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14th December 2015

Collaboration and Workplace Empowerment

Clare Middleton, one of our Assistant Business Psychologists, has written a summary of her research on collaboration and workplace empowerment.

Collaboration is an important practice within the workplace, whether it is between team members or separate organisations. Although collaboration can be highly beneficial to organisations, it is a practice which is underused.

A collaborative workforce typically has access to a wider range of resources, expertise and practices, and this benefits all parties involved, so why is collaboration not part of common practice?

Like most areas in Psychology unfortunately the answer to this question is not as simple as it seems, there are many factors which can contribute to the level of collaboration within/between organisations, some examples are:

  • Workplace environment
  • Disposition to collaborate
  • Leadership
  • Conflict

Out of these the main focus is on disposition to collaborate and workplace environment. These two specific aspects are very prominent throughout the literature and appeared to be common issues[1].

Disposition to collaborate refers to individual team members personality, it has been suggested that certain personality types are more likely to collaborate than others, for example, someone who is high in agreeableness would be expected to be more likely to perform collaborative behaviours than someone who is low[2]. However if an individual who has the predisposition to collaborate was working in an environment which did not support this, the environment would be expected to have a negative effect on collaborative behaviours.

So what does a collaborative environment look like? Firstly it is an empowering environment for employees, where they have access to the resources that they need in order to do their job to the best of their ability; these resources come in various shapes and sizes, from colleagues and leaders to physical resources and personal responsibility. It has been found that authentic leadership promotes workplace empowerment, where employee-leader relationships are honest and valued[3]. As well as impacting on collaborative behaviours, low workplace empowerment can have a negative effect on individual performance and organisational outcomes as a whole, which further highlights the importance of an empowering workplace.

Recommendations to encourage collaboration within your organisation:

  • Promote an authentic leadership style within your organisation
  • Contribute to an empowering workplace environment through sharing of responsibility and trust with employees and colleagues
  • Coach employees to help them develop on areas which could help improve their collaborative behaviours, looking at some of their specific personality traits and how this could impact on their collaborative behaviours

See Impact Consulting’s work on uniting teams

[1] Bedwell, W. L., Wildman, J. L., DiazGranados, D., Salazar, M., Kramer, W. S. & Salas, E. (2012). Collaboration at work: An integrative multilevel conceptualization, Human resource management review, 22, 128-145.

[2] Coyne, I., Cousans, F. & Prutton, K. (2014). Development and initial validation of a psychometric tool to assess suitability to collaborate (Unpublished), University of Nottingham.

[3] Laschinger, H. K., & Smith, L. M. (2013). The influence of authentic leadership and empowerment on new-graduate nurses’ perceptions of interprofessional collaboration. Journal of Nursing Administration, 43(1), 24-29.