Acing Collaboration: What Every Professional Needs to Know


Building relationships with colleagues promotes goodwill, teamwork and innovation. But it may come as some surprise that, of more than 2,200 chief financial officers recently surveyed by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, greater than a third (39 percent) said learning to interact with a variety of personalities across the organization is their department’s greatest challenge.

Is working smoothly together really that difficult? Due to differing work styles and temperaments, many finance and accounting professionals said, yes, it can sometimes be challenging. Here are some suggestions for better cross collaboration:

Tips for Managers

  • Hold inclusive meetings. Work with leaders in other departments that your team often interacts with to plan periodic meetings of all groups. This will allow your interrelated teams to get a clearer picture of what colleagues in other departments are up to and how every group works together toward a common goal.

  • Promote cohesiveness. Team-building exercises are terrific for engendering solidarity. They also demystify how other departments approach tasks and solve problems. Take a combination of teams out of the office for an afternoon so they can break the ice in a less formal setting. When coworkers are on friendly terms, they are more likely to reach out and support each other.

  • Offer job shadowing. Finance department employees crunching crucial company data may not be aware of how their colleagues in marketing use their analyses to design new customer retention campaigns. Meanwhile, marketing might not understand how the results of the data are derived. To promote awareness of how each department affects the other, and to expand insights, give team members the opportunity to work alongside a colleague in another department or branch.

  • Address conflicts promptly. With so many personality types and communication styles, occasional disagreements are bound to occur in any organization. Resolve issues before they multiply or do harm to morale in your department and beyond. When you sense inter-departmental discontent, step in and mediate. Listen to each side and then devise a mutually agreeable solution.

Tips for Employees

  • Sit in on meetings outside your department. We’re all inundated daily with meeting notices — some mandatory and some not. Make a point to attend one or two outside your area of responsibility occasionally if you’re invited. It can be a great way to find out how other colleagues work.

  • Check preferences. Cross collaboration can help bring you in synch with priorities colleagues in other departments are facing such as deadlines, or even whether they prefer an in-person visit or phone call to emails. Knowing this kind of detail can bring about greater efficiency and foster goodwill. Be inquisitive. Ask about preferences and do your best to accommodate them.

  • Put a face with the name. Get to know your coworkers, especially those you communicate often with but rarely see. Ask them out for coffee or suggest that you grab lunch together. Being able to put a face with an email address can go a long way toward improving cross collaboration and making your company a friendlier and more productive place.

There’s no doubt that navigating disparate protocols and personalities can be tricky; however, whether you’re a manager or staff member, better efforts at cross collaboration can lead to smoother processes and a greater sense of job satisfaction. One of the strengths of any company is its diversity. To extract the maximum value of each team member’s contribution, managers and staff should put every effort into getting to know their colleagues from other departments.

Read more about the Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey of CFOs.

Delynn SennaDeLynn Senna, CPA, is the executive director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting. She joined Robert Half in 1996 as a recruiting manager. She has since played key roles in Robert Half’s permanent placement operations, also serving as a division director and later a senior business consultant. DeLynn was named executive director in January 2005. In her current role, she leads Robert Half Finance & Accounting’s global operations, including defining brand positioning, working with executive and field leadership across five continents to develop growth strategies, operating processes, and to shape and promote the company’s vision internally and externally.

Related Resources

Confronting the Challenges of ‘Cross-Departmental Collaboration’