas without the fear of being shot down.

Then production, innovation, employee satisfaction, engagement and more all increase.

When a company discourages collaboration, which we often find our clients doing by accident, a toxic culture can show up.

Here are some tips for creating a culture of collaboration.

Create an environment where your employees can communicate openly and honestly.

Allow them to be their authentic selves, to be vulnerable and empathetic — which means you have to be your authentic self, and be vulnerable and empathetic.

Ensure transparency on all levels, from best practices and the sharing of information to organisational challenges.

This includes being vulnerable as well, because it takes courage to be open about your own challenges with work, processes, or responsibilities.

I always say to participants in my management training sessions that they’re probably only sharing 50 per cent of what they should be.

Everyone must get more comfortable at sharing way, way more information.

Become a master of respectful giving and receiving of feedback.

Collaboration and trust increase when you weave feedback into your workflow.

Also, many managers and supervisors are very focused on giving their own feedback and not too great at receiving it.

Feedback sessions should absolutely be two ways.

Be intentional when providing resources to help your employees succeed, including technology and digital communication tools.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 67 per cent of workers said a lack of effective communication lines was the greatest obstacle to collaboration.

Create environments where employees can share ideas, visions, responsibilities and cooperation with teammates.

When your employees feel engaged with the organisational values, there’s space for those crazy ideas to flow that just might work.

Cooperation, however, lives in your people and it’s about being ready and willing to help one another for the shared benefit of the project and organisation.

For example, when your colleague is working on a task that’s dependent upon others’ tasks, it takes both parties completing their portion to get to the end result.

Understanding the bigger picture supports healthy cooperation and everyone needs to understand the ‘why’ of the task or project.

Here’s some advice for creating a culture of cooperation.

Conduct frequent and continuing check-ins with your employees and ask them what they need from you to be successful.

Provide regular updates on tasks, projects and goals so everyone is on the same page with less miscommunication.

Increase teamwork by conducting regular trust-building activities.

This will deepen connections with your workforce and therefore support cooperation.

When your employees know one another better, rapport is strengthened and they are more likely to ask for and give help.

Celebrate organisational, team, and team member wins as often as possible.

Create a culture that encourages and facilitates acknowledgment of accomplishments — it will inspire camaraderie and cooperation.

When you understand the difference between collaboration and cooperation, and you understand your role in facilitating both within your team and organisation, you’ll nurture a culture that’s happy and thriving.

Don’t let confusion and murky workplace problems arise in your workplace.

*Catherine Mattice is the President of Civility Partners, which has been successfully providing programs on workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007.

This article first appeared on the Civility Partners website.

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