Do your agents compete against each other, each trying to see who can be more efficient and productive? Do they take every chance to sabotage others’ progress so that they can earn promotions for themselves? Are your sales, legal, and administrative departments constantly at odds with each other, unable to understand why the other departments are so ‘selfish’? A culture with a bit of competition can be useful, but a culture that has become downright Darwinian is wasting its energy on internal struggles rather then using it to better serve the customer.

Does your contact center have an unhealthy amount of competition that is taking away from your success?

Collaboration Over Competition

As companies get bigger, more specialized, and more interconnected collaboration becomes one of the most important things to success. Organizations are becoming increasingly projectivized, requiring diverse teams to work together in order to complete a project. Globalization has forced international companies to work together with people they may never meet in person.

Information sharing tools and advances in communications technology have helped make collaboration easier, but it cannot replace the cultural aspect. Organizations can suffer from a narrow minded  and selfish focus on personal immediate gain. This kind of thinking doesn’t consider the success of the organization as a whole. Consider these examples:

  • A sales team that refuses to listen to finance, accounting, and legal; instead, choosing to do things “the sales way” because they are the ones bringing in the money
  • An employee purposely withholding knowledge, tactics, and strategies in dealing with callers so that he/she will be chosen to be promoted over others
  • People choosing to do the work that has the highest visibility vs the highest benefit for the organization
  • Managers telling employees what to do without any regard for their employees’ opinions since having an opinion is “above their pay-grade”

You don’t want a business spending all its time and energy fighting itself, rather than innovating, serving customers, and achieving market leadership. Look at the most successful sports team–they win because each person wants and knows how to best contribute to the team’s success. It doesn’t matter if one person can score 10 points if the team loses by 30 points. The company culture needs to foster a holistic mode of thinking and of working. Information and talent sharing should be prioritized.

3 Things You Can Do

Here are three practical tips for fostering a cooperative environment in your workplace:

  1. Trade places – Try having people from different areas trade jobs for a day. Experiment with job shadowing. Start a job rotation program. The point is to get people out from one point of view and let them appreciate how each role contributes to the success of the whole organization.
  2. Discuss and communicate – Bring people together to have meaningful and deep discussions with each other. Make communication easy with open meetings, discussion boards, forums, or other methods. In serious cases, attempt a multiday retreat where two groups that are constantly fighting are forced to talk and understand each other. Push for a mutually satisfying agreement. Try to pick out where there is differences in each party’s perceptions and focus on helping them understand each other. Open communication is necessary to successful working relationships.
  3. Make trust a regular thing – A collaborative culture isn’t something you can create in a few isolated sessions. You need to ingrain trust into the fabric of every workday. Create interdepartmental teams focused on solving problems. Have committees with representatives from different areas meet regularly to discuss any problems or concerns. Make it clear through meetings, talks, memos, conversations, posts, etc that everyone has a valuable opinion and give them ways they can express it. Allow groups focused on things outside of work to get your employees comfortable with people outside of their usual circle.

How does your contact center foster collaboration? What works well and what doesn’t? In what situations is competition appropriate? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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