3 Tips On How To Avoid Collaboration Burnout

Generally speaking I have found that women are more open and willing to collaborate than men.

I am not by any means suggesting that men don’t collaborate, because they do. It is just not to the same degree, nor is it for the same reasons.

Whether it is the result of a genetic predisposition, societal influence or, a lack of self-confidence, women are more inclined than men to seek input and consensus. A Fast Company article, and the studies to which they refer, attribute this difference to the fact that “men tend to overestimate their abilities and downplay those of their coworkers, while women shortchange their skills and defer to their peers.”

Regardless of the reasons or differences, in a world in which there is an increasing emphasis on teamwork, and coming together for the purposes of achieving a mutually sought after goal, the ability to collaborate is seen as a strength. In fact it could even be viewed as providing women with a competitive edge over their male counterparts.

But . . . is there a downside for women having this collaborative advantage?

While collaboration is on the rise, according to a January – February 2016 Harvard Business Review article titled Collaborative Overload, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.

Known for “being both capable and willing to help,” collaborators are ultimately “drawn into projects and roles” that while important, can also become a distraction that undermines their ability to perform.

What is even worse, is the fact that the best collaborators are not often recognized by the top brass.

In the end, over-collaboration can actually lead to stress, burnout and employee turnover.

So what should women (and yes, even men) do, to avoid collaborative burnout?

The following 3 tips should prove to be quite useful.

Learn How To Say NO! (Fear)

Why can’t you seem to say no?


In referencing a woman’s inability to say no in terms of her personal relationships, a Psychology Today article reported that this reluctance is due to a concern that you might hurt someone’s feelings or, that you will not be liked. It isn’t a stretch to conclude that these same reasons extend to saying no in the workplace.

While your reluctance to say no is the result of a socially learned coping mechanism, as opposed to your hard wired DNA, you have to learn to say no without guilt and without worry.

Think of it in terms of setting boundaries and expectations for both yourself and others.

Like creating a budget, where you know what you can and cannot spend, saying no helps to empower you to know when you are taking on too much before it actually happens.

From the standpoint of collaboration, before saying yes to either a new project or, accepting greater responsibilities as part of an existing one, stop and think. Can you do it or, are you taking on too much?

If it is the latter, you know what to say.

How do you say NO:

  • It may seem simple and even a little silly, but practice saying no. Start with small things and work your way up.
  • Know why you are saying no, and then stand by it. People may not like hearing no, but if you are saying it based on your values or a firmly held belief, they will respect you.
  • Don’t over-explain your reasons for saying no, especially after your “no” has been accepted as no. Women in general tend to feel that saying no, and leaving it at that is somehow rude and hurtful. However, if you say something like “I am saying no, and here are the reasons why,” you will come across as being strong yet considerate in both thought and action.
  • Know when to let go of your no. Don’t keep saying no because you are trying to prove a point or are just being plain stubborn. There is a time to stand firm, and a time – after additional input from others, to change a no to a yes. The best litmus test for this is your gut feeling. If reversing your no to a yes, leaves you feeling uneasy and like you are selling yourself out, then stay the course.
  • Finally, and as a senior executive once told me, if both of us agree all of the time, then one of us is redundant. In a truly collaborative environment,  you need the tension of differing opinions. This creates the necessary checks and balances to ensure that an organization considers all aspects of a situation before deciding on the right course of action.

Avoid The We Trap (False Modesty)

I recently read an article titled “There is no “I” in team, there is no “we” in interview.”

In the article, the writer talks about being passed over for a management-level job because of her use of the word we, instead of I, during her interview with senior management.

Specifically, when she talked about successful projects in which she was either the lead or the driving force, she did so from a “we” only perspective.

You might be inclined at this point to suggest that she was being a team player, and not wanting to come off as a braggart.

The problem with always adopting a one for all, and all for one mindset, is that you do not have the opportunity to distinguish yourself.

In the post interview debriefing, she was told “we heard you speak enthusiastically about what your team had done, the success your team has had, but we couldn’t differentiate your role from that of other members of the team. Frankly, we’re not hiring a team, we’re hiring a manager.”

What does this have to do with collaboration?

we trap2

Even though you are part of a collaborative group, don’t lose yourself in the group.

As referenced earlier, the best collaborators are not often recognized by the top brass. If you want to be rewarded for your efforts, step forward to share the spotlight – emphasis on share.

Here are a couple more tips that you should also note:

  • Don’t be afraid to take credit for your contributions. At the end of the day, we are all judged by what we do as individuals who are part of a team, as opposed to being a faceless entity hidden within a team.
  • Be sure that your personal goals are in alignment with the collective goals of the group. This means that you have to be able to see an end outcome for yourself as well as everyone else. This is the very essence of a true win-win collaborative outcome.

Stop Sacrificing Yourself (Low Self-Esteem)

Do you ever feel like you are always giving but never getting in return?

Do you feel uncomfortable when someone pays you a compliment, or guilty when you are on the receiving end of a just reward?

Do you continue to try and please people, even if they do not return the favor or fail to treat you with respect?

If you do . . . then stop it!

Okay, it may not be that easy. So let’s talk a little bit about a phenomenon known as being overly sacrificial, and more specifically,the associated belief that over-giving, is the only personal value that you have to offer.

According to CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and award-winning author Srini Pillay, M.D., “people who are overly generous rely on this discomfort to feel valued and needed.”

Pillay goes on to say; “Being overly “generous” is gluttony in reverse. You might ask yourself: Why do I settle for so little in return? The answer: although you have the desire to receive, you might never give others the opportunity to give you anything. Your giving is like a gushing hydrant that cannot be approached. You’ll have to learn the trick of turning down the giving to create the opportunity to receive- you’ll have to admit that you need a lot as well.”

When it comes to collaboration, this is a major problem for everyone involved.

If you are always giving, always ready to answer the bell and to do what is necessary to get the job done for everyone, you will eventually drop the ball (or balls). In the process you will go from efficient hero to a bottleneck zero in no time.

Empty Cup

So how do you avoid becoming the bottleneck?

  • Do not see a collaborative project as a way to prove yourself.
  • Don’t try to do too much. Focus on your strengths, and allow others to focus on theirs. It is when you work together, that the great things will happen.
  • Realize that the collaboration’s success or failure doesn’t fall on your shoulders alone. Success requires the contributions of everyone at the table, and not just a single person.

Remember The Golden Rule Of True Collaboration


This simple yet concise statement sums up what collaboration is all about. People working together towards a mutually shared goal, with a mutually beneficial outcome.

So, are you ready to collaborate?


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5 responses to “3 Tips On How To Avoid Collaboration Burnout”

  1. piblogger says :

    Reblogged this on Procurement Insights and commented:

    Editor’s Note: Is there a right way and a wrong way to collaborate?

    I came across this post by Roz Usheroff in which she talks about “too much collaboration.”

    Given that collaboration is such a hot topic in the procurement world, what is the difference between an effective and ineffective collaboration?

  2. Passananti, John says :

    Great tips Roz. Hope. To see you soon.

    John C. Passananti is a registered representative and investment advisor representative who offers securities and investment advisory services through AXA Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA/SIPC, and is an agent who offers annuity and insurance products through AXA Network, LLC and/or its insurance agency subsidiaries. For CA insurance license #0E63025, AXA Network, LLC does business in California as AXA Network Insurance Agency of California, LLC and, in Utah, as AXA Network Insurance Agency of Utah, LLC. AXA Advisors and AXA Network are affiliated companies and do not provide tax or legal advice. Representatives may transact business, which includes offering products and services and/or responding to inquiries, only in state(s) in which they are properly registered and/or licensed. Your receipt of this e-mail does not necessarily indicate that the sender is able to transact business in your state.

  3. Avril Somerville (SomerEmpress) says :

    Thanks Roz! You Rock! No. No! (Both complete sentences.) This article is spot-on. Sometimes we (scratch that), I, spend too much time collaborating, that it does devolve into what looks very much like low self-esteem. I found myself giving more than I was getting, and though I believe that I should give with an open hand, it’s difficult when the other party does not subscribe to the same line of thinking. From here on, I say: collaboration is only as good as “we” both win, I say. True collaboration requires an equal commitment to the goal. Thanks for your insight. Continue to be good to you!

    • rozcoach says :

      Avril…you must make the decision based on your gut, values and purpose for collaborating. Sometimes it gives back, other times it just takes. As long as you are clear on your objectives and getting them met, you are honoring yourself. If your inner voice is screaming out that collaboration has gone too far, it might be wise to examine why you are feeling that way, what you need to accept or the conversation that needs to take place. Thanks for sharing with courage!

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