Our Guide to the Winter 2021 Issue

These summaries will help you navigate our winter 2021 lineup.

Reading Time: 7 min 


When Collaboration Fails and How to Fix It

Rob Cross and Inga Carboni

Collaborative failures can stem from a variety of conditions. Sometimes they are woven into the fabric of groups when they are formed, perhaps because team members’ incentives are misaligned or decision rights haven’t been defined. Sometimes they develop as groups evolve and their members interact in certain situations, such as when a group expands beyond the limits of its structure or gets bombarded with too many priorities.

But trends that support and drive more collaboration are gaining momentum, including the increasing use of agile methodologies, the delayering of hierarchies, and the dramatic transition to remote work in response to COVID-19. This makes understanding why groups struggle and how to address the problems more important than ever.

Research by the authors finds that leaders are unleashing their teams without establishing the conditions needed to support collaboration, resulting in teams falling into one of six patterns of collaborative dysfunction that have a negative impact on performance. Moreover, when collaborative efforts break down, leaders too often rely on conventional interventions that may not address the true nature of their problems. The authors offer specific strategies for working through each dysfunction.

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Are Your Team Members Lonely?

Constance N. Hadley and Mark Mortensen

Despite the prevalence of team-based collaboration in the workplace, many employees feel isolated on the job. Loneliness is often thought of as a personal issue, but it is an organizational one as well. A lack of social connection with friends, family members, or coworkers can have serious consequences, including health problems, reduced creativity, and flawed decision-making. People who feel lonely cannot do their best work, which means that teams with lonely members are not operating at their peak levels either.

Research by the authors has found that the composition, duration, and staffing of teams can trigger or exacerbate feelings of social disconnection. The features of modern teamwork — fluid composition, modularized roles, part-time commitment, and short duration — tend to foster shallow, narrow, and ephemeral relationships rather than true human connections.

Managers should view loneliness as a systemic and structural problem, one that may require a new approach to teamwork. This can include proactively monitoring the psychological well-being of employees and nurturing “home base teams” for employees who crave deeper connections to colleagues.

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