November 8, 2023

3 Common Workplace Collaboration Problems & How to Solve Them

Project Management

“Collaboration” has become a powerful and ever-present buzzword in modern work culture. Everyone wants to collaborate, but few teams actually get it right. Why is that? Collaboration — working together to achieve a common goal — seems like a simple enough concept on the surface.

Clearly, it’s not as simple as it looks when companies are constantly in search of collaboration tools and tactics that help them address the problems their teams face.

In many cases, what passes for collaboration is actually a blocker to real productivity. Whether that’s because of unnecessary meetings, tool overload, or something else, collaboration is a real challenge that requires thoughtful solutions.

There are three things that many teams who struggle with collaboration lack: transparency, thoughtfulness, or the right tools. Sometimes it’s more than one, and sometimes all three! Read on to discover which issue may be hindering your team from reaching its full collaborative potential and how to address it. 

Problem #1: Transparency

It’s difficult to collaborate when your team isn’t on the same page. That’s why transparency is key to building a team culture that facilitates effective collaboration. Specifically, it’s necessary to build transparency around your team’s and organization’s goals, as well as the status and workload of team members. 

What are your team’s goals?

A lack of transparency on what your team, and your organization as a whole, is trying to accomplish is a major roadblock to workplace collaboration. It can be demotivating for your team if they don’t see how their work contributes to an overall goal, and if they don’t know how to prioritize their work, they will be less efficient.

This is an issue across organizations, not just on a single level. Only 28% of executives and middle managers could list three of their company’s strategic priorities, and 24% of direct reports said their manager’s biggest area for improvement was “having a clear vision and strategy for the team.”

Fixing this issue requires both clearly defining goals as a leader and then communicating them effectively to your team. Start by making sure that your goals are SMART goals, easy to define and measure. Then, check out Atlassian’s Team Playbook to find helpful exercises for getting aligned and kicking off important initiatives with your team. 

What are your teammates working on?

When members of the team aren’t aware of what their colleagues are working on or what others’ current priorities are, that can greatly hinder workplace collaboration by leading to miscommunications and missed deadlines. The same goes for cross-functional teams, if one part of the team doesn’t have insight to what another is working on.

So how do you stay up to date on what your team members or cross-functional teams are working on? One way is to hold frequent status meetings, but this can hinder productivity by taking up valuable working time. It’s better to spread out status meetings further and use other methods to stay up to date in real time, such as a Kanban board or roadmap. 

Problem #2: Thoughtfulness

A lack of thoughtfulness when it comes to workplace collaboration could mean one of two things: a lack of thoughtfulness when it comes to the tools you are using and the methods of collaboration, or when it comes to your specific team’s work styles. Either one can prevent your team from reaching its full collaborative potential. 

What type of collaboration does this situation call for?

Believe it or not, sometimes that meeting really could have been an email — or, even better, a Confluence page. In fact, the average worker spends about 100 hours in unnecessary meetings each year and over a third of professionals cite unnecessary meetings as their organization’s biggest cost.

Cutting down on face-to-face interactions doesn’t necessarily mean that your team isn’t collaborative. What really matters is that you’ve been thoughtful about what type of collaboration the situation actually requires.

For problem-solving and decision-making, meeting in person (or face-to-face via video call) can provide value by giving space for everyone to voice their ideas and analyze different solutions. It’s faster and more efficient than trying to do this through messaging or an email thread.

A simple status update, on the other hand, can easily be accomplished by updating a Confluence page and sending out the update to the team. This keeps everyone on the same page while also not wasting any of your team’s most valuable resource — time. 

How do my teammates collaborate best?

When we only collaborate in one way, whether that one way is meetings, emails, or something else, we fail to adapt to the way our teammates work best. Not only is it helpful to collaborate in different ways based on what the situation calls for, being intentional about how you work with individual members of your team can help prevent miscommunications and conflicts.

If you want to spend some time getting on the same page with your teammates about their collaboration preferences, one way to do that is trying a team charter exercise. This will help you create a resource to refer to when trying to understand the best way to approach a collaboration challenge with your individual team. 

Problem #3: Tools

Why do collaboration tools matter?

Have you ever tried to coordinate a cross-functional effort entirely over email and messaging tools, or tried to manage a project with only an Excel spreadsheet? If the answer is yes, it’s more than likely that communicating updates and making progress were major challenges.

Tools like email and spreadsheets aren’t always conducive to effective collaboration and can actually lead to information silos that prevent the team from staying aligned. If you’ve ever missed out on important information or wasted time on tracking it down because of ineffective communication methods, you’re not alone — over half of workers have faced similar issues.

When your team doesn’t have access to the right tools for collaboration, you’ll need to spend more time in meetings in order to stay up to speed and keep projects moving. To save time and prevent unnecessary headaches for your team, you’ll want to make sure you invest in collaboration tools that help you work better together.

How do I choose the right collaboration tools?

It’s important to be careful when adding new tools — there is such a thing as having too many tools. Taking big chunks of your work days to find information and jumping between too many different tools is much worse for productivity and collaboration than having only a couple tools that are carefully selected to meet your team’s individual needs.

In some cases, integrations can help minimize the impact of working with a large number of collaboration tools. For example, if your team uses Slack to communicate, there are many tools that integrate with it to bring information from other sources directly into your Slack channels.

As a general rule, make sure to carefully evaluate new tools to get a good understanding of how they fit into your team’s daily processes, and determine whether there’s a more efficient way to meet the need that tool fulfills. 

Solving Workplace Collaboration Problems With Gliffy

Here’s another example of how integrations can help your team save time: if your team uses Confluence, a diagramming app like Gliffy that’s built specifically for Confluence allows you to create diagrams and collaboratively build visuals without leaving your Confluence space.

This reduces the amount of tools your team must jump between to find information each day and helps them share ideas faster.

Whether you’re putting together a technical diagram that communicates important information at a glance or jumping into a visual brainstorming session, Gliffy is all about helping teams collaborate. Start your 30-day free evaluation today: