It's hard to think of a job where you would work in a solitary vacuum. Nearly every business needs its employees to work together. Individuals might have different tasks, but everyone works toward a collective goal. Through specialization, no single employee is left to do the whole job, meaning you can achieve broader results. Division of labor creates an environment of interdependence where each employee's ability to do her job depends on successful cooperation with her coworkers. You need them, and they need you right back.
Most workplaces involve employee interdependence. To a certain extent, each employee can only do her job if another worker or group of employees sets the stage by carrying out their functions. One completed task lays the groundwork for another and any interruption in the chain or the web of connected duties can slow or even derail the business. For example, in a restaurant, servers need cooks to prepare the food so they can bring it to the customers. On the other hand, the cooks need servers to put in orders so they can know what to prepare.
In some cases, teams of workers are assigned a project. Sharing their resources and abilities, the employees accomplish a collective goal. In this context, each employee's effort only makes sense in conjunction with the contributions of the whole group. For example, you might be in a group assigned to design a new marketing approach. That means it has to do all sorts of research and creative work. In order to succeed, each of you depends on the others to fill in the pieces of the puzzle. The ad director can’t pitch a concept without knowing who the target is and the artists can’t create the ad until they know the medium they’re going to be drawing for.
At a successful business, employees share whatever resources they have. This can mean lending a stapler or forwarding a link to some helpful information to a fellow employee. In other cases, it might mean helping to lift an object that one person can’t lift on her own. Workers might share their experience and participate in training new hires. The key is that all of you must see the objects, information and opportunities at work not as personal possessions, but as resources for the entire team and the company.
At the very least, no workplace can function without communication. Even when employees are not directly collaborating, sharing duties or assisting one another, communication is necessary. Workers must be able to relay information to each other about what needs to be done and problems that crop up. In the simplest case, for example, an employee might inform her coworkers that she just completed a task, saving everyone from redundancy. Communication is the basis for collaboration, and no employee can be very useful without asking questions and getting information.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."