How to Lose a Collaborator in 10 Ways
At one time or another, we've probably all been subjected to the notorious "group class project". Assigned to work with other students, you know that your grade is suddenly dependent upon the skill and work ethic of your classmates, both those you love spending time with and those you can’t stand. There is always someone in the group who doesn’t pull their weight, someone who is flaky, and someone who is left to do all the work while the whole group takes credit.
Group dynamics can become a bit easier to navigate when you get to collaborate with people by choice on your passion projects rather than by assignment in a classroom. But complications can still arise when people fall into the same collaboration traps. Worse still, the end result isn’t the risk of a bad grade, but the risk of ruining the collaboration, the project, and even your reputation. Word can and will get around if you’re difficult or problematic to work with and reputations will always take time to repair. So, to avoid these traps, we’ve listed ten collaboration mistakes to avoid making when working with a partner on a passion project.
10) Claiming to know more than you do
While it’s important to challenge yourself and push your limits, a real problem can occur when you claim to have experiences or skills that you don’t have. If someone selects you for a position or role, it’s because they need that position filled and certain assignments or tasks taken care of. Lying or misleading someone about your ability to do so only stalls the project and complicates matters for the project manager/director/leader. That’s not to say you shouldn’t challenge yourself. If you truly believe you can learn or improve a skill on the job, then do so. Just be honest with the other participants about what you’re struggling with. And if you are in over your head, never be embarrassed to say so. Trust us, it’s worse when you try to hide your struggles rather than admit them.
9) Lack of commitment
Problems can also occur when someone is less committed to the project than others. If one participant is devoting all their time and energy and another is doing the bare minimum, tensions will often arise. To avoid this problem, communicate ahead of time what you can contribute and, most importantly, make sure to follow through (see #1 below)! If you only have time for one task, but you give all you have to that one task with the time you have, your work will be appreciated nonetheless.
8) Having an oversized ego
No one likes to work with someone who has a big ego. It makes the other participants feel overshadowed and undervalued and it can interfere with group morale. It is always important to value yourself and your craft, especially if you have taken a lot of time to develop it. But never go into a project thinking that your contribution is the most important or your time is the most valuable. The project will benefit if you value other people and their contributions as much as you want them to value you and yours.
7) General negativity or unpleasantness
Working with someone who is negative or unpleasant can make any project a nightmare. Conversely, working with someone who is welcoming, positive, and supportive can make a project a complete dream. So be aware of how your mood is affecting others and definitely try to switch things up if you find that you are the person who's dampening everyone else’s mood. Not only will a bad attitude risk ruining the project, but it will give you the reputation of being difficult to work with. Instead, it's best to try to be the type of person you would want to work with.
6) Lack of openness
The very act of collaborating requires you to be open to other people's ideas, even if you don’t incorporate them later on. That doesn’t mean you should completely hand over the reins or throw away your vision for a project. But you should at least be open to receiving new ideas, comments, or suggestions. If you don’t want to consider anyone else’s ideas, then collaborative projects aren't for you. But if you want to benefit from other people’s contributions, then you should be open to receiving them, even if it’s not always what you want to hear. In the end, what you do with the feedback and suggestions is up to you.
5) Lack of respect
One of the greatest collaboration sins is showing a lack of respect for the project, your fellow collaborators, and third parties. Whether you experience a limited or prolonged interaction with someone, intentionally being disrespectful is always unnecessary. Disagreements can occur and working relationships can break apart, but being purposely mean, rude, or unkind is uncalled for and can easily derail a project. Always remember the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated. And if you find that you can’t do that or that another individual continues to provoke you, it may be best to remove yourself from the situation entirely.
4) Failure to share the burdens as well as the rewards
If you claim at the beginning to be committed to a project but refuse to pull your weight, you are guilty of being a bad partner. Very few things are worse than someone who quietly makes themselves absent during the process and then returns during the curtain call to take a triumphant and unearned bow. If you want to bask in the spotlight, you need to be prepared to put in the work backstage.
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3) Taking credit for someone else's work
Also a terrible faux pas? Someone who tries to take credit for someone else’s work. Collaboration is about collecting each person’s unique contribution to make a whole new creation. But even while one’s work is being molded into the whole, it never hurts to receive credit for the contribution. So if someone suggested an idea or lyric, a color or a pose that ends up influencing or transforming the end product, make sure to give credit where credit is due. It will make the person feel respected and valued and also reflect positively on you.
2) Being late
Now, I must fess up and say that I am as guilty of this sin as the next person. Anyone who knows me understands that I am chronically late. So I understand those who suffer from the same problem. But it doesn’t make it any more acceptable. People have busy schedules and time is limited and precious. So showing up to a meeting late or turning in an assignment after a deadline shows a lack of respect for a person’s time. I know as well as anyone that sometimes life happens: traffic is terrible, trains are delayed, other assignments and projects and illness often come up. But do your best to be on time and to communicate when you won’t be. And if you’re chronically late like me, then do everything in your power to fix this personal fault. It’ll make you a better collaborator and person in the long run (at least that’s what I’m banking on).
1) Being M.I.A.
At number one is one of the most frustrating things you can do to derail a collaboration: being M.IA., i.e. missing in action! When working on a project, people can let days, weeks, and months go by before responding to an email or returning a phone call, even after they promise to contact you by a certain time. I’ve worked on projects where people decided to quit entirely without telling me! If someone has to chase after you with several emails, phone calls, or smoke signals to get in touch, and you are completely unresponsive, you are committing this #1 mistake! It’s one thing to quit a project suddenly and let people know, or to tell someone that you won’t meet a deadline. It’s another thing to leave your team in the dark and have them wondering if the work is going to get done or if they need to find someone else to finish the job. It’s frustrating and unfair to the other collaborators. So remember, always communicate first, even if the message is going to disappoint someone. Disappointment is better than complete disappearance #endghosting2017.
So there you have it! Those ten collaboration faux pas are just some of the biggest mistakes you can make to alienate your co-collaborators. At the end of the day, the best approach is to treat your fellow artists with respect, to communicate from beginning to end, and to be the kind of partner that you would want to work with. If you do so, you should be able to avoid those traps and protect your collaboration and reputation.