What Are Collaboration Skills?

Definition & Examples of Collaboration Skills

Workplace collaboration

Jaime Knoth / The Balance

Collaboration skills enable you to successfully work toward a common goal with others. They include communicating clearly, actively listening to others, taking responsibility for mistakes, and respecting the diversity of your colleagues.

Learn more about these skills and how to develop them.

What Are Collaboration Skills?

Collaboration skills are what enable you to work well with others. Most work environments require collaboration, so these skills are essential. These skills include understanding a variety of perspectives, managing priorities from everyone in the group, and meeting expectations as a reliable member of a team.

Successful collaboration requires a cooperative spirit and mutual respect. Employers typically seek employees that function effectively as part of a team and are willing to balance personal achievement with group goals.

How Collaboration Skills Work

The idea of collaboration seems easy enough, but in reality, it can be challenging to collaborate with others. Each person on a team has strengths and weaknesses, communication preferences, and personal goals. Company culture also influences collaboration. Some companies value collaboration and provide training on how to collaborate, while others assume that collaboration will naturally happen.

Using collaboration skills within a team may include:

  • Keeping communication open and never withholding information necessary to carry out tasks
  • Reaching a consensus about goals and methods for completing projects or tasks
  • Offering recognition of the contributions of others on your team, giving credit where credit is due
  • Identifying obstacles and addressing problems cooperatively as they occur
  • Placing group goals above personal satisfaction and/or recognition, especially if you're the leader
  • Apologizing for missteps and forgiving others for mistakes; holding a grudge or sabotaging the efforts of other team members destroys collaboration

Types of Collaboration Skills

For successful collaboration, you need skilled communication, emotional intelligence, and respect for diversity. Here's a closer look at each of these types of collaboration skills.

Communication Skills

Getting your point across can be a challenge. Within a team, you can’t be afraid to share your perspective, but you also can't impose your viewpoint on everyone else. These communication skills are essential collaboration skills.

  • Active listening: Active listening goes beyond hearing the words your colleagues are saying. It means listening without judgment and ensuring you understand the meaning behind what they say. If you don't understand, ask for clarification, and take the time to summarize what was said before moving on.
  • Written communication: A lot of collaboration happens in writing, especially if you're working remotely. We tend to rely on nonverbal cues to convey meaning, so it's especially important to be mindful of how messages might be received when communicating in writing.
  • Verbal communication: What you say in a team environment is key, but how you say it is just as important. Sharing your perspective succinctly and respectfully disagreeing are essential aspects of verbal communication.
  • Nonverbal communication: Nonverbal communication, like body language and tone, impacts your verbal communication. The same words delivered in two different ways can convey two different meanings to those who are listening. Consider both what you're saying and how you're saying it when working closely with colleagues.

You may have heard that 93% of our communication is nonverbal, but that number's been debunked. Nonverbal communication is important in how it contextualizes what you say, but it's not more important than the words you use.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most sought-after soft skills in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, recognize emotions in others and react appropriately, and apply your emotions to tasks.

When a team member is moody and snaps at another team member, those with emotional intelligence can determine that the irritability could be evidence of the moody member’s need for rest or assistance. Even issues such as perceived laziness or stubbornness are seen by those with emotional intelligence as symptoms of a larger issue that everyone can work together to address.

Some traits to cultivate to increase your emotional intelligence include:

  • Resilience
  • Not being offended easily
  • Not taking criticism personally
  • Being able to recognize and detach from strong emotions when needed
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Conflict resolution

Respect for Diversity

In our global economy, you may be working with colleagues from other countries and cultures. To be successful, it's essential to reflect on any implicit biases you may hold so you can work respectfully with your colleagues.

You should also call attention to behaviors or decisions that could be subtle forms of discrimination. For example, if a minority colleague is consistently being talked over or ignored during meetings, you might make a deliberate effort to bring the conversation back to that colleague's ideas.

Respect for diversity in a collaborative environment includes:

  • Open communication
  • Sensitivity to ethnic and religious backgrounds
  • Building and managing expectations
  • Facilitating group discussion
  • Agreeing on roles that capitalize on individual strengths
  • Building consensus
  • Eliciting viewpoints from all team members

Key Takeaways

  • Collaboration skills enable you to work toward a common goal with others. 
  • Most work environments require collaboration, so these skills are essential.
  • Collaboration skills include communication, emotional intelligence, and respect for the diversity of your colleagues. 

Article Sources

  1. IEDP. "12 Keys to Collaborative Organizational Culture." Accessed June 26, 2020.

  2. Center for Creative Leadership. "Use Active Listening to Coach Others." Accessed June 26, 2020.

  3. Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota Journal. "Communication is 93% Nonverbal: An Urban Legend Proliferates," Page 1. Accessed June 26, 2020.

  4. Inc. "High Emotional Intelligence Is Essential in Today's Workplace." Accessed June 26, 2020.