When collaboration stops being productive

Sometimes the most connected employees never seem to get anything done. Why is this and what can be done about it?

While a collaborative style can make an employee well-liked by their team, sometimes this can mean they pull in too many directions at once.
This situation occurs quite often, said Rebecca Shambaugh, president of global leadership development organisation SHAMBAUGH, in a recent article for Harvard Business Review.
Although these types of employees are often seen as workhorses, they can be indecisive about delegating work and instead try to take on too much at once. The main reason for this, she said, is a misunderstanding between worker and boss.
All too often, the employee is female while the boss is male, she added.
“Research has found that women tend to gravitate toward collaborative efforts that require a greater time investment, whereas men prefer solo decision making and directive action.
“Women also tend to invest more time in developing and helping others, which may garner them high marks for collaboration and inclusivity but comes at the expense of their own opportunities for promotion.”
To counter these differences, Shambaugh suggested both employees and managers take the following five steps:
  1. Give goal-oriented feedback. If the feedback given is about personalities rather than goals, the employee won’t know what they have to spend time on
  2. Create a clear path to promotion. Staff need real information from managers about the bigger vision for the company including which activities will get them promoted
  3. Embrace collaborative leadership. This can create a more inclusive work culture that combine strengths of both genders while building trust and consensus
  4. Focus on results. Accept that different working styles aren’t necessarily worse and instead look at the results created and whether those have value
  5. Eliminate hidden bias. Further the growth of the team and hold teams accountable for balanced thinking and diversity by making them examine their own biases
Related stories:
Closing the leadership capability gap
Training future leaders in the art of collaboration
Six vital traits for inclusive leadership

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