What is Cooperation: One Tiny Slice of
the Team Pie

So what is cooperation? You have learned the difference between communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Now it is time to add in the concept of cooperation for effective teamwork.

This is another "C" word that some people think is the same thing as the other "C" words we have already covered. 

This is once again not completely accurate.


You need cooperation for a team to work effectively and achieve goals together. If just one person is uncooperative with the rest of the group, it impacts the efforts of all other members of the team. It may even sabotage the outcomes entirely.

Think of an analogy of a machine. If the smallest part of the machine goes bad, the entire machines doesn’t work properly or efficiently, or may stop functioning completely.

You can also think of this as a pie. The whole pie is the teamwork needed to be completed in order for the team to be successful. Cooperation is just one slice of this pie. It is important for the pie to remain whole and cohesive, but it is far from the entire pie.

What is Cooperation?

Cooperation is simply the agreement of individual members to go along with what is best for the group. When you cooperate with someone else you have to give up some of your own personal goals or gains in order for the group to be more successful. It isn't all about you. It is about the group.

Technically, every employee in your business has to ‘cooperate’ with the goals of the company or risk being fired. Cooperation is what makes Bob in accounting show up to work when he would rather be golfing. It is what ensures all members of a team will be in a meeting at a given time even if they have to stay late to accommodate the meeting.

Cooperation is what happens when individual team members do what is best for the team rather than what is best for themselves. They cooperate with what the group leader or boss tells them to do. In many cases, they cooperate because it is the only way to keep their job and earn that paycheck.

What is Cooperation in a Team Environment?

In an effective team, every member of the team cooperates with other members. Here are some examples of what cooperation from individual team members may look like in a real world situation:

  • Tammy disagrees with a creative decision the group has voted on during a group collaboration session. She has to bite her tongue and go along with it because the rest of the team has voted for the decision.
  • Tom promised his wife he would be home early from work, but the team leader has called an emergency meeting that he knows will run well beyond five o'clock. He calls his wife and heads to the meeting because his input will be needed in the meeting.
  • Patricia doesn't care for a particular member of her team and has asked her boss to reassign her. Since her skills are desperately needed on that team and she is not easily replaced, she has to stick with the team and tolerate her dislike of that one team member.

In all of these situations a team member cooperates with the group rather than doing what they would prefer on an individual basis.

This is just one slice of the team pie, but it is essential for the team to stay together as one cohesive unit. 

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